Press

April 12th, 2012

Schools committee discusses athletic facilities

The grand total for all athletic improvements was estimated around $12 million, but the list did not include some additional needs brought up, and committee Chairman Jonathan Sessions said many estimates likely are high.

“The document isn’t so much about figuring out numbers as about creating a punch list as the district figures out what it needs to create equity among our buildings,” Sessions said

March 9th, 2012

Columbia Public Schools Stand Behind Cursive Handwriting

“As we move toward Common Core alignment we know that there are “surface level” skills that may not be specifically addressed yet are prerequisites to “higher level” skills,” [Becky] Stanley [K-5 Language Arts Coordinator for CPS] said. The standards adopted by the state say a student must be able to write legibly, write fluently and fluently compose sentences by the time he or she reaches 5th grade.

CPS board member Jonathan Sessions echoed this sentiment by saying that cursive handwriting is not leaving Columbia schools anytime soon. He said the skill is essential for students reading ability. Teresa Horrell, a 3rd grade teacher at Russell Elementary, said the students are excited to learn cursive handwriting and they consider it a milestone of elementary school.

December 2nd, 2011

Columbia schools might expand communications staff

Managing the Partners in Education program also is a time-consuming task the department must handle.

“We’re a growing community that continues to desire more partners in education,” communications committee member Jonathan Sessions said.

November 30th, 2011

Schools committee recommends collective bargaining policy

Most collective bargaining is done with an exclusive representation model, he said at a previous meeting.

Board member Jonathan Sessions said the board did not reject Policy HH but requested to send it back to the policy committee for more discussion. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of having more time to have a conversation,” he said.

November 13th, 2011

School board to consider adding high school gyms

School board member Jonathan Sessions, who graduated from Hickman High School in 2001, still recalls some physical education classes that had to meet in the hallways before moving to other spaces. Now, ninth graders will join the student population and have to complete a half a P.E. credit that students previously completed in junior high school gyms.

October 11th, 2011

CPS Amends Bullying Policy

Board member Jonathan Sessions said he’s glad the issue is being addressed, as students are in a vulnerable position at this point in their lives.

“I think it’s important to have this discussion early with kids so they are aware of their actions,” Session said. “Sometimes young individuals are just not aware that their comments are inappropriate.”

Sessions also said the initial policy created five years ago was in response to students voicing their concerns about bullying to teachers. The main difference in the new policy is the required hours. Previously, bullying activity was simply labeled as prohibited by teachers at the beginning of each school year.

June 15th, 2011

Columbia schools plan for growth

The purpose of seeking additional financing is twofold, said Jonathan Sessions, who heads the district’s long-range facilities committee. That panel discussed the tentative plans yesterday at its monthly meeting.

“We’re looking at solving two problems: We’re catching up by eliminating trailers, and we’re dealing with 300-something more students that will be in elementary schools by 2015,” he said, referring to projections from data firm RSP & Associates that indicate about 320 more elementary students will join the district in the next five years.”

June 6th, 2011

Funds help Benton Elementary School focus on math, science

School board member Jonathan Sessions, who runs a local information technology consulting firm, agreed establishing that emphasis is important.

“I think it’s a great push that will be a key component to the rebound of the U.S. economy, and in a school like Benton, it’s a great opportunity for students to recognize that technology is applicable and to see how math is a part of their lives,” he said.

April 7th, 2011

Board keeps Rose, Sessions, adds Wade

...Board President Jan Mees stopped to congratulate Wade on her win after spending time at Sessions’ party around the corner at Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream, 21 S. Ninth St. “I’m interested to see if he continues to be on the board; he’s a former student and a longtime friend,” she said of Sessions. “But I’m not favoring anybody.”

Sessions, who received 26 percent of votes, said he was excited to serve a full term after being elected to a one-year term last April. He said the achievement gap is one issue he plans to address.

“We’ve all had to answer questions about the achievement gap in 40- to 90-second sound bites, but it’s a complicated issue that’s not given enough focus,” he said.

Sessions’ watch party attracted supporters young and old, including Dixon Barnes, a senior at Rock Bridge High School who attended with his mother and sister.

“I like the ideas Jonathan Sessions brings,” Barnes said. “He brings a fresh perspective and really has a good grip on how students interact.”...

April 5th, 2011

Incumbents, one new candidate elected to Columbia School Board

Sessions has served one year on the board and received the second highest vote total. He is the owner of Tech 2, a computer technology consultation and management firm. Sessions grew up in Columbia Public Schools and received a degree in elementary education from MU.

When asked if he was prepared to handle upcoming district challenges, Sessions said, “Yes, and the areas where I might not be as informed as I need to be, I am going to make sure I am.

“I am thankful that the citizens of Columbia have elected me to continue to serve on the Columbia School Board; I am honored.”

March 28th, 2011

School board candidates tackle growth

As Columbia Public Schools committees are reviewing data on growth and working to develop a plan to displace trailers in use at the elementary level, it’s becoming clear that new elementary schools are in Columbia’s future.

A plan is in place to open a new elementary school in 2015, and the district is formulating a long-term plan to deal with growth and to possibly do away with trailers over the next five to 15 years. Once that is set, it will be up the Columbia Board of Education to approve final plans.

Of the six candidates running for three open seats on the Board of Education, most agreed that displacing trailers is an essential step.

“For far too long we’ve allowed trailers to be a stopgap,” candidate and current board member Jonathan Sessions said. “Look at Cedar Ridge. They almost have more kids in trailers … than in physical bricks-and-mortar buildings. It is a mistake to allow a stopgap measure to become the norm.”

Cedar Ridge, designed to hold 100 students, now has 196 students and has seven trailers.

Overall, the district has 153 trailers, including 90 at the district’s 20 elementary schools. Of 11 comparable Missouri districts, none comes close to rivaling Columbia’s number of trailers. The next closest, the Independence School District, has 13 trailers.

“Trailers are three times more expensive to operate per square foot than bricks-and-mortar buildings,” Sessions said, emphasizing maintenance and utility costs. “They are poor investments.”

March 23rd, 2011

School concerns include diversity

Closing the achievement gap and making sure schools don’t become segregated when new attendance boundaries are drawn are among the top concerns for the NAACP in the school board election, local President Mary Ratliff said.

The six candidates running for three open seats on the Columbia Board of Education had the chance to address both issues last night at a public forum hosted by the NAACP at Second Baptist Church, 407 E. Broadway.

The majority of candidates agreed early childhood education is essential to closing the achievement gap…

March 23rd, 2011

Minorities in Columbia education

The NAACP asked Columbia Board of Education candidates how they would support diversity in district employees and whether the district should hire a chief diversity officer.

Complete coverage of the April 2011 elections
Jonathan Sessions: “Dr. Belcher is actively working with our teachers and minority teachers on how to create more diversity. In terms of a chief diversity officer, that’s a conversation I’ve honestly had with the administration and asked why we don’t have one.”

March 23rd, 2011

NAACP candidate forum emphasizes achievement-gap challenges

Candidates Dave Raithel and Jonathan Sessions said encouraging programs such as the MAC Scholars program in place at the high schools would be integral to fostering student achievement. Raithel also said he talked to some school administrators about possibly starting a “mini-MAC” program in the elementary schools.

“It’s cliché to say I was really impressed,” Raithel said. “The fact is, I was really impressed.”

“We need to expand and support programs like the MAC Scholars,” Sessions said. “We need to continue to increase programs like that that encourage our black students to be successful.”

March 21st, 2011

The Tribune’s View - School board, Three open seats

Of the six people running for three available seats on the Columbia Board of Education, two are incumbents and deserve re-election.

Tom Rose and Jonathan Sessions are careful, conservative members who understand and support improvements in school governance since the arrival of Superintendent Chris Belcher. As members of the board during this transition, they can be expected to continue the good work. Their track records encourage their re-election.

March 21st, 2011

School board hopefuls weigh in on suspensions

The Columbia Board of Education in December approved the plan to run a pilot program of the suspension center from January to June at a cost of $10,159. The majority of the other candidates in the Columbia Board of Education race — in which three school board members will be selected April 5 — expressed support for the center.

“I like the idea of the suspension center,” candidate and current board member Jonathan Sessions said. “It provides a safe place for students to go to school and make sure they are getting their work done as opposed to having a vacation as a punishment.” He added that removing students from school entirely likely would only put them further behind.

But suspension, Sessions said, sometimes can be a necessary punishment. “Sometimes there is a reason that a student needs to be removed from the classroom for a period of time to make sure they know how to behave appropriately and work on how to not repeat that behavior,” he said.

March 11th, 2011

Schools could receive more local control, 3 elementaries are part of plan.

As the Missouri House of Representatives debates a bill that would allow charter schools in any Missouri district — right now such schools are restricted to St. Louis and Kansas City districts — Columbia Public Schools is looking at a different approach.

The idea is to allow three elementary schools — Benton, Lee and Ridgeway — to have more control over staffing, curriculum, governance and school calendar. Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education, proposed the idea to the Columbia Board of Education in December.

Also under the plan, Benton would become a science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — school, and Lee would have more freedom to focus on arts.

March 11th, 2011

Board hopefuls talk on issue of vouchers

In addition to expanding charter schools, the Missouri General Assembly also is debating two bills supporting vouchers, which would allocate money set aside for public schools to go to pay tuition at private schools for parents who want an alternative choice on education for their children.

Jonathan Sessions: “I’m not a fan of vouchers. … What you’re doing is taking taxes you do pay that you know are dedicated to a project or program that is responsible to you as a citizen through your state representatives and school board representatives and directing it into private programs that are not accountable to anyone or have very questionable accountability systems.”

March 11th, 2011

School Board candidates discuss student motivation

At a forum Friday afternoon, Columbia School Board candidates talked about how restoring a child’s love of learning can help close the achievement gap. The Muleskinners, a Democratic organization, held the forum at Stephens College’s Stamper Commons.

March 8th, 2011

School board hopefuls talk to chamber, Douglass, taxes part of debate.

The six candidates competing for three open seats on the Columbia Board of Education met this morning for their first public forum of the election season.

Columbia Chamber of Commerce forum leaders asked the candidates to address their primary reason for running before delving into deeper issues including the Columbia Public Schools’ budget.

“I’m impressed with all the candidates,” Stephen Gaither, a member of the chamber education committee, said after the forum. “With the current members and these candidates, the board is in good hands.”

The key issues this election, Gaither said, are looking at meeting the needs of every child within the constraints of the budget, early childhood education and the achievement gap.

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