RMF Says NO to Contract Extension for Columbia's Dr Stiepleman

Race Matters, Friends President Traci Wilson-Kleekamp sent a video note to Helen Wade, President, Board of Education, Columbia Public Schools before the most recent board meeting, 2020.05.11. In this video, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp summarized Race Matters, Friends position of ongoing disappointment with Dr. Stiepleman's performance, administrative process, and lack of transparency and accountability. Ms. Wade responded to the email, noting that she would share the link with the board members. 

RMF does not support a contract extension for Dr. Stiepleman

  1. The contract for Dr. Stiepleman's position renewal was posted to the 2020.05.11 agenda items for the Board of Education to deliberate. The contract was not uploaded until Friday, 2020.05.08 which violates the requirement for 48-hour business day notification to the public.
  2. As presented, the contract did not include Dr. Stiepleman's current salary or proposed pay increase.
  3. RMF has a long-standing grievance over Dr. Stiepleman's performance and character. This appears to be yet one more of many examples of Stiepleman's obfuscation of transparency, and attempts to circumvent public engagement and accountability.

RMF does not support contract renewal with SESI/Catapult Learning

  1. No contract was uploaded or made available to the public before being scheduled for the March 11 meeting. When this was challenged, CPS administration moved discussion to a May 12 Work Session at 07:30 am rather than provide details of the contract. 
  2. RMF proposed moving the discussion to the June Board meeting.
  3. Catapult Learning has proven to be a liability to our community, and in the eyes of RMF and other prominent advocacy groups, unfit to oversee the safety and develop of our most vulnerable student population.
    1. This became a matter of concern at the state level in relation to proposed House Bill 1568 with accounts laying out some rather draconian measures implemented by the contracted organization.
    2. Concerns with this organization hinge predominantly on a heavy-handed approach to management of the students, extensive use of Seclusion Rooms - which at their best are problematic. The seclusion rooms had failed to be properly permitted or built to standards for anything approaching safe - let alone the the organizations use of seclusion rooms as practical holding cells for children to spend extended hours in isolation.

RMF requests that the CPS Board of Education consider the ongoing concerns

  1. That the CPS Board establish an official Equity Advisory Committee that includes representation of community and neighborhood organizations, parents and guardians.
    1. This committee should be afforded powers to influence school policy based on input to the Board, to be reported monthly at the scheduled board meetings and published reports made available to the public.
    2. This committee should be sheltered from any interference from the school administration, of whom they will be critiquing.
  2. That the CPS Board establish an official Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) with the same scope, function, and rights requested of the above Equity Advisory Committee.
  3. That the CPS board establish a COVID-19 Work Group to include a subcommittee on Compensatory Education for identifying and correcting trends of students with IEP/504 who have not received Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). 
    1. FAPE is a component of IDEA laws and regulations, Federal and State, that requires the provision of compensatory services for qualified children if they are regressing or failing to progress. Schools are required to provide compensatory services.

Thoughts from Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

Various members of our team have attempted to meet and collaborate with school officials since the complaint brought by Kandas Barnes was filed last year when her daughter was misidentified and arrested for being in a fight. We later learned that the School Resource Officer involved in the case did not act professionally. 

Two other young ladies expressed the bullying they experienced at Smithton and were essentially erased by the Board's apathy and deficit-orientation about Black students. We feel that CPS administration and Board are aware of these challenges and evidenced by the Black vs. All demographic reporting for each school on their public-facing site. Rice Tracy and Peggy Placier attempted to communicate their concerns with Dr. Stiepleman to no avail. 

In RMF's opinion, Carla London, Chief Equity Officer with CPS is not qualified to assess or implement changes to policy, or make an impactful difference to the blatant disparities in treatment of black and special needs children in the school system. When critiqued in a Facebook post, she brought allegations of me having stalked her children as one of her children had come across the public post. Ms London filed two restraining orders against me, utilizing school resources and legal teams - at the expense of the public. Both charges were dismissed.

We are in the midst of a pandemic. School is closed. School administration and Board members have had time to reflect on the many issues brought to their attention. Moving forward differently takes courage, but is what the public and public stewardship demands.

Change in RMF Executive Board

10 November 2019

Vice President, Lynn Maloney Steps Down from Race Matters, Friends Executive Board... Offers Closing Thoughts

It was five years ago, and just two nights before Thanksgiving that a group of us came together and created Race Matters, Friends (RMF) as a group to confront racism in Columbia, MO.  A year and a half later, we became formally recognized as a 501(c)3.  

This week I chose to step away from the organization’s Executive Committee.  What I have learned about racism, activism, and the city of Columbia has affected me deeply, and I am proud of the work RMF continues to do as I step back to integrate all that I have experienced.

What I am chewing on right now is the reaction of the Columbia Public School district to RMF’s request for information regarding the district’s social equity work.  As racial disparities for discipline are commonly recognized as a reflection of the school-to-prison pipeline, RMF engaged several school administrators and was assisted by the ACLU in requesting records about the CPS’ equity practices.

From May of this year until the present, we requested records. We had conversations with students, their parents, and administrators in person and via email.  The Chief Equity Officer has demonstrably failed to perform her duties, as outlined in a detailed job description, which was recently removed from the CPS website.  

The upshot?  The Chief Equity Officer, Carla London, filed a police report and protective order for herself and her children against our president.  The judge dismissed both protective orders. Friends have asked me what happened, understanding that this was bizarre.  Others, have simply believed the validity of Ms. London’s unsubstantiated claims. Please read the documents filed by Ms. London, attached here.  You will find no evidence of wrong-doing as accused.  What you will find, is a series of emails between RMF and the Chief Equity Officer asking for questions to be answered.

RMF’s inquiry into racial equity at Columbia Public Schools came after the President of the Missouri NAACP asked us to advocate for a mother whose child had been wrongly arrested by the police department.  Since that time we have learned of four cases pending against CPS regarding harmful disciplinary practices. 

Black millennial scholar and PhD student, Sharon Aniyam joined RMF at our Executive Committee Retreat last weekend.  RMF benefited from hearing about her racial justice activism in the UK.  She also helped us integrate the work of our retreat in this podcast,which she created as part of her research while visiting the US. Listen here:  Retreat Reflections with Race Matters Friends An episode of The Millennial VSCOholar, By The Millennial VSCOholar with (Sharon Aniyam, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp and Lynn Maloney)

Editorial Note: Welcome, Kendra Jackson as our interim Vice President!

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