Education-PeterStiepleman-headshot

The story I am going to relate to you is really a parable. It speaks of a rite of passage, but its purpose is to do something even more significant. It is a rallying cry for our community’s future.

In just a short time, my 13-year-old son will celebrate his bar mitzvah. A bar mitzvah is when a Jewish boy becomes a man. I always find this humorous because so many of these “men” could still audition for the Vienna Boys Choir!

On the big day, he will lead a service in the morning and then host a celebration in the evening. It is customary these days to have a theme for one’s bar mitzvah celebration. He has chosen chess as his theme. The invitations read: “Come ye Kings and come ye Queens! Come ye Rooks and come ye Bishops!” We giggled when reviewing the invitation because we think, for sure, this has got to be the first time bishops have appeared on a bar mitzvah invitation!

However, the most poignant moment, really the most tender moment, will take place in the morning, toward the beginning of the service. The tiny sanctuary, nestled next to the white farmhouse on Green Meadows, will be filled with family and friends. My parents, my siblings and their children will be seated in the front row — bearing witness to a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years.

The moment will arrive when the rabbi will call my son to the front. He will then invite my father and me to come forward. The three of us — grandfather, father and son — will stand together in a line, facing our loved ones. And in a beautifully symbolic ceremony, the rabbi will carefully present my father with the Torah, a large and heavy scroll. My father will take the Torah, pause, turn to me, and carefully pass it on. I will then face my son and hand it to him. While we do this, the rabbi will say the following Hebrew words: “L’dor va’dor” — from generation to generation.

In what will be my last of four contributions to this fine magazine, it is my hope that Columbians will consider those prophetic words — from generation to generation — and how they apply to our public schools. In order for one to know where they’re going, they must first understand where they’ve been. It’s the reason why I regularly meet with our former superintendents, Dr. Thompson, Dr. Ritter and Dr. Belcher. It’s the reason why my requests for advice and counsel are met with stories of how other leaders, like Hank Fisher and Robert Shaw and Neil Aslin, handled similar challenges. It’s the reason why they tell me how former Board of Education leaders, like Lynnanne Baumgardner and Ray Lewis, worked tirelessly with the clear purpose of ensuring that Columbia Public Schools would be one of the best school districts in the state. And it is!

The investment in our public schools is an investment in our community’s future. The community’s support will have the next generation looking back, ever grateful, for what we did for them.

 

Our public school students continue to outperform their state, national and international peers on Advanced Placement exams and other college entrance exams, including the ACT. Our public school district was recognized by a site-visit team from Harvard University’s Pathways to Prosperity as having a model career center. Additionally, we’ve been notified that the Columbia Public School District will receive national recognition as a District of Distinction for its commitment to Achievement, Enrichment, and Opportunity (AEO). The challenge our schools face is also our community’s challenge: growth. We are growing, and in order to respond to the growth, we must expand existing buildings as well as build new ones. As we continue to grow, we must be able to recruit and retain the very best employees so that all of our children can be taken as far as they can possibly go.

The economic growth of our community can absolutely be linked to the educational foundation provided by the Columbia Public Schools. Just ask the Atkins family. Ask the Dunafon family. Ask the Still family. Ask the Riback-Wilson family. Ask the more than 250 Business Partners in Education that volunteer in Columbia Public Schools regularly.  L’dor va’dor. From generation to generation.

The investment in our public schools is an investment in our community’s future. The community’s support will have the next generation looking back, ever grateful, for what we did for them. We are one. I encourage each of you to participate in our special election April 5. The no-tax-increase bond issue will allow for the necessary expansions of CPS. The 65-cent tax levy increase will allow for the continuation of current operations, an end to planned deficit spending, recruitment and retention of high-quality employees and additional support for students in the areas of achievement, enrichment and opportunity.

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