Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mayor Benjamin Visits the "Den of Payne"

By Robert S. Jackson, Assistant Principal for Instruction
     Kelly Payne, Social Studies Teacher,

By now, you know that a long list of elected officials (with special knowledge, talents, or interesting careers) have visited Dutch Fork High School with the hopes of enriching the curriculum and widening educational horizons for students.

During the discovery process, students are allowed the opportunity to interact with these community persons via a question and answer segment. These high school students don’t ask “softball questions” either. Also known as the “Den of Payne,” the "Current Issues" classroom is full of tomorrow’s leaders and the students stay keenly in tune to issues at all levels: local, state and federal.

Today we had the opportunity to hear from Columbia’s Mayor Steve Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin spoke to the Dutch Fork students two years ago, prior to announcing his bid for mayor.

Student Questions for Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin:

We’re aware of the controversy over hiring your two assistants under the city payroll. How did you work that out? And how do you think it will affect your relationship with the Council going forward?

When you were in our classroom two years ago you talked about the importance of transparency. How do you intend to expand the transparency initiatives that were begun by your predecessor?

Columbia doesn’t seem to have much of a commercial job space. What can the city do to change that?

The Columbia Police Department seems to have a revolving door with its leadership. (6 Police Chiefs in 5 years) What causes the high turnover in leadership at the City Police Department?

What plans do you have for making our riverfront more attractive for the community to use? Do you have any serious visions for turning the riverfront into an area more community friendly? Public access, parks, fountains, recreation areas, not just building condos.

How long do you plan to serve as mayor and what do you plan to run for next?

Having been elected as Columbia’s first black mayor, have we gotten beyond the politics of race?

It is amazing how embracing new forms of engagement and assessment will inspire students to think critically, analyze topics, and develop viewpoints that will add to the body of knowledge. Stay tuned as we will continue to empower students to do more with their educational experiences.

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