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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education met Thursday in a special session at West Junior High School to discuss four issues.

Superintendent Chris Belcher's contract was extended unanimously without discussion. He kept the same salary and benefits. The contract runs through 2015.

Board member Jonathan Sessions and REDI President Mike Brooks presented an Enhanced Economic Enterprise Zone project. This project is aimed at bringing manufacturing jobs to the area, and in return the business would receive a 50 percent tax break on property taxes. The school board was brought into the equation, because property taxes fund the schools.

However, there are some stipulations to the project. First, businesses can only build in designated areas that are still being worked out. Second, the business must sell 50 percent of its products outside the state of Missouri. Third, the business must employ at least two employees and the employees salary and benefits must be at least 75 percent of the states average for those categories.

Whether the project happens in Columbia is ultimately up to the city council, but the school board will give a recommendation to the council once the details of the plan are finalized. The Enhanced Economic Enterprise Zone is currently in 118 Missouri communities and 30 communities are looking at the project. These zones are used all across Kansas.

Next the board heard 11 student performance objectives from Dr. Sally Beth Lyon and Dr. Wanda Brown. The student objectives are one of seven projects the district is working on in its Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. More than 500 people are working together to come up with solutions. The student objectives include:

1. Students will meet established benchmarks for proficiency and/or growth in every subject at every grade level as measured by a coherent system of common assessments.

2. The district will accommodate all eligible children in quality Title I preschool so that the number of CPS pre-schoolers meeting kindergarten readiness standards will improve.

3. All students will read on or above grade level at the end of each year, by 2015.

4. Each student will meet or exceed expected growth in reading each year.

5. Proficiency rates on MAP communication arts and mathematics assessments will meet or exceed Adequate Yearly Progress proficiency targets by subgroup and overall, by 2015.

6. Each student will meet or exceed expected growth in MAP communication arts and mathematics, each year.

7. The percentage of students that meet or exceed college/career readiness benchmark scores in English, reading, mathematics, and science or EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT, will increase annually. The percentage of students taking the ACT will increase.

8. All 9th grade students will earn at least 6 credits toward graduation including successful completion of Algebra I/Integrated I.

9. The Columbia School District will increase the graduation rate annually.

10. All graduates will complete requirements for their chosen post-secondary path (2 or 4 year college, military, vocational training or employment) resulting in an annual improvement in the percentage of students entering a 2 or 4 year college, training program, occupation related to their career education training, or the military.

11. The Columbia School District will achieve at 95 percent average daily attendance rate.

Finally, the board approved $59,710,000 in bonds for developmental projects. It refinanced old bonds from 2004-05 totaling $26,710,000. With the refinancing the interest rate fell from 3 percent to 1.39% saving Columbia schools $1,587,366. The board also approved $33 million in new bonds.  Moody's bond rating system gave the bonds at "Aa1." 

"That money goes largely to finishing Battle High School's construction, pay for the gymnasiums at Rock Bridge and Hickman, and get us started this summer on air conditioning in the elementary schools." Said Columbia Board of Education CFO Linda Quinly.

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