COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A state representative from Boone County said he feels the Columbia Public School District should push back against influence he feels a local teachers' union has on its decision-making.
State Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) made the comment in an email on Jan. 31. Basye was responding to an email from Lynn Barnett, a former CPS teacher and administrator that referenced a different state representative's criticism of CPS.
Barnett first wrote an email to several state legislators about Rep. Cheri Toalson-Reisch's comment about CPS during a committee hearing. Reisch criticized CPS' decision to not return fully to in-person learning while other schools in her Boone County district had. CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman wrote an opinion piece responding to that, defending CPS' decision, which prompted Barnett to write on Jan. 31.
"I thought, well, I will just write the representatives and let them know there are people that think differently," Barnett said. "There are lots of different opinions in the community about what should and should not happen. Not everybody in the community believes we should be in face-to-face school all the time."
Barnett said in her email she was "sickened and disgusted" with Reisch's criticism.
"The disgusting part for me is that our representatives and our administrators can't come together and sit down and talk about those issues and not blame each other and throw each other under the bus," Barnett said. "That does nothing to solve the problem."
I am writing you today as a former student and 1969 graduate of the Columbia Public Schools. I am a parent of five daughters who graduated from the Columbia Public Schools. I am a grandparent of five grandchildren and two nieces who presently attend the Columbia Public Schools. I was a teacher and central office administrator for 30 years in the Columbia Public Schools. I am presently Past-president and member of the Board of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation. I was born in Columbia and have lived in Columbia my entire life. I am dedicated to this community and our schools because they are excellent. I would put any school district in this state up against our school district. When I heard you gave this outstanding school district an “F” I was sickened and disgusted. My role in the school district was as a special education teacher, Director of Special Education and Assistant Superintendent for Special Services. I know every staff member, teacher, administrator and Board member has dedicated their lives to making a positive difference in the lives of our children and families in Columbia. Our community, including, parents of our amazing students, have financially supported our schools when our State has fallen short. Yet, during times when everyone is trying to do what is right for our students, as well as, our staff, you have the audacity to undercut the decisions of the administration and Board of Education! You want school districts to have local control and ask their communities to financially support their districts at a high level, yet you see your role as being critical. Instead of being critical I would encourage you to get vaccines to our community so teachers can get vaccinated rather than bringing legislators into Columbia to condemn the decisions of our administration and Board. I am disgusted with your decisions and false representation of the quality of Columbia Public Schools. It will be difficult to support you and your colleagues in the future as you don’t represent who we are as a community. It makes me very sad!
Dr. Lynn E. Barnett
Basye responded to Barnett later that day. He said many parents he's heard from want students back in school, and that many felt they were not heard by the CPS Board of Education.
"You and Dr. Stiepleman are taking [Reisch's] comment out of context," Basye wrote. "Perhaps CPS should start listening to parents and tell the Columbia, Missouri National Education Association to go to hell and get back to work, otherwise find another occupation."
I don’t desire a debate with you over your perception of what Representative Reisch meant when she graded Columbia Public Schools (CPS) during last weeks hearing. Nor am I concerned about Dr. Stiepleman’s bruised ego about what Rep. Reisch said causing him to throw a tantrum via his opinion piece in the Columbia Missourian this past Friday morning.
What I do know is that many, and I mean many, parents, grandparents and taxpayers have had their fill with the CPS administration and school board ignoring their concerns about their children/grandchildren not receiving an quality education. They are not troublemakers or malcontents. They are good, decent hardworking people wanting their kids to get back to school, physically!
Representative Reisch was stating her opinion during the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee hearing, which she most certainly is entitled to do. I agree with what Rep. Reisch said at the hearing. CPS is failing to properly educate many of our children.
If the CPS students are doing so good in this virtual educational environment, why in the hell are the teachers arguing against MAP testing?
You and Dr. Stiepleman are taking her comment out of context. Perhaps CPS should start listening to parents and tell the Columbia, Missouri National Education Association to go to hell and get back to work, otherwise find another occupation.
Basye defended that comment on Monday, telling ABC 17 News that he felt the CMNEA had undue influence over the school's decision-making.
"Sometimes you have to use strong language to get the attention of these people," Basye said. "And that's what I did. They said some very unpleasant things about me, and maybe I should rephrase that in some regard. Bottom line is, these teachers need to be doing the job that they're paid to do."
Barnett said she was surprised to read Basye's response
"I don't think you need to use that language in order to get your opinions across," Barnett said.
CMNEA president Kathy Steinhoff said she was confused by Basye would bring up the group in a conversation that had seemingly nothing to do with it.
"I don't know how anything I said may have played into the board's decision," Steinhoff said. "But I don't regret advocating for the safety of our students and our staff."
It's not the first time state legislators have waded into the debate over CPS' learning models during the COVID-19 pandemic. A legislative hearing took place in October at the Activity and Recreation Center about the effects virtual learning had on students and featured testy exchanges between CPS officials and committee members.
Board of education meetings have featured hours of testimony from parents and groups for and against changes to the learning models. CPS started the school year learning online, then switched to a four-day in-person hybrid model in January. Steinhoff spoke against the move at the time, citing a then-high case rate in the CPS district. Despite that, the board voted to move to the hybrid model and will consider moving back fully in-person at a March 8 meeting.
Basye said those moves would not have been made had it not been for pressure from parents and the state legislature.
"If they wanted to meet, I'd be meet up with them wherever they wanted to meet at," Basye said.
Barnett said she believed Basye and others involved in the email were good people. She said insulting others, though, was not a productive way to solve issues.
"I don't think you can work things out by tearing each other down."