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(AUDIO): Presidential visits and academic success highlighted in CPS’ 150th anniversary

Then-President Ronald Reagan addresses students and faculty at Columbia’s Hickman high school on March 26, 1987. The Kewpie mascot listens (1987 file photo courtesy of CPS’ Michelle Baumstark)

Missouri lawmakers, Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe and Boone County commissioners have recently presented proclamations to Columbia Public Schools (CPS) to recognize the district’s 150th anniversary.

The district began with 250 residents braving a snowstorm to vote for school board members. CPS’ first school board meeting happened in January 1873. Current CPS Superintendent Dr. Brian Yearwood is honored to be part of the tradition. President Harry Truman (D) visited CPS in 1950, while he was in the White House. Then-President Ronald Reagan (R) spoke at Fairview Elementary and at Hickman in March 1987.

“Years later, decades later, we’re still continuing to see the excellent academic environments at Fairview, at Hickman, at all the high schools. But it’s good to hear that a president, a great president years ago, President Reagan, recognizing that,” Dr. Yearwood says.

Then-President Ronald Reagan speaks to a student at Columbia’s Fairview elementary school on March 26, 1987 (file photo courtesy of CPS’ Michelle Baumstark)

Thousands of mid-Missourians and schoolchildren greeted President Reagan’s motorcade in downtown Columbia in 1987. A large sign above the street welcomed the president to Columbia, Missouri, “where education really counts.”

Dr. Yearwood says the 150-year celebration is important to him. He emphasizes that CPS has an outstanding academic environment.

“It means that I’m part of an institution. I’m a part of a school district that exudes excellence. A school district that is progressive, a school district that is affecting the daily lives of scholars. And to be a part of that and to see that is very, very exciting,” Dr. Yearwood says.

The Great Depression, desegregation’s implementation and President Reagan’s 1987 visit are just some of the main highlights featured in a new CPS video on the 150th anniverary.

Then-President Ronald Reagan, then-Education Secretary William Bennett and then U.S. Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Hannibal) visited CPS’ Fairview elementary and Hickman high school in 1987. They were joined by then-Missouri Governor John Ashcroft (R). Former CPS Superintendent Dr. Jim Ritter reflects on the presidential visit.

President Reagan sat with a student named Heather at Fairview, and she showed him some of her school work. President Reagan described Fairview as a great school.

“And it has been so rated because of the progress that you’ve made and the quality of the education that you’re getting here and the level of all of you as students that this is one of the truly fine schools in all of the United States of America,” President Reagan told students and faculty that day.

Audio is courtesy of CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark. President Reagan landed on March 26, 1987 at Columbia Regional Airport (COU), where hundreds of schoolchildren greeted him. Education Secretary Bennett and Congressman Volkmer walked off Air Force One with the president. So did Joy Underdown, who had been Ron Reagan’s (the president’s son) kindergarten teacher. Ms. Underdown taught at Fairview.

“She’s a wonderfully kind person and enjoyed the day very much,” President Reagan wrote in his diary.

CPS’ Baumstark tells 939 the Eagle that Ms. Underdown is still alive today. She’s 88.

Current CPS Superintendent Yearwood tells 939 the Eagle that years and decades later, we’re continuing to see excellent academic environments at Fairview, Hickman and all of the high schools.