Columbia Board of Education candidate Jay Atkins said if he could imagine a perfect school district, it would be one that had 100 percent literacy at the third-grade level.
For Atkins, who has three children in the Columbia Public Schools and a fourth that will soon enter, literacy is on the top of his campaign agenda. He said he decided to run because he wanted to be more involved and make sure schools are under proper stewardship.
Atkins said he believes the school board hasn’t done a good enough job to protect funds for reading specialists and literacy programs over the year. If elected, he says he will try to divert resources at the board’s disposal to meet the goal of 100 percent literacy. He also says the and the way literacy is taught is too narrow.
“Literacy is not a one size fits all,” Atkins said, “there’s a lot of emerging science in literacy that I think we’re late adopting in our school district and I think that needs to change.”
Other goals Atkins has include:
- Better communication between parents and the school board
- Effectively spending technology and infrastructure money
- Protecting school control on a local level — having a voice in Jefferson City to advocate for the school district
- Letting teachers have more control over their own classrooms
- Expanding programs for gifted students
Atkins works as a vice president for government affairs at AutoReturn, a San Francisco-based tech company. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a law degree in 2008 and has worked as a prosecutor. He also used to work as a legislative director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Revenue. He said his time in Jefferson City as a lobbyist gave him government connections. Connections to people like Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt or Missouri treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, he says, that could be useful as a board member.
“I understand how Jefferson City works, I understand who the people are, I have those relationships, and that is hugely valuable for someone on the school board to have because it doesn’t exist now,” Atkins said.
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