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Columbia school board candidate interview: John Potter

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 Potter is no incumbent but he's also no stranger to the school board. He was a frequent face at meetings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to publicly highlight school issues.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: John Potter's eight days before election report

MEGHAN DRAKAS: Can you let our viewers know who you are and what platform you're running?

POTER: I have grown up in Columbia School District, I have three kids in the school district,, one and two in elementary and one in junior high. And the platform I'm running on is let's get back to the basics, as is my campaign slogan. And so that's what I'm running on, is just trying to get back to where education in Colombia was top priority. And kind of speaking about education.

DRAKAS: Recently, the test scores from the Missouri improvement plan came out, CPS was ranked at 70%. What's your vision for addressing this to eventually raise the scores for the district?

POTTER: Yes, attendance is a big issue at CPS, the SRG standard reference grading on my platform, I wanted to get that out of the CPS school district because it doesn't hold children accountable or students accountable for attendance. And so I think if I would have learned that my grade wasn't necessarily tied to my attendance in high school, I probably wouldn't show up as much.

And then also just reinsuring the community that just because your kid has a sniffle, they might still be able to go to school. I think last year, they really trained the parents to not send their kids to school if they had a little cough or little sniffle because of the fear of COVID.

DRAKAS: On teacher pay, obviously is a huge topic. Missouri teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country. Whow would the district afford pay raises for teachers and other professionals?

POTTER: Right, I think this actually goes back to SRG standard reference grading. We have been implementing it for six years, and ... there's no transparency on how much we spent for this training for the teachers. We have another six more years of implementation.

So I would say if we got rid of standard reference grading, then we could use that money to give to the teachers and lift the burden of all the excess training from standard reference grading a lot along with diversity, equity, inclusion, teacher training, this is another burden that's put on the teachers, and I think distracts from the focus of education. So I would shrink that department down majorly and share that money with the teachers as well.

DRAKAS: And a common tragedy in this country. We saw it yesterday, that tragedy in Tennessee, where three children were killed, three administrators as well. How do you feel about the safety of CPS? And if you're elected, Is there anything that you would change?

POTTER: Yes. One thing that I've mentioned is we need to protect our students as well as we protect the board members. After attending almost every single board meeting for the last two and a half years, I realized that there's armed security in there -- unclothed officers and clothed officers. I think if it's efficient for the school board to be protected with firearms, then we need to protect our children with firearms. So I think there needs to be some type of process set up where staff members could volunteer to take training in order to have concealed weapons in the school responsibly and also stop focusing on certain groups that are privileged and oppressed. And because I think that kind of puts a negative light on certain groups and it points in certain directions for hate.

DRAKAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our viewers if elected that you would like to change?

POTTER: Yes, I would like to, to address the behavior issues at CPS, I know that this is a problem with teacher retention. Um, a lot of teachers through surveys with the teachers union have said that behavior issues is the number one driver for teachers retiring or teachers not wanting to apply for CPS. So I would work on the behavior issues. I think SRG standard reference grading ties into this as well. It doesn't hold children students accountable for their behavior in the classroom. So therefore there that's another aspect of this grading system that doesn't help our community or our students' education.

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