Former OHS student sworn-in to board

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The Mehlville Board of Education welcomed a newcomer in April when former Oakville High School student Patrick McKelvey was sworn in after the municipal election.

McKelvey, 23, is a 2015 graduate of Oakville High School and one of the youngest members to serve on the Board of Education.

McKelvey is a newcomer to public office after running unsuccessfully in 2020 for the St. Louis Community College Board of Trustees.

He earned his undergraduate degrees in education and parks and recreation from the University of Missouri of Columbia, as well as two master’s degrees related to education from Mizzou.

“I love the Mehlville School District. I had a lot of teachers that were really invested and really cared. I wanted to use those relationships with teachers, administrators and teachers who were former teachers … and continue the direction of the district,” said McKelvey on why he ran. “I love the district and I wanted to stay involved and keep the district moving in a good direction.”

While McKelvey was vice president of the senior class in 2015, he and several other students spoke at a board meeting defending teachers, clubs and activities from a proposed $4 million in budget cuts. The district at the time was under the guidance of interim Superintendent Norm Ridder, but Superintendent Chris Gaines was at the meeting and poised to take over.

“The district was in a bad place at the time. Then Gaines came and the district is doing good,” said McKelvey. “I want to continue that momentum, and be active in the community and be a link.”

McKelvey takes the seat of former board member Lisa Messmer, who served one three-year term. He ran unopposed alongside incumbent Tori Behlke — who was seeking a second term — since there were two open seats and only two candidates.

For McKelvey, not having an opponent gave him the opportunity to focus on campaigning for Proposition S, the district’s $35 million no tax-rate increase bond issue that passed with more than 80 percent of the vote in April.

“I was really lucky that I ran unopposed because I spent my whole campaign being able to campaign for Prop S. … I’m happy that I didn’t have to run,” said McKelvey. “I was able to tour the facilities and see the changes that were needed. … The best thing that ever happened was being able to focus on Prop S and not myself.”

He is the youngest member on the current board and one of the youngest in the history of the Mehlville Board of Education, but McKelvey feels that his age gives him a unique perspective.

“I’m still close to high school and middle school experiences, so I remember what it was like to be a student. I was in the first group when they were rolling out 1:1 (laptop) technology … so I think I know what it’s like to be some of the current students,” said McKelvey. “I have an undergraduate degree in education and two masters in education to put to work to make sure the student experience will be good.”

As for future challenges, COVID-19 remains a question mark until the vaccine is more widely available to more student-age groups, as well as ensuring transparency in how the district uses its Prop S funds.

“We just got all this Prop S money. Sticking to our promises is super important and showing the community we are going to spend money responsibly,” McKelvey said. “COVID, which hopefully we’re toward the end now and get through this year and get through the fall, and get back to normal as much as possible.”

McKelvey cites his biggest influences as former board President Venki Palamand and current board member Larry Felton. McKelvey recalls seeing both of the longtime school board members attending school sporting events, concerts and other activities during their time on the board while McKelvey was a student.

“I plan on being visible in the community. I want to show up to high school events, choir concerts, band concerts and be a very visible face,” said McKelvey. “When I was in school I saw Venki (Palamand) at almost everything I was at, Larry (Felton) too. I want to be that for other people so that they know their school board is invested in them.”