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BLACK LEADERSHIP PROFILE: Steve Calloway

The rise, fall, and rise of an enduring Columbia leader
 
COLUMBIA, 2/13/12  (Beat Byte) --  A former Columbia School Board vice president and president of the Minority Men's Network, Steve Calloway has been a public advocate for racial equity in Ward reapportionment, police review, school achievement policy, and community planning. 
 
A member of our Top Ten Most Influential Public Opinion Leaders, Calloway has become so well-regarded as a community leader in recent years that he now appears on short lists of candidates for Mayor. 
 
Calloway entered the ranks of Columbia's leadership as a founding board member of Columbia Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) a local booster group that raises money and awareness for CPS.  He frequently appeared before the School Board with news of the group's activities, including a mentoring program to help lower the achievement gap.

Butting heads with then-School Board member Russell Still over transparency in the search for a new superintendent, Calloway politely insisted that CPPS and other community stakeholders be allowed to meet finalists or submit written questions.   Still -- whose wife Mary is a State Representative -- at first objected, saying he was from the "old school."  But when other Board members supported the idea, Calloway won the day.
 
In one of many attempts over the years to get a handle on the achievement gap between black and white students, Calloway co-chaired a CPS achievement gap task force in 2003.    The group worked on and off for years to get ahead of the achievement gap, but it stubbornly remains.

In 2006, Calloway ran for a seat on the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education.  Alongside firebrand and fellow candidate Michelle Gadbois, he found himself amidst the achievement gap debate numerous times, confronting a headwind Gadbois identified with candor.  The achievement gap was really no one's priority, despite all the lip service. 
 
"If Columbia Public Schools put as much energy and effort into closing the achievement gap as in buying artificial turf, the community would be better off," Gadbois said at a candidate forum.
 
Race entered the debate when Calloway was confronted with another ugly truth:   "I think there is racism in this community," a forum audience member said.   "Calloway reiterated his platform of parental involvement, but one father claimed that black parents are afraid to show up at schools for fear a teacher or administrator would call for police backup."
 
With the second highest vote total, Calloway won election and went on to serve two terms, one as School Board Vice President.  He would deal with the achievement gap, teacher pay, and other controversies  both routine and not so, as when he was forced to resign from the Boone County Community Services Advisory Commission over conflict of interest charges and admitted having a ghost writer pen a Columbia Tribune editorial about parental involvement.

A failed property tax hike in 2008 which he supported -- and the general failure of then-Superintendent Phyllis Chase -- further dimmed Calloway's star. 
 
But in recent years, he's come roaring back, most notably to support creation of the Columbia Police Review Board and Ward Reapportionment plans that don't gerrymander minority voters.
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