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Columbia Board of Education candidate interview: Jeanne Snodgrass


ABC 17 News is interviewing candidates for key races in the April election.

The interviews will air on ABC 17 News leading up to the April 2 election and will be posted online as they air.

ABC 17 News: Why are you running and what are your qualifications?

Jeanne Snodgrass: I'm running because I want to continue to serve.

I'm currently serving out my first term on the school board and I think that there is a lot of really amazing work that has been happening over the past few years. I want to continue to be a part of it.

But beyond that, beyond doing the specific work, I'm running because I really believe in our public schools. I think that public schools are a huge resource for our community. I think that our schools are really good, and they have the potential to be great. And I want all of our students to have the opportunities and the access to opportunities that are going to give them the skills that they need now, and also for when they graduate and they become part of the broader kind of adult communities so to speak.

I think that we have so much to offer, we have a really caring community, we have really amazing teachers, great administrators, we know what we want to do. And that is to raise student achievement, and really be there to support our students and our community. And I want to be part of that again.

ABC 17 News: What's your assessment of district leadership?

Snodgrass: I think that we have a district leadership that has a lot of diverse experience. And that's really amazing. We have folks that have worked in other districts, we have folks that have come up through our district. And I think both of those things are really important, because it is really important to have a clear understanding of what works and doesn't work at different levels where we are.

And it's also really important sometimes to get that outside eye to have someone who can come in and say, "This is great. Also, we tried it this other way, maybe that'll work better, right? I've seen it done some a different way."

And I think both of those things are important. I also think that as a district, we need to continually be evaluating what is working and what isn't working, that goes for our programs. And it also goes for the structure of our organization. And it also goes for the people that are leading things. Sometimes you have really great people that are just in the wrong role. And so that's something that we can consider -- we have all this amazing talent, how do we put that talent to the best use so that again, our students as our top priority, but also the rest of the employees, the rest of the administration, the rest of the community, so that everybody is benefiting from the work that the schools are doing? Right?

ABC 17 News: What can CPS do to fix its attendance problem?

Snodgrass: So attendance at CPS, we need to raise it, we know that we need to raise it. And this is important for a number of different reasons. And there's a lot of different things that I think we can do and a lot of things that our school district is currently doing.

One, we know it's really important, because we know that there is a direct correlation between students that are in school and students that are doing well in school, if you're not in your class, you can't learn the material. If you're not learning the material, you're not going to do well on the evaluations. So this is really important. It also is a way that we build community, we need our students in our buildings.

What we can do about it is a number of things. We know that our teachers and administrators already are helping students be accountable for themselves by tracking their own attendance, especially at the lower level. So we know that they are making sure that there are incentives for students that are coming in.

We know that this isn't a problem that's just happening at Columbia Public Schools. This is something that is happening across the country, especially coming out of COVID. And all of us need to work together. So another place that we're really looking at things is how does the community help? Many of our elementary and middle schools and even some of our high schoolers are dependent on rides or busing, or other ways to get to school. And so if you're taking a bus and you miss that bus, you might not be able to walk 3 miles to get to school.

So how do we make sure that we have good access to transportation? How do we make sure that our parents and our guardians and our grandparents all are aware when somebody isn't in school so that they can help? Sometimes one might be sick, sometimes someone might have missed the ride. There's a lot of different ways. So some of the work on attendance is happening inside the buildings and some of the work on attendance has to be a partnership with the community. We need folks to be able to help so that we can get our students into the schools and we can raise that achievement for everybody.

ABC 17 News: What can CPS do to improve its academic performance?

Snodgrass: Academic achievement is really linked in some ways to the attendance we just just discussed, right? How important it is for students to be in the classroom to be able to do the learning that they need to do.

The other things that we need to make sure is we need to make sure that both our students and our teachers have the appropriate supports. We need to make sure that our classrooms are sized appropriately so that teachers can give students the attention that they need, we need to make sure that if there are students with IEPs [Individualized Education Program], or 504s [education plans for students with disabilities] or other concerns that are affecting their learning, or that might be affecting the learning of the other students in the classroom with them, that there is the appropriate support in the classroom.

We need to make sure that the professional development that we're providing is appropriate and is what's needed. And we need to make sure that our newer teachers can see what our high-achieving teachers and our veteran teachers are doing that's so successful so that they can learn from it. We have a lot of really amazing teachers, new teachers and veteran teachers. And also, there's often a learning curve, just like with anything else. So when you have a new teacher in the classroom, we need to make sure that they really have the supports that they feel that they know what's happening, that they're familiar with the building, that they know who to go to when there is going to be an issue.

Student achievement, just like attendance, is also a community issue. We need our parents to be involved, our grandparents or guardians. That's really important. I can ask my kids -- and I do ask my kids, I have three, one that just graduated and two that are currently in the school district -- How are you doing? Am I looking at the IPRs [individual progress reports]? Am I making sure that I help them understand why it's so important to do the work that they need to do because they need to do their part?

So the teachers need to do their part and the administrators need to do their part. And then as a board, we need to make sure that the resources are available for everyone to be able to help raise that student achievement.

ABC 17 News: How can CPS best address discipline problems?

Classroom discipline, I think, again, can vary from school to school and classroom to classroom.

We know that there have been some issues. We also know again, just like with attendance, that this is something that there have been shifts in and that has been seen kind of across the country, we're not just talking about an issue that is always in Columbia Public Schools. And there are some things that are specific to Columbia Public Schools. We know that sometimes there are outside altercations that might bring their way make their way into the schools.

So again, community help, community involvement, is a piece of it. Also making sure we have clear expectations and clear knowledge of what happens when someone isn't exhibiting the appropriate behavior. Our district recently, in the last year or so, has been rolling out a behavior education matrix that lays out ways that discipline can be applied equally and across our district so that we know that within our different schools, and our different students are not being treated differently. And we also know that things need to be revised sometimes. So the group that put out the plan has now gone back with input and made adjustments. And we want to make sure that now we're looking at it, we're looking at what worked and what didn't work. And we're also making sure that everybody is applying it in the way it needs to be applied.

We want students in the classroom, but we also want the students that are in the classroom to be in an environment that is free of as many disruptions as possible so that they can focus on learning and our teachers can focus on teaching. So I think it's a multifaceted approach. But we're slowly getting there. And again, it's a process and community involvement, student input and involvement, teacher input and involvement, administration, it's everyone working together is what's going to really make it happen.

I just really think we have an amazing resource in our schools here in Columbia. And I want to help us provide those opportunities to all of our students to make sure all of our students have access to everything they need to be able to be learned, critical thinkers and have the skills that they need for succeeding in their schooling and also succeeding later in life.

Article Topic Follows: Your Voice Your Vote

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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