Eight seeking election to Mehlville Board of Education April 8

First of three parts

David Bertelsen

David Bertelsen

By MIKE ANTHONY

Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the Tuesday, April 8, election.

David Bertelsen, Chris Brown, incumbent Karl Frank Jr., Drew Frauenhoffer, Marea Kluth-Hoppe, Deborah Langland, Linda Mooy and Erin Weber are seeking election to the seats, which carry three-year terms. Incumbents Cindy Christopher and Ken Leach did not file for re-election.

This article will focus on Bertelsen, Brown and Frank. The remaining candidates will be featured in future articles.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the three candidates responded:

• “The primary issue in this election is the determination of general direction of the board. The current direction of the board appears to be to acquire the necessary tax dollars to operate the school and supply services according to an undefined benchmark of what an education should entail. I propose to change the direction of the board to providing the best possible educational environment with the current tax dollars available,” Bertelsen said.

• “Budget spending — the current board seems to think that there is an endless supply of money available for them to spend. It is unacceptable to think that the taxpayers will keep increasing taxes just to support special-interest needs. The school district must realize they have a budget and need to spend the money in the proper areas,” Brown said.

• “I believe the single most important issue in this race is the continued rebirth of the credibility of Mehlville’s administration. For several years, the Mehlville community suffered through indifference to openness of operation, a flat refusal of accountability to the public and perceived punitive actions on anyone who dared to investigate the inner workings of Central Office. Over the last three years, we have completely turned over the Board of Education, reconfigured Central Office with a new administration and a fantastic superintendent named Terry Noble and most of all, we continue to find new ways to engage the public, putting the community’s inquiries, complaints and ideas into immediate action,” Frank said.

Bertelsen, 52, 7009 Evergreen Meadows Court, 63129, is a senior business manager-information technology at AT&T. He is married to Sarah Bertelsen and has two grown children.

Bertelsen, who has not held elective office, said he is seeking a seat on the school board “to en-sure the taxpayers of the district receive the greatest value for their tax dollars.”

Brown, 38, 5443 Butler Hill Estates Drive, 63128, is em-ployed by the Kutis Funeral Home Inc. He and his wife, Melissa, have two children who attend Mehlville schools and a toddler.

Brown, who ran unsuccessfully for the Mehlville board last year, said he is seeking election because “I have a commitment to community service and I think I can help guide the school district through the current economical constraints that are facing all taxpayers of the district. This can be done while still offering our students all the supplies they need for the classroom.”

Frank, 32, 5682 Winter Garden Court, is a technology consultant — Karl Frank Jr. Computers. He and his wife, Elaine, have three children who attend Mehlville schools.

Frank, who serves as board vice president, ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2004 before being elected to his current term in 2005. He said he is seeking re-election “to further the goal of creating the best, most transparent public school system available for the Mehlville community.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

Do you agree with the board’s decision last year to renovate the former St. John’s Elementary School to house SCOPE?

Bertelsen said, “I am not familiar with the financials of the situation to make an adequate appraisal. It does seem reasonable to renovate existing property rather then rent property.”

Brown said, “I think that the (school board) rushed to a decision on moving the SCOPE program to the St. John’s site. On the surface, it may appear to be a good move, but I am afraid it is going to cost the taxpayers more money in the long run.”

Frank said, “Absolutely. St. John’s is a cornerstone for the Mehlville School District and is just as much a part of us as a community than any other building within our boundaries. Most of all, the SCOPE program and alternative high school are essential to the ideal of doing everything we can to provide the best and most well-rounded education to every child that walks through our doors.”

Have you participated in a COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — community-engagement session? Do you think COMPASS is having an impact on the community?

Bertelsen said, “No, I have not participated in a COMPASS session. No, I do not think the COMPASS sessions are having an impact on the community. Most of my friends and neighbors, even ones with children in the district, are not familiar with COMPASS. According to the Call, there were 100 people at the last COMPASS meeting. That is a tiny fraction of the community.”

Brown said, “Yes, I have participated in COMPASS meetings. No. I do not believe that COMPASS is having an impact on the community because the majority of the people in attendance are on the school district payroll and not a proper cross-section of the community; the outcome is already decided by the way the questions and proposed solutions are written — the public is driven to give the answers that UNICOM•ARC is paid to receive; (and) the final outcome has been decided long be-fore the COMPASS meetings ever started.”

Frank said, “I have participated in the COMPASS community-engagement sessions. I do believe it is having an impact on the community. COMPASS is another piece of the puzzle in a sincere outreach from the Board of Education and administration to the community that provides them with yet another outlet to have a say in the overall process.”

As the COMPASS Facilitating Team has discussed various financial scenarios, would you consider a tax-rate hike if one is proposed?

Bertelsen said, “Absolutely not.”

Brown said, “No.”

Frank said, “I would have to see the specifics of the funding scenario before saying yes or no. Ultimately, I have no is-sue with putting funding issues on the ballot and then letting the community decide what they want for their school district. The key is that if Mehlville runs a ballot initiative, it must be worded in a very transparent and obvious manner so that the community can be certain as to what will be accomplished with their tax money.”

Do you believe Superintendent Terry Noble and his administration are doing a good job?

Bertelsen said, “It appears that the superintendent is doing a good job.”

Brown said, “The current administration has not been in place long enough for me to make a fair observation on this question.”

Frank said, “Terry Noble and his staff are doing a wonderful job. Mr. Noble was a great find for the Mehlville School District and means just as much to its success as anyone or anything else. I am proud that we worked as hard as we did to secure him for our community.”