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New Columbia School Board member Karen Hayes discusses goals for her term

Karen Hayes sits in a pink blazer at a meeting. She is smiling at the camera. A microphone is in front of her, and her glasses are placed on the desk.
Courtesy of Karen Hayes
"Missouri as a state has been able to have enough teachers in the teaching field, but that has been eroded in the last 20 years," Hayes said. "So now we have to do some more innovative things."

The last Columbia School Board election was held in April, and it had a whopping seven candidates run. But Karen Hayes was not one of them.

Hayes was selected by the board to take on the remaining ten months of former member Katherine Sasser’s term. Hayes started on June 7.

Hayes is the project director for Columbia College TRIO Educational Opportunity Center. She taught in Columbia Public Schools from 2001 to 2005, and her daughter attended school there.

KBIA’s Abby Lee sat down with Hayes to discuss her goals for the rest of the term.

Karen Hayes: The biggest ones for me, why I put my name in the hat is communication. Parents don't feel like they're getting all the information they need from the School Board, and part of that has to do with the way the schools have historically operated. They've operated as their own entity … Communication is a big piece of it, and the other is the transparency. Things that parents want to know should be something out there in the arena.

Lee: I remember last time we talked about two specific changes. So one of them had to do with having some schools that are nine to five. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Hayes: Right now, we are not at the top of school districts in the state of Missouri, and we want to be the top school district. And part of that is right now everything is being equally split, or as they like to say, equitably. And I don't think that that is true. So some schools need more, but they're not receiving more. Some schools would work better, like at Battle, it would work better to have a school that was nine to five so that kids could have their school day and then have enrichment.

Lee: And another thing that you talked about was changing the hiring systems. So, rather than applying to individual schools, applying to districts. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Hayes: Right now, teachers get to pick their school unless they're really new, and then they put them somewhere and then they transfer elsewhere. We need the more experienced teachers in the schools that are not meeting basic standards, or are below standards. You know, a lot of people are like, "Well, that takes away teacher choice," and, "What if they don't like being there?" The whole deal is being a teacher, you want to help young people. And if you are skilled enough to help the students that don't need a lot, you can bring that skill and expertise to students who do need a lot. I just think that teachers picking the school is not the best for the district. We need some innovation. We do need some innovation. We have the resources, we have the teachers, we have the systems. We just need to utilize them better.

Lee: So, I also know that you talked about the school board, a quote from a Missourian article, "needing a wider array of voices." Can you go into that a little bit?

Hayes: Yeah, it's important. Columbia Public Schools has more kids of color than people realize. It's helpful to have somebody in the room, at the table, talking about their experience and what they hear from people in the community. Also, income wise, there really needs to be somebody who's working class, somebody who is not totally in that middle class set.

Lee: How do you think that your position as a board member will affect students or families in marginalized communities?

Hayes: It already is impacting them. I mean, people are sharing their thoughts. They're contacting me. They're asking questions. There is an openness that I hadn't expected for people just at different events, you know, saying, "Hey, this is a concern." I live in a working class neighborhood. I am on the Board for Peace, which is looking at how to increase our community relationships so that there's less crime and difficulty in neighborhoods. I'm about this 24/7. Because when we have these discrepancies in communities, it impacts the total community.

Find more about Hayes's journey to the school board at The Columbia Missourian.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.
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