Knost engages residents during town-hall meeting

\Call the Tune by Mike Anthony

\”Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony

Though it was billed as a Mehlville School District town-hall meeting, we believe a more appropriate title for last week’s event would have been “A Conversation With the Superintendent” because that’s what it was.

Roughly 75 people representing all segments of the community attended the Oct. 25 town-hall meeting at Grace Union Church called by Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost.

Some were skeptical of Knost’s intent, fearing the meeting was the kickoff of a community-engagement effort that ultimately would lead to some type of ballot initiative.

That wasn’t the case as Knost quickly alleviated any such fear when he addressed the issue head-on.

“I want to be clear, somebody asked this question prior to tonight, this is not the start of a COMPASS (Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools) or an LRP (Long-Range Plan) or something like that,” the superintendent said. “This is a format that I want to be ongoing. You hear that all the time, you need ongoing community engagement. So that’s the purpose of tonight …”

Knost, who officially became Mehlville’s superintendent on July 1 after serving as deputy superintendent since November 2006, said he wanted to conduct the town-hall meetings on a regular basis throughout the school year and offer residents a forum to speak, especially if they’re uncomfortable going to a school board meeting and signing up to speak during a period for public comment.

And roughly 20 people took Knost up on his offer at the town-hall meeting, with a handful saying they had never attended a board meeting.

Residents’ comments ranged from concerns about how the district is perceived, the impact of district tax initiatives on senior citizens, how to better engage the community and finding common ground.

Knost patiently listened to residents.

But more importantly, he responded, resulting in a true dialogue and exchange of ideas. We’d be hard pressed to recall any Mehlville superintendent in recent memory who was willing to meet residents face to face.

Also refreshing was the civility of the evening as residents with diverse viewpoints were able to speak without interruption.

If there was any “message” Knost hoped to deliver, his goal of uniting all segments of the community resonated loud and clear. And that’s a goal this newspaper believes is worth pursuing as it can only strengthen the school district and the community.