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All seven Columbia school board candidates participated in the March 20, 2023 debate at Mizzou's Cornell Hall (file photo from 939 the Eagle's Brian Hauswirth)

(AUDIO): 100-plus people attend CPS school board candidate debate

More than 100 people attended Monday night’s Columbia school board candidate forum at Mizzou’s Cornell Hall. All seven candidates participated in the debate, which was moderated by publisher Mike Murphy.

District communication was an issue cited by several candidates. John Lyman is calling for CPS Superintendent Dr. Brian Yearwood to present a state of the district once a semester. Former State Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) says anyone who wants to address the school board at meetings should be able to do so. Basye also tells the audience that CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark should be reassigned to a different role at CPS and that Superintendent Yearwood should handle the district’s communications.

Columbia’s local NEA teacher’s union has endorsed three challengers for April’s school board race: Paul Harper, Mr. Lyman and April Ferrao. The NEA’s endorsement was a topic of discussion at Monday night’s Columbia school board debate at Mizzou’s Bush auditorium. Murphy of notes it’s been several years since a candidate that wasn’t endorsed by the NEA won a Columbia school board seat. Lyman tells the audience that he’s proud of the endorsement. Candidate John Potter says the teacher’s union is a monopoly, adding they put teachers over students. Potter says children must be first. Incumbent Chris Horn and candidate James Edward Gordon tell the audience they hope to break the recent trend by winning their races, without the union’s endorsement.

As for Basye, he says books are available at Columbia Public School (CPS) middle school libraries that contain offensive, obscene and pornographic materials. He opened Monday evening’s CPS candidate debate by reading an excerpt from a book called “Flamer”. He says it’s available to CPS middle-schoolers. The excerpt contains an anti-gay slur. Basye says this is inappropriate.

Increased work loads for teachers was also a topic. All seven candidates suggest CPS teachers are stretched too thin. Candidate Lyman wants more support for teachers as well as CPS custodians and food service employees. Incumbent Christopher Horn says board members should come fully prepared to meetings, by reading board reports.

Meantime, publisher Murphy is pleased with last night’s turnout at Mizzou and with the quality of the debate. Murphy, who has more than 40 years of experience in the newspaper business, tells 939 the Eagle that attendees were able to see real differences between the candidates.

“I’m really happy that this many people came out, that this many people chose to be engaged. And I think the candidates did a really great job of revealing themselves … being open and honest and frank with where they were coming from,” Murphy says.

He says those who missed the debate will be able to watch it again soon at their convenience. He expects the 90-minute forum to be posted by this afternoon.

“There’s two places that you can get it for sure. The first place it will be at is at It also, Debate Night is this group, this coalition, right it’s not ComoBuz. And we have a website called, just like it sounds,” says Murphy.

All seven candidate participated and stood at their own podium, answering questions. The candidates are, in ballot order, Paul Harper, John Potter, incumbent Christopher Horn, James Edward Gordon, John Lyman, April Ferrao and former State Representative Chuck Basye.

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