Board makes wise choice of Palamand as president

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

The new Mehlville Board of Education made a wise choice last week with the

, Venki Palamand, a proven leader.

Palamand, now in his third term, served admirably as board president for two years when Eric Knost was superintendent. Board members voted 5-2 April 9 to name Palamand president. Larry Felton, who later was named vice president, and Jean Pretto were opposed.

It’s ironic that Felton, the board’s longest-serving member, has never been board president, though it’s no secret that he wants to be. In fact, last week marked the third time in five years Felton lost the contest for board president, and the third time in five years Palamand has won it.

Both Palamand and Felton made their case to be president last week, with Palamand speaking for 25 seconds. We believe that Felton’s rambling five-minute speech did him more harm than good and perhaps even alienated some who might have been inclined to support him as president.

We found it disturbing that during his speech, Felton scapegoated other current board members for poor decisions of the past, conveniently ignoring the fact that as the longest-serving board member he had a real hand in making those choices.

For example, Felton is the only remaining board member who

, an 88-cent tax-rate increase that voters overwhelmingly trounced in November 2010.

But it gets even better. Felton discussed the need for the board to work together as a team and cited the need for unanimous votes, noting the board’s 4-3 vote for Chris Gaines as the district’s next superintendent.

Yet, Felton pursued the post of board president knowing full well he didn’t have the votes to get elected.

Apparently, a team effort is necessary only when Felton deems it.

Felton also discussed residents’ distrust of the board and its ability to make good decisions, citing a community survey performed late last year — before the superintendent selection and the recent news coverage of the district’s financial situation.

As the school board’s longest-serving member, isn’t the community’s poor perception of the board at least partly a reflection on Felton’s service?

Given the vote to elect Palamand as president, we can only conclude that five members of the Board of Education believe Palamand is the right person to rebuild that trust with the community — we agree.