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Columbia school board candidate interview: John Lyman


Election Day is less than two weeks away.

ABC 17 News is interviewing each of the seven candidates running for three open spots on the Columbia Board of Education. At least two of them will be new members -- only one incumbent is in the race.

John Lyman grew up in Columbia and graduated from Rock Bridge High School and says that experience will help him as a member of the school board. Lyman's wife is also a Columbia Public Schools teacher. He has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and has promoted social equity in the schools.

Campaign finance: John Lyman's 40 days before election finance report

MEGHAN DRAKAS: Tell me about yourself and your platform.

JOHN LYMAN: Well, I moved to Columbia in 1986, when my dad got a job at the university; graduated from Rock Bridge High School in 1998. Went to Mizzou, was going to leave ... met a girl and we stayed, got married, and we got three kids. She's a teacher in the district. All three of our students are in the district. I thought about running for a while and finally decided, yeah, it's time to step up and see what we can do.

DRAKAS: And teacher pay is obviously a big topic. Teachers in Missouri are some of the lowest paid in the nation. How will the district afford pay raises in the future?

LYMAN: Well, some of the things that we've gotten in some of the audits and reports have started to show that we don't need to necessarily get more money, we need to spend the money that we have in the right places. I don't know where that's going to be just yet. I don't know where we're going to cut ... but we have the money to pay the teachers, we just got to figure out where we can thin some other spots to find that money for them to give them that support.

DRAKAS: And scores from the Missouri State Improvement Plan were at 70% this year. What's your vision for addressing this to eventually raise the scores?

LYMAN: One of the big things we need to do is continue to support our teachers in the classroom. We can obviously pay them more but that only does so much. Classrooms that have 24 kids and in classrooms that have 30 kids in them and one teacher, it's really difficult for that teacher to give that instructional support to students who are struggling. We need to look at the district needs, to look at hiring more full-time employees that are not just warm bodies, but our former teachers that are ready to get in and help out.

DRAKAS: And three board members in January abstained from renewing superintendent Yearwood's contract on the grounds that they thought the process was rushed. What are your thoughts on reviewing the superintendent's progress when it comes to keeping the superintendent on board?

LYMAN: We need to establish goals for our superintendent for our district. And then we need to hold the district and Dr. Yearwood accountable for meeting those goals. Without those, we're really just kind of shooting in the dark and trying to figure out if it's going to work or not. Having those goals that when establishing those that's what's going to help determine his longevity here in the district.

DRAKAS: What's something that separates you from the other candidates running?

LYMAN: I'm a Columbia kid. Like I said, we moved here and my dad got a job at the university. I've never thought about living anywhere else. Having gone through the CPS experience, having my wife who teaches in CPS, having our kids in the district, I feel I have a greater understanding of what's going on. We've moved all around the district. My wife has taught all over. We've been in Title I schools. I've seen what those are like. I've seen how hard those teachers work. That's not to say that teachers in other schools and other buildings aren't working just as hard. But I've seen firsthand where the needs are. And I want to work towards fulfilling those needs.

DRAKAS: And anything else you would like to share with our viewers that you would like to focus on if you're elected?

LYMAN: One of the emails that I got recently from someone who I actually have some disagreements with. And these are the best conversations that I've had so far on the campaign trail. The last thing that she said was that more ideas tend to make final decisions better. And that's what I hope to bring. It's not that my ideas are going to be the best ideas, but I want to hear your ideas. I want to hear your ideas. If you have ideas on which direction the district needs to go and the things that we need to do, that's what we need to do. I've been referring to this as a group project. And the best group projects are the ones where every voice is heard and everybody has a chance to say what they think. That's how we're going to get an A on this. And that's what I'm shooting for.

Article Topic Follows: Your Voice Your Vote

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