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Snodgrass focuses on equity in run for Columbia school board

Equity is an important word to Jeanne Snodgrass.

It's highlighted on her campaign signs and she says it's one of the most important principles for running Columbia Public Schools well.

Snodgrass is one of four political newcomers seeking two open seats on the Columbia Board of Education in the April 6 election, including Luke Neal, Katherine Sasser and Aron Saylor. Incumbent Teresa Maledy is also running.

Family: Married 24 years with three children

Education: Bachelor of arts with honors, University of Iowa; master of fine arts, University of New Mexico; master of arts, Jewish studies, Hebrew College (graduating June 2021)

Occupation: Executive director of Mizzou Hillel (Jewish Campus Center)

Previous political experience: None

How do you think the school board has handled the COVID-19 pandemic and in-person teaching?

I think the current school board was put in a really difficult position. This is something that no one expected to have to handle. And I think even where I haven't agreed with all the decisions they've made, that they've been thoughtful and really tried their best to take the needs of the community into account.

I think that there are a lot of things we can learn from it. I don't know how helpful it is to be second-guessing decisions that were made, we'll never know what could have been if a different decision had happened. And what I'd rather do is look forward at some of the things that we can learn.

We know that there are a number of educational disparities and disparities as far as the resources students have access to that we knew were already there, but have been really exacerbated by COVID. I think we need to take that seriously. I think it provides us as well an opportunity to think about what does the school day look like? What are we doing to measure success? And what supports do we have for our various students. And so those are the things that I want to take away from it going forward so that we can continue to improve the district.

Conservative politicians have attacked some curricula being used in public schools, particularly as it relates to history, slavery and critical race theory. Do you see any problems with the CPS curriculum in this or other areas?

I think all of these things are important because we have to understand the history of where we are. Ignoring history doesn't make it go away, providing alternative viewpoints -- and by that I mean viewpoints from different groups not like alternative facts, right -- doesn't change what happened, it makes us more aware more able to address issues and more able to understand what our friends and our neighbors are going through ...

We have students speaking all kinds of languages, I think it's about 65 ... languages as home languages, for folks, there is a wealth of experience and knowledge. But also, we need to understand that our teachers need to understand that fellow students need to understand that I think it's important that this is part of the curriculum that these perspectives are being talked about, and that students' identities and experiences are being affirmed because of it.

Should parents be able to record meetings to talk about their children’s individualized education plans?

This question came up specifically in the SEPTA candidate forum, the Special Education PTA candidate forum. And yeah, I think parents need to have the opportunity to review what's happening.

I know some of these IEP meetings can go for two hours, six hours, they can be emotional, people need to be able to have that information. So I support ways that parents can access that information that parents can know what's happening, and can have a record of what is being done to help their students and the steps that are being taken.

I think it serves everyone if we have that openness, and we have that ability to look back and have that record of what happened.

What should CPS do to narrow the achievement gap between some groups of students?

I'm gonna push back a little on the term achievement gap. So I've been reading a lot of this also something that I'm familiar with anyway. I think the implication with achievement gap is that people aren't achieving. And I think that that's not true, I think what we see is what I would term like a disparity of outcomes, right? People ... have different outcomes. And often it's based on the resources that have been allocated and their experience and opportunities.

And so I think we need to look at how our resources are being distributed to the various schools, I think, particularly when you look at our elementary schools, we see a lot of difference in how students are being approached in the opportunities that are being given to them. And also, we know that even where there are opportunities being offered, parents need to know about them, students need to know about them. And so one of the things that is really important to me is that we really need some more openness around our communication. And that's not just about the board communicating to the community, or teachers or students, ... but it's really about those internal communications as well.

When students are shifting from elementary to middle school, it's a really big shift. There's a huge change and you suddenly have students from multiple elementary schools in a single school, it becomes very apparent what sorts of opportunities were at the different schools. And so I think that that's something we need to look at, and what supports ... each school will need, what are the things that the students in those particular schools and those particular circumstances need to be able to successfully access those opportunities?

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Matthew Sanders

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

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