CPS’s ‘World Cafe’ offers opportunity for public to voice opinions


Digging In: The Columbia School Board discusses the boundary plan, “Approach B,” suggested by the Secondary Enrollment PLanning Committee in its Jan. 9 meeting. The board will accept or reject the plan by February.

Grace Dorsey

[dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]A[/dropcap]t 6:00 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2 CPS district officials, including Superintendent Peter Stiepleman, will unlock the doors of Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center and open up the floor to any comments, concerns and criticisms from the public. The event, which organizers have dubbed the World Cafe, is a planning initiative aiming to take the community’s voices into account when setting goals for the next 10 years.
Junior Gwen Boster plans to attend, however she doesn’t have a particular issue she wants to bring up. Rather, Boster is content to go where the conversation leads her and add her opinion when warranted.
“I’m really excited that I get to hear what everyone wants to say, and I get to be able to have a chance to influence people to get what I want to happen to the schools,” said Boster. “The fact that we can go and have an opinion on what is happening and say what we think needs to be done at this school is really cool.”
Unlike Boster, Social Studies teacher David Graham hopes to go to the World Cafe and bring up multiple topics relevant to his outlook and role at RBHS. For Graham, change needs to happen for the sake of the students, and “Freedom with Responsibility” is at the top of his priority list for accomplishing that goal.
[quote]“I’d like to see us go back to the 80/20 principle, which is where 80 percent of our students don’t need hall passes and more rules and more regulations put on them,” Graham said. “They need more freedom so we go back to the way RBHS was originally intended; the district should go to this too. It’s not more lockdown, it’s more open. There’s no data disputing those ideas.”[/quote] While Graham is thinking more about the approach to education, CPS is more focused on the physical environment of schools, including reducing overcrowding and increasing functionality, according to a World Cafe brochure. Community relations director Michelle Baumstark places emphasis on the importance of public participation.
“We’ll be asking our community questions about learning environments, facility maintenance and innovation,” Baumstark said. “These community engagement events are an important part of developing a plan that meets our community’s needs and expectations.”
Although it’s clear that CPS is trying to make a positive interaction, Graham believes some skepticism is necessary in order to make sure the event isn’t just lip service.
“I think the intention is good. It offers the opportunity for someone to do something. It’s good to allow students the opportunity to shape their educational system,” Graham. “If they’re just doing that to let you speak and not planning on doing anything with it, then it’s a joke. Where’s that [input] going?”