Calling the brouhaha over an otherwise tame drag show at last week's Columbia Values Diversity breakfast a "self-inflicted distraction," Columbia Public School (CPS) Board member Chris Horn Tuesday night offered a contrite mea culpa that contrasted remarkably with earlier explanations and justifications from Board president David Seamon, Superintendent Brian Yearwood, and chief communications officer Michelle Baumstark.
"We had a communications issue both before and after the event, and seemingly, a lack of desire to work collaboratively with parents," Mr. Horn said at the Columbia Board of Realtors Mark Farnen candidate forum, referring to the CPS board and senior administrators. "Anytime something like this happens, anytime we have people who were harmed, hurt, or disappointed in something, we've got to acknowledge our contributions to it."
At least thirty middle and elementary school students attended the breakfast as an officially-sanctioned CPS field trip. Failure to communicate the breakfast's first-ever drag show in parent permission slips sparked the controversy. District doubling down over issues of diversity and inclusion exacerbated it, all the way to the #Missouri
Responding to host David Lile's question, "What's your reaction to the reaction" of parents, politicians, and the community? Horn -- the only incumbent running for re-election in April -- emphasized the need to do better.
"The district could have done a better job with our response," Horn told the audience. "When I say this is a 'self-inflicted distraction', I think that if we had responded with a little more empathy, if we had acknowledged maybe what we contributed, but certainly how we can do better going forward, we would not have had as much reaction as we have had. It's important to say that if we dropped the ball, we're going to do better going forward."
Heads around the crowded room nodded, and voices quietly agreed, as Horn publicly acknowledged the role of parents and their angst when that role is discounted or ignored.
"We can do a better job of communicating to parents everything we're taking their kids to," Horn -- a parent himself -- explained. "Really, it comes down to accountability and having more of an interest in being as communicative as you possibly can, and working as collaboratively with parents as possible."