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Perspective: Books, boundaries, and banging the drums for JCPS

Perspective: Books, boundaries, and banging the drums for JCPS

August 5th, 2018 by Steve Bruce, JCPS Board of Education president in Opinion

A brand new school year is almost upon us, and I for one am very much looking forward to what this year has in store for your Jefferson City Public Schools. By now, you should have seen information on open houses being held throughout the district. The goal of open houses isn't to provide a chance to discuss lengthy concerns or complex issues, but rather to conduct a brief meet and greet. District families, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of attending an open house, especially if your kids are in younger grades. Education definitely starts in your own home, but educating our kids is a team sport. Public schools can't and shouldn't be expected to do it alone, and good communication goes a long way.

Speaking of team effort, you've no doubt heard that JCPS is placing a much greater emphasis on reading in the coming year. This is hugely important, because reading is the one subject that fuels all other subjects. While our teachers are being provided tested and proven methods and tools to better teach reading in their classrooms, regardless of subject, holding our kids accountable for their efforts at schools and supporting them at home will help tremendously. Making sure your student reads for 20 minutes a night should be a top priority. If you don't have a student at home or in your family, but interact with kids in the community in some capacity, ask them to tell you about what they're reading the next time you see them.

Also of note is the upcoming Community Pep Rally at 8 a.m. Aug. 13 at the JCHS gym entrance. This will mark the fourth year your board, district officials, and community members have gathered together to welcome district staff back to work in a loud and exciting way. Of all of the back-to-school activities that occur, the Community Pep Rally is by far one of the most fun events you can participate in, and it's one of the most impactful. Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Teaching is really hard, and it's getting harder. Every year, members of our district staff have shared with me, some with teary eyes, how valued it makes them feel to see community members cheering them on and recognizing their efforts as they head back to work. We celebrate when the Chiefs win, and when the Cardinals, Royals, Blues, and the Tigers win. We even used to celebrate when the Rams won (which wasn't very often, so it was usually pretty amazing). Some of us celebrate our favorite artist winning an Oscar or Grammy. Those are all fine things to get excited about, and they also have one thing in common. They don't hold a candle to what our public educators accomplish year in and year out, and against longer odds than David Hasselhoff making an American comeback. Awards tarnish and fame fades. Education lasts a lifetime.

My point is, celebrating the people responsible for our kids learning to read on grade level, writing clearly, becoming more proficient in math or science, and learning an employable trade or valuable set of skills, at the very least, deserves 15 minutes of our time. After all, where would any of us be without that one teacher or principal who refused to give up on us or let us give up on ourselves? Come be a part of something special, and help me and the rest of the board celebrate a very special group of professionals — you won't regret it.

Lastly, the board will have boundary line adjustments on its August and September agendas. There are three possible recommendations as proposed by the District's Citizens' Committee on Boundary Lines. You can find those recommendations and related information here: A note of special thanks to the members of the committee, especially those folks who served with distinction and attended most, if not all of the scheduled meetings.

I will ask the board to consider and take action on boundary line changes during the September meeting. Dr. Larry Linthacum has mentioned publicly several times, any board approved changes to boundary lines would not take place until the start of the 2019-2020 school year, and if you would like to share your thoughts about the committee's suggestions, I encourage you to contact a board member or attend the August or September meeting and speak during the board's open forum period. Board member email addresses can be found here: Board meeting and open forum protocol is available here:

I hope to see you at an open house, the Community Pep Rally set for 8 a.m. at the JCHS gym entrance on Aug. 13, or a board meeting in the future. On behalf of your Board of Education, thank you again for your continued support of the Jefferson City Public Schools. I hope you've had a great summer, and that you're excited for what the next year will hold. I know I am.