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December 18, 2019

Candidates file for school board seats

Snow delayed the opening of candidate filing for three seats on the Columbia Board of Education until Wednesday, when an incumbent already seeking a new term and a newcomer to politics filed for the April 7 ballot.

Jonathan Sessions, who has been on the board for 10 years, was the first to file at the school district’s administrative offices, followed by Chris Horn, a reinsurance manager at Shelter Insurance.

Board President Helen Wade, who has been in office since 2011, has not announced her plans and could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

December 11, 2019

FACE connects families with services

“We’re a linking agency,” Ehret said. It provides case management for families with children and helps connect them with services.

School board members Teresa Maledy, Jonathan Sessions, Della Streaty-Wilhoit and Blake Willoughby were on the tour. Streaty-Wilhoit said she was unaware of FACE until she was elected to the school board. She called the tour “eye-opening.”

The agency is funded through the Children’s Services Fund tax, a quarter-cent sales tax approved by Boone County voters in 2012.

The University of Missouri Office of Sponsored Programs proposed the idea to the Children Services Board. The 4,000-square-foot space is at 105 E. Ash St., just inside the ground-floor entrance.

December 09, 2019

School board to consider revisions to restraint policy

The Columbia Board of Education on Monday will consider a new student seclusion, isolation and restraint policy that has been debated and re-worked for months.

“I’m happy with it,” said Robyn Schelp, president of Missouri Disability Empowerment, a group advocating for students and others with disabilities. “The new policy is much better than the current policy.”

The proposed policy requires parents or guardians to be notified on the day of an incident and to receive a written report within 10 days. The current policy required the parent or guardian to request the written report.

A bill covering student seclusion, isolation and restraint was introduced this week in the Missouri House of Representatives. School board. member Jonathan Sessions on Tuesday said the district’s policy would be stronger than the legislation.

December 06, 2019

Sessions to seek another term on school board

Sessions said he’s helped put together the plan to rid the district of classroom trailers and get the district’s finances in order.

“I’d like to be here was we put together a plan to continue the success we’ve had for the past 10 years,” Sessions said.

The district is doing the work he got on the board to do, including supporting students and racial equity, he said.

“That’s the work I’m truly proud of and I want to make sure it’s truly ingrained in who we are and in the fabric of who we are,” Sessions said

December 04, 2019

Bill could settle debate on parent recordings

“I don’t think it’s been forgotten or placed on the back burner,” Ribaudo said. “They’re making a good-faith effort.”

Putting the issue in state law could clarify many of the questions that have been raised, said school board Vice President Jonathan Sessions.

“With what we have in policy right now, we do make allowances for parents who need ADA accommodations,” Sessions said, referring to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. “We do allow recordings in those situations. Should the law change, we’ll make sure we’re in compliance.”

School district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said in an email that the working group will continue meeting as legislators sort through the issues the school district has been dealing with.

“We respect the decision to take these policies to the state level and we will wait to see how they turn out,” Baumstark said. “This will create an opportunity for state legislators to have the same critical and difficult discussions about the importance of student privacy and management and disclosure of student records.”

December 03, 2019

Bill aims to set state rules on student restraint

Missouri Disability Empowerment has been cooperating with the Columbia Board of Education to update its policy on seclusion and restraint. Though the school board pushes back against legislation it feels interferes with local control of schools, school board Vice President Jonathan Sessions said legislation that protects students’ civil liberties isn’t in that category.

He hasn’t read the bill, so he can’t say if he is in favor of it, he said. He expects the new policy to be on the agenda for next week’s school board meeting.

“I think we’re going to be in a great place with our policy,” Sessions said. “It’s more restrictive and more protective of students than what’s in the legislation.”

November 21, 2019

Columbia schools planning $20 million bond issue

The committee by consensus approved general goals for the next 10 years, focused on district growth with new construction, security and safety improvements and more attention to accessibility of buildings.

“The last 10 years have been about catching up,” said board member Jonathan Sessions. “The next 10 years will be about keeping up.”

November 16, 2019

County, city officials prepare for 2020 census

Columbia Board of Education member Jonathan Sessions said after the event that federal funds make up only about 4 percent of the school district’s operating budget, but every bit of it is important.

“We recognize the vital importance of community engagement” in increasing awareness of the census, Sessions said.

November 10, 2019

School board to consider later start date, middle school name

This year, school started Aug. 15, with an end date of May 28, 2020.

“Being forced to change that start date is the clearest example of removal of local control,” said Columbia Board of Education Vice President Jonathan Sessions.

The state fair is important, he said, but it’s not something that happens in Columbia. “We need to consider what’s best for our students,” Sessions said. “The start date does some damage to the education of students. It dramatically reduces the first semester.”

The school district already had developed calendars for future school years, coordinating with the schedule for the University of Missouri. Those were removed from the district website and are being redone because of the legislation, Sessions said.

The school board also will vote on its legislative priorities for 2019-20. The first one listed is: “Local authority for decision making regarding school calendar, open enrollment, curricular decisions, class size and charter schools.”

It includes a previous priority, full funding of school transportation and allowing school districts and communities to cooperate on bus systems.

A new priority is support of school board elections remaining in April, a nonpartisan election date. Sessions said there have been ideas floated in the past of moving municipal elections to November.

“The local issues can get lost in the national dialogue,” Sessions said. “It turns a nonpartisan local election into part of the partisan national dialogue.”

October 31, 2019

Boone County to distribute $2.8M in property tax payments

The county on Friday will distribute Ameren’s 2018 property tax payments, which had been held in escrow by Boone County Collector Brian McCollum. It includes $1.78 million to Columbia Public Schools, $246,523 to the Southern Boone School district in Ashland, $114,946 to the city of Columbia, $109,119 to the Columbia/Boone County Library District and $85,669 to the Centralia School District.

“Every dollar that comes into Columbia Public Schools means more opportunity for our students,” Columbia Board of Education Vice President Jonathan Sessions told Dykhouse. “Thank you for your service to the students of Boone County and the children of Boone County.”

Sessions was at the meeting with school board member Teresa Maledy.

Sessions told reporters outside the meeting that the revenue will help reduce the school district’s deficit.

While the money would already be in the district’s funds had Ameren Missouri not challenged its valuation, Sessions said the district always budgets conservatively, expecting some entity or other to challenge property values.

September 20, 2019

Columbia Board of Education tackles equity training

The Columbia Board of Education on Thursday learned about disparities based on race, gender, social class and sexual orientation during an equity training session.

It was the third equity training session for school board members. This one was led by Carla London, Columbia Public Schools chief equity officer, and school board member Jonathan Sessions.

“We are all going to challenge ourselves as we continue through our equity work,” Sessions said. He said discomfort is indication that they are learning.

“We have to de-stigmatize the word ‘privilege,’” London said. “It’s not a character assessment. We all have it.”

August 22, 2019

Columbia school board approves reduced tax rate

The school board set the 2019-20 tax rate at $6.0988 per $100 of assessed valuation, down from the current rate of $6.1425.

The owner of a home in the school district with a $200,000 market value would pay property taxes to the school district totaling $2,317. That’s almost $17 less than the owner of a $200,000 home paid this year.

Board member Jonathan Sessions said after the meeting that because property reassessment occurred in Boone County in 2019, the value of many homes increased, so the property tax bill of many homeowners likely would increase despite the tax rate drop.

July 30, 2019

Fresh start

Columbia Board of Education member Jonathan Sessions told the teachers from the stage that the school board members are there to support them. He has an education degree, but doesn’t work as a teacher.

“I’m a non-practicing educator, so I’m in awe of all of you,” Sessions said.

June 11, 2019

Columbia Board of Education approves budget

The board held an initial discussion about a proposed donation of the Park Avenue Center, owned by the Columbia Housing Authority next to Douglass High School, to the school district. If the district were to accept the donation, it would be required to continue to allow Head Start and preschool programs that now are operating there. Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said the district has first right of refusal, but if the district decides not to take on the building, he said another not-for-profit organization may be willing to accept it.

The board heard the building has a lot of maintenance needs.

“I know I have a lot of concerns and reservations of my own,” said board member Jonathan Sessions. “We might have reasons to go another route. I think there’s a lot of questions.”

June 05, 2019

CPS building projects proceed during summer break

Voters in April approved the final $5 million piece to complete the middle school construction, with a total cost of $34 million. Bond issues in 2014 and 2016 paid the rest of the construction cost. It’s scheduled to open in August 2020.

A nearly $1 million project to renovate the Columbia Aeronautics and Space Administration at Hickman High School has begun and won’t be complete until January. Oestreich said its interior has been demolished and will be completely redone, along with tuck-pointing and new windows.

Columbia Board of Education member Jonathan Sessions is a fan of CASA. He said it was built in an old auto mechanic shop and had many limitations. Session said CASA is student-driven and student-led, while overseen by teachers.

Academic work there is inter-disciplined, using software development, engineering, construction, public relations and theater and fine arts.

“I haven’t seen anything like this program anywhere sponsored by a school district,” Sessions said. “This is a program where students are learning skills they can adapt to whatever they pursue.”

May 23, 2019

Nature school concept revived as Department of Conservation teams up with Columbia schools

Columbia Board of Education member Jonathan Sessions had been a proponent of the nature school in its previous form, but said he likes the new plan better.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic that this project has come back around for our students and all students of Boone County,” Sessions said.

Many details need to be worked out. No costs have been discussed, but the agreement states that “citizen leaders” were undertaking a Nature School Capital Campaign to raise a significant portion of the construction cost of the building from private sources and that construction was contingent upon those funds being raised.

“This will be a community- and state-supported school,” Sessions said.

May 18, 2019

Battle High School Graduation

Battle senior E’Monnie Minor dances after receiving her diploma during the Battle High School graduation at Mizzou Arena on Saturday, May 19, 2018. The commencement ceremony was the fourth in the school’s history.

February 14, 2019

Columbia Board of Education passes new middle school lines; rejects recommendation

The Columbia Board of Education on Monday changed direction and approved a previous version of redrawn boundaries for Gentry and Jefferson middle schools.

The board approved by a vote of 6-1 the Jan. 18 boundary scenario that had been presented at public forums at the two middle schools. In his motion, board member Jonathan Sessions also said current Gentry sixth- and seventh-graders who would otherwise move to Jefferson should be allowed to remain at Gentry, though transportation would not be provided for them.

The boundary change is meant to relieve crowding at Gentry. Gentry Middle School had 873 students in a recent count, but the capacity of the building and 13 trailers is 871 students. Superintendent Peter Stiepleman has said that with no changes, projected enrollment at Gentry next year is 900. Jefferson’s enrollment in September was 597 students.

Under the scenario approved by the board, 2017-18 enrollment at Gentry would drop to 799 and Jefferson’s enrollment would increase to 664. That does not take into consideration the number of current sixth- and seventh-graders who will opt to stay at Gentry. Stiepleman said during a break in the meeting that could result in an enrollment at Gentry of 834 and at Jefferson of 629.

“There was a lot of support for this scenario,” Sessions said. “I do feel like those last-minute changes were rather drastic. I just feel that snuck up on a lot of people.”

January 05, 2019

Columbia School Board incumbents first to file for April race

Three current members of the Columbia School Board will seek re-election this spring.

Helen Wade, Paul Cushing and Jonathan Sessions, who each are finishing up three-year terms, are seeking to keep their seats on the volunteer board in the election April 4.

All three are running for third terms. Cushing’s first term was interrupted when he had to leave because of a job relocation to Minnesota; he ran for a seat again in 2014 when he returned to Columbia. Sessions, current vice president, was appointed in 2010 then ran for the board in 2011.

March 11, 2010

Parents’ interest seen as key issue Board hopefuls face off again.

…asked what the candidates would do to incorporate low-income black families who might fear the brick and mortar of school buildings and the college degrees administrators and teachers have….Sessions cited a long-term goal of the district’s to improve its community outreach. He said the district should reach out to underserved populations, “open doors and make people feel welcome.”

March 11, 2010

League of Women Voters forum draws questions from community

Andrew Twaddle, a retired resident, was concerned about parents ill-prepared to participate in their children’s education process. He asked the candidates how they would try to incorporate parents into decision-making…

March 11, 2010

Candidates weigh in on school mandates

Sessions said a better way of helping student learning rather than No Child Left Behind is intervention models in which schools react when a student might be struggling, citing the one used at West Boulevard Elementary. He said the law has good aspects, “but it may not have the best approach to solve the problems.”

March 09, 2010

Education students get opportunity to question School Board candidates

“It brought a lot of attention to troubling matters, but it may not have been the best approach.”

“I think we’ll continue to see a change.”

March 06, 2010

School site a forum focus - First tilt in campaign has planning theme.

Sessions said money was a factor, as well. He said he favors the bond issue, which will allow a new grade configuration in each high school, grouping grades 9-12 rather than grades 10-12 as Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools do now.

March 04, 2010

Mediacom Newsleaders

My appearance on the Mediacom Newsleaders program playing all the month of March on Headline News—Mediacom channel 43.

March 03, 2010

Who’s funding candidates in the April election?

Candidates for the April 6 municipal election filed campaign finance reports last week. Mayoral candidate Jerry Wade led all council candidates, receiving a little more than $23,000. Jonathan Sessions led all school board candidates with roughly $10,700…

February 23, 2010

The “session” has begun

PS Gallery on Broadway was packed with local art and local supporters within a half-hour of the 6:30 p.m. start time. It was clear upon entering the room that Sessions is no ordinary candidate….

February 13, 2010

School board candidates hang with the ladies

President Jan Mees and James Whitt, both running for three-year terms were, were in attendance, as well as Jonathan Sessions and Philip Peters Jr., who are running for one-year terms. Dan Holt was unable to attend. The candidates stood holding signs with their names on them, laughing and…

January 20, 2010

Five will vie for school board

…yesterday, filing closed for the three open seats on the seven-member board. Five candidates filed to run for the positions, all submitting within days after filing opened in mid-December.

January 18, 2010

Schools ballot is shuffled, Peters adjusts sights for seat.

…Until yesterday, Mees, Whitt, Dan Holt and Phil Peters all had filed their candidacies for the three-year terms. DeSpain has said she will not seek re-election. Jonathan Sessions was the only candidate to file for the one-year seat now held by Whitt, who is serving out a term after former board member Rosie Tippin resigned in May for health reasons…

December 15, 2009

Five plan to vie for 3 posts

It’s the first day of filing for seats on the Columbia Board of Education, and already at least five candidates plan to run for three open seats. Two seats with three-year terms and one seat with a one-year term are up for election. They include the seats now held by board members Jan Mees, Karla DeSpain and Jim Whitt, respectively.

June 13, 2009

School board candidate at forum

Jonathan Sessions, co-owner of consulting firm Tech 2 and teacher at the Columbia Area Career Center, speaks as a school board candidate at forum on June 10 in the Elm Street Ballroom.

June 10, 2009

Columbia School Board candidates address issues at forum

Seven of the eight School Board candidates to replace Rosie Tippin were questioned Wednesday night about challenges they might face and solutions they could offer.

“This is your opportunity to ask them whatever you want,” moderator Sean Spence said to the audience.

June 06, 2009

Eight candidates apply for open Columbia School Board seat

Eight people have applied to take Rosie Tippin’s seat on the Columbia School Board. They are former board candidates Dan Holt and Sam Phillips, computer consultant Jonathan Sessions, professor emeritus John Miles, parent activist Robin Hubbard, youth basketball coach James Whitt, early childhood agency director Philip Peters and concerned mother Martha Tomlin-McCrary.

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