Press Releases


(COLUMBIA, MO) – The Columbia Public Schools Foundation (CPSF) announced its 2017 Hall of Leaders at its annual fall event, held Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kimball Ballroom at Stephens College. The event, with a “Come One, Come All” circus theme, featured a reception, program, and desserts.

“The Columbia Public Schools Foundation is pleased to honor this year’s Hall of Leaders class for their contributions to the community,” said Lynn Barnett, president of the CPSF Board of Directors. “We celebrate the role of education in our honorees’ success.”

Honorees included Outstanding Alumni: Jeff Harris, Jon McRoberts, and Sara Parker Pauley; Outstanding Retired Educators: Linda D. Coutts, Darlene Huff, Carolyn Roof and Jim King (posthumous); and Outstanding Volunteer: Carol Almony.

Jeff Harris is a Columbia Public Schools graduate who has served in all three branches of Missouri government. Jeff was appointed to the 13th Circuit Court in 2016 and elected later that same year. In his position as circuit judge, Jeff presides over civil and criminal cases. Prior to his appointment to the court, Jeff served as the policy director for Gov. Jay Nixon. Jeff also was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 2003-2009, serving Columbia’s 23rd District, and served as both House Minority Leader and House Minority Whip.

Jon McRoberts is a Columbia Public Schools graduate who is serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri where, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, he coordinates a large-scale white-tailed deer research project in Missouri. Jon has conducted wildlife research on giant pandas in western China for the Smithsonian Institute, has radio-tracked leopards in the Kalahari Desert for South Africa’s Centre for Wildlife Management, and conducted a multi-year wildlife investigation on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Sara Parker Pauley is a Columbia Public Schools graduate who was appointed in 2016 as the director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, making her the first female director in the department’s 80-year history. She previously served as the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. A lifelong conservationist and an avid hunter, Sara has been an executive committee and board member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri.

Linda Coutts began her teaching career as a third-grade teacher in St. Louis County in 1970. In 1978, after completing her degree in mathematics education, she was recruited to be the elementary mathematics supervisor for Columbia Public Schools, a position she served in for 32 years. Since retiring from CPS, Linda has taught elementary and early childhood mathematics methods at MU.

Darlene Huff began her career with Columbia Public Schools in 1980 as a school nurse, ultimately becoming the coordinator of the Health Services program in 1990 until her retirement in 2004. Under her leadership, a Comprehensive School Health Policy and Procedure Manual was developed for CPS and was ultimately shared with other Missouri school districts. Darlene also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri School of Nursing, providing a practicum and mentoring for senior nursing students during their community health experience.

Carolyn Roof has spent her professional career helping countless students and families as a counselor. She served as an elementary school counselor at Columbia Public Schools and the CPS elementary district school counseling coordinator until 2010. As counselor, she developed and implemented the use of many career education materials and organized career fairs and career days. Carolyn is an adjunct faculty member in the School Counseling department at Stephens College.

Dr. Jim King (posthumous) served as principal of Rock Bridge High School from 1993-1998 and as assistant principal there from 1978-1992. As principal, Jim enlisted teachers to examine the possibility of various schedules to enhance learning. After much research and input from faculty, Jim created a schedule customized to meet the needs of RBHS and the block schedule was initiated. Today the block schedule remains in place at Rock Bridge and has been expanded to all three CPS high schools. Following his retirement from CPS in 1998, Jim became the executive director of the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals.

Carol Almony taught grades kindergarten to fourth in the Columbia Public Schools from 1984 until her retirement from teaching in 2007. After a distinguished career as a CPS teacher, Carol has volunteered her time and talents to benefit even more generations of Columbia’s students. As a volunteer, she has assisted kindergarten to third-grade students daily at Fairview Elementary from 2013 to the present, working with students on academic and literacy skills, helping at-risk students and providing enrichment and extension activities such as nonfiction research.

The Columbia Public Schools Foundation is a private foundation established by community volunteers dedicated to the enrichment of public education through community giving. The Foundation has funded projects in every school, allocating more than $1 million to enhance education in the Columbia Public Schools. CPSF has supported teachers and students for more than 20 years.

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