Board passes measure on good conduct

Sep. 18—St. Joseph Board of Education members acted Monday to cool tensions and reaffirm what they call district norms.

The 5-1 vote, with Board Vice President Kenneth Reeder in dissent and Board Member David Foster not present, took place at the initiation of Superintendent Gabe Edgar. The norms approved Monday include maintaining a respectful atmosphere, listening and communicating effectively, serving as advocates for K-12 education, striving to make evidence based decisions and putting student, educator and community interests first. Reeder indicated he did not agree that board members are not following these norms now, and thus voted no.

Various board members made statements asking for comity. Board Member Isaura Garcia spoke first, referencing an acrimonious special board work session on Sept. 6.

"I just want to say that I know that we're here to support the district, and obviously we want what's best for the students and educators and administrators," she said. "I just want to apologize for my behavior ... when we had the board work session. And I look forward to working with all of the board members to keep the district as No. 1."

Board Member Kim Miller spoke later on in the meeting, advocating what she called a selfless kind of servanthood.

"We have to be willing to set personal stuff aside, and figure it out," she said. "Learn how to forgive, learn how to be selfless, because our goal is to serve the community. That's the deal. It's a volunteer board. What are we willing to do about it? How much of an investment are we going to make in it?"

Board member Whitney Lanning said these principles must be adhered to at all times by all board members.

"I think we all have a role in that," she said. "And, I think if we're going to approve norms for the district, then it is likely time that we adhere to and follow the ones that we set for ourselves ... We can say all of this, we can talk nicely when the cameras are on and there's people in the gallery, but the best apology is changed behavior."

The statements came after board members appeared to affirm that the end of the past board committee structure, which they passed on Sept. 6 by a 4-3 vote, will not be permanent. In an uncommonly busy public comment period, in which multiple residents stood up to speak, all of the advocates pushed back on that decision.

One of them was Bob Miller, who was a co-chair of the 2022 Vision Forward process.

"I was pretty disappointed with how things went in the last meeting and in the decision to disband the committees," Miller said. "I think one of the things that was really something that we heard from the community throughout that (Vision Forward) process was, they were really excited about the opportunity to kind of share their voice and ... to be involved in this with you, to have some ownership of this. It's going to take a lot of people in our community to kind of turn this ship around."

Marcus Clem can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem