COLUMBIA AUDUBON SOCIETY
Special Membership Meeting
February 19, 2020
CAS President John Besser convened the special membership meeting at 6:05 p.m. The meeting was held to discuss a proposal by the Board of Directors to donate $30,000 in CAS funds for construction of the Council House facility at the new Boone County Nature School. After the membership meeting was adjourned at 7 p.m., Bill Palmer presented a program on Magee Marsh, a nature preserve and premier birding destination located in Ohio on the south shore of Lake Erie.
An estimated 50 members and guests were present for all or part of the meeting and program.
John B introduced Mike Szydlowski, science coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, who presented information about the Boone County Nature School project and the Council House facility and answered questions about the project.
Mike S talked about the history of the project, which grew out of an earlier proposal for a nature school at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. Missouri Department of Conservation Director Sara Parker Pauley and CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman agreed to revisit and revise the proposal. The groundbreaking for the project will be held March 31, 2020, at the site, which is located south of Columbia and west of Highway 63 on land donated to MDC by the Waters-Russell family.
Mike said that the vision for the Nature School program changed from offering just 100 fifth graders the opportunity to study at the school for a year, to providing a seven-day experience for every fifth grader in Boone County. He described the opportunities students will have at the Nature School for forest, aquatic, prairie and personal exploration; to participate in citizen science projects; and to create service learning projects. The curriculum will be modeled in part on the Wolf School (Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility), a collaborative project between the Springfield, Mo., Public Schools and Bass Pro.
He described the Council House, noting that the facility will be similar to one used by CPS students and staff during the annual fifth-grade field trip to the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. The facility will have stadium seating for 130-140 students and serve as a hub for the program, the communications center, and a gathering place. It’s a place kids remember, he said.
Responding to member questions, Mike said—
Other questions asked by members included—
Other comments from members included–
Board Member Eric Reuter, who wrote the position paper in opposition to the proposal, commented that he raised objections to make sure we’re making a good decision, not because he opposes nature education or the Nature School. He said that during his association with CAS, the organization has not had a strategic discussion about how to spend our funds or considered other potential projects that could be funded. He noted that the CAS membership area includes six counties, and rural school district students in five of them won’t have a chance to attend the Nature School. He questioned whether this is the best use of the funds, considering all other potential projects.
Member Edge Wade commented that CAS will be able to support additional projects, such as a Motus wildlife tracking tower for research. She urged the board to maintain better communication with members and provide monthly budget reports.
Members were invited to cast a paper ballot for or against the CAS donation for the Nature School project. John B noted that the vote is advisory and that the CAS bylaws require the board to make the final decision about the donation. He announced the results of the vote at the conclusion of the program: 32 members voted; 27 were in favor of the donation, and 5 were opposed.