April 2nd is General Municipal Election Day and many mid-Missourians will head to the polls to vote for city council members, school board members, mayors and some areas like Southern Boone, Cole County and Fayette will vote on a few different proposals.
Here on Exam, we have spoke with the three candidates running for Columbia Public School's Board of Education: Della Streaty-Wilhoit, Blake Willoughby and Jay Atkins. On today’s episode, we are going to recap those conversations.
Della Streaty-Wilhoit has always been an educator and knew this year she wanted to advance her voice to make a change, and that is now through running for Columbia School Board.
If elected, she said she plans on advancing STEM education and creating equal opportunities for minority and female students. Streaty-Wilhoit would also like every child to know a second language and learn other cultures outside of the classroom.
"...When I become a member of the school board, I hope that they recognize that I am for the community. I am for our children because our children is our future," Streaty-Wilhoit said. "But I am not their Savior. I am only one person and I want to do extraordinary things. But I'm just an ordinary person."
Blake Willoughby is a current PhD student and educator at MU. Though he is the youngest candidate running for Columbia School Board, he said he sees it as an advantage since it allows him to bring a fresh perspective and truly understand what students are navigating when they graduate high school.
Through his work at MU, Willoughby said he sees many freshmen not adequately prepared for college, and that is one of the things he wants to change. But a big thing he wants to implement, if elected, is getting student voices heard directly by the board.
"The biggest thing that I would like to do is really being that constantly engaged. I would like to see our students have a little bit of a larger voice when it comes to our strategic planning. So something that I would like to see the board do is create another committee that is student focused and sat by our students, specifically, our high school students, and as representational of our student body," Willoughby said. "By not including them, they're the ones who are supposed to be benefiting, and if they feel that there are areas where they didn't benefit enough, we should be able to listen to them and try and make those alterations."
Jay Atkins is the third candidate on the ballot for the Columbia School Board. As a father of four, and all of them soon attending Columbia Public Schools, literacy is on the top of his agenda.
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 years. If elected, he said he will try to divert resources at the board’s disposal to meet the goal of 100 percent literacy. He also said the way literacy is taught currently is too narrow.
"Getting out of this business of micro-managing teachers in their classroom, right? Teachers are with their students in the classroom every single day and they know the students better than anybody else in the district does. Certainly better than any members of the board do," Atkins said. " So I think we need flexibility. You need to take an "everything and" approach, give the teachers all the tools they need and set the expectations, then let them go do the job that we're hiring them for."
The Columbia School Board election and many others are April 2nd. Go out to the polls and vote!
Exam is hosted by Molly Dove