School choice and students getting another chance to graduate were among the topics Wednesday at Muscogee County School Board member Kia Chambers' first community meeting at the Columbus Public Library.
Chambers, an at-large member of the school board, told about 30 residents the meeting gives her a chance to let them know about changes in education and the opportunity for parents to talk about concerns in education. "I plan on keeping you abreast on what's going on and the changes we have in education," she said.
Chambers said one of the most important pieces of legislation to win approval this year was House Bill 91, which allows students to petition their local school board to receive their high school diploma. After the early 1990s, legislation was passed to block students from receiving their diploma if they did not pass the exit exam. Under the new law, students are not required to pass the test.
Chambers said the law affected 9,000 students in the state. She said she has received several calls from parents and talked to former students about the impact of the new law. A woman said her 31-year-old daughter can now apply for a job or college with a high school diploma.
"What that means is now that she can get that piece of paper and she can apply for a job," Chambers said. "This particular piece of legislation is going to open doors for a lot of people."
Chambers also noted the impact of House Bill 251, which allows parents to choose the school their children may attend. If there is space available at the choice school, parents may send their child to the school but must provide transportation. She listed 15 schools in the district where parents may send their children. They included J.D. Davis, Dawson Elementary, Fox, Gentian, Johnson, Lonnie Jackson, Rigdon Road, South Columbus, St. Marys, Baker, Eddy and Rothschild and Jordan, Kendrick and Spencer high schools.
With projected shortages in physicians in the next two decades, Dr. Karen Stuart voiced concerns about what counselors in high schools and middle schools are doing to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The information needs to be standardized for all students across the region, she said.
Stuart said the counselor gave excellent information at Columbus High about classes, college, pre-med and technology. She said some students are juniors and seniors at other schools but haven't taken advanced classes.
"They are allowed to go to college and they are going to have to do remedial studies," she said. "The information has not been given by the high school counselor on what the prerequisites are. Each counselor in the region for students interested in sciences needs to make standardized information and impart this information to those students."
Chambers said she would pass the concerns about counseling to Superintendent David Lewis.
"The state is pushing STEM at this time," she said. "I think over time, you will see that perspective change. There is a statewide push to bring more science, technology and math into the curriculum."