Originally Published on: 2010-11-24
By Evan Young
The Mehlville Board of Education will not appoint anyone to serve out the unexpired term of former board member Karl Frank Jr., whose resignation was approved last week.
The board, including Frank, voted 6-1 at its Nov. 18 meeting to accept Frank’s resignation effective immediately. Board President Tom Diehl was opposed.
Frank’s resignation was the board’s first item of new business last week. Once it was approved, Frank thanked his fellow board members and left the meeting.
After he left, the board unanimously approved a motion by Secretary Larry Felton to suspend board policy and leave Frank’s seat vacant until the April 5 municipal election. That seat, along with those held by Drew Frauenhoffer and Erin Weber, will be up for election then.
Board policy states if a vacancy occurs on the board, “the remaining members shall appoint a person to serve until the next school board election.”
The board would seek letters from interested residents for two weeks and interview candidates at an open meeting. The vote on the appointment also would be done in open session.
Mehlville’s policy somewhat mirrors Missouri law, which states any vacancy on a school board “shall be filled by the remaining members.”
“I’m not sure it’s worth going through that for someone to sit (on the board) for three meetings. If we had a position that was open for a year, year and a half, we would certainly solicit bids,” Felton said, noting the board had more pressing issues to address, such as the district’s long-term financial stability.
Felton later said attorneys with the Missouri School Boards’ Association advised him that Frank’s seat could stay vacant until the election because state law, unlike Mehlville’s policy, does not mandate a time frame for the board to fill it.
The board’s decision, though, came as a surprise to Rich Franz, Greg Frigerio and Ken Meyer, who are the founding members of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Organization.
The MCTA formed out of a belief that the school board is out of touch with the community. The group strongly opposed the district’s Proposition C, a proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase that more than 62 percent of voters rejected in the Nov. 2 election.
In a brief interview after last week’s board meeting, the MCTA members said while some on the school board contend they want to find common ground with critics in the wake of Prop C’s defeat, the decision to leave Frank’s seat vacant indicates otherwise.
“They’re talking out of both sides of their mouth,” Franz said. “This board had a golden opportunity tonight to say to the community: We heard you Nov. 2.”
“And they slammed the door shut,” Meyer said.
The board “could’ve appointed anyone,” Frigerio added, noting that any of the five former Mehlville school board members who publicly opposed Prop C — state Rep. Walt Bivins, Matt Chellis, Rich Huddleston, Dick Roehl and Kurt Witzel — would’ve been good candidates.
Bivins earlier in the evening told the board during a period for public comments that it should appoint Franz to finish Frank’s term. He pointed to the Concord resident’s experience teaching and counseling students as a law enforcement officer and his involvement with the MCTA.
“I know some of you may blanch at that,” Bivins said of Franz’s work with the MCTA. “But from that perspective he brings a certain credibility he would have as a board member that you might be able to draw upon.”
Bivins made his remarks before the board’s vote not to fill Frank’s seat.
He thanked the outgoing board member for his service, as did Karen Torretta, who serves as president of the Mehlville National Education Association.
Torretta praised Frank for his “deep conviction” that every decision he made as a board member had to be based on what was best for students.
“He had the courage to stand up for kids,” she said, “even when his opinion went against the prevailing viewpoint.”
Diehl told the Call his vote against accepting Frank’s resignation was a “little dig” at his good friend, who the board president hoped would finish his term.
“But I can understand his frustration,” Diehl said.
Frank, who was elected to the board in 2005, has said he decided to step down to devote more time to his family and his computer consulting business, but also because of a “disconnect” between the direction he and the community believe the district should go.
In an e-mail to board members and Superintendent Terry Noble on Nov. 15, Frank gave another reason: He doesn’t want to serve on a school board that doesn’t have Noble as its superintendent.
Noble is working for the district under a one-year contract that’s set to expire on June 30. He has declined to disclose his plans beyond that point.
The board stumbled upon a “diamond in the rough leader” when it found Noble, Frank wrote, noting the job of a superintendent is “not for the weary, and it is especially not for the incompetent.”
“We simply have (the) best superintendent in Missouri, and maybe one of the best in the country, directing our school district, creating an internal educational environment unlike most have ever seen within the walls of the Mehlville School District,” Frank wrote. “Few people in my life have been able to throw me in to a pure state of humility like Terry Noble has. Not only is he not accepted, some of the things that have been said about Mr. Noble and his motivations are despicable beyond all reproach.
“They disgust me. They literally make me want to vomit when I think about it.”
Frank wrote that he is “sick and ashamed of the majority of the Mehlville community.”
“I do not want to serve it and I do not want to be elected by it,” he wrote. “Quite frankly, the fact that I was ever elected at all by this community makes me wonder what in the world people are thinking.”
He added, “After the failure of Proposition C, I was strongly encouraged as a board member to take responsibility for its loss. For years board members have been pointing fingers at each other and others for (failed) ballot initiatives. Screw that. I am not taking responsibility for something I have dedicated my life to for no pay and no glory. I certainly am not taking responsibility for the future failures of this district when I know without a doubt that the leader we need now more than ever is a man named Terry Noble.”
Frank wrote he was naive in thinking five years ago that the community “would accept its responsibility to each other as fellow human beings” as long as the right people were in charge of the district.
“I could not have been proven more wrong,” Frank wrote, “and I hate being wrong.”