Mehlville officials restore integrity to district award process

Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony

By MIKE ANTHONY

The word integrity often is bandied about by those who profess to have it. But sadly, those who claim the loudest to have integrity often are the very ones who lack this important quality, especially in the realm of local government.

It takes years to restore confidence in a public institution when the perception exists that those leading that entity lack integrity.

We believe the current Mehlville Board of Education and Superintendent Terry Noble have made great strides in restoring the public’s trust through their responsible and ethical decisions — a stark contrast to the many questionable actions taken by previous district leaders that severely eroded the public’s confidence in the school board and administration.

Mr. Noble and school-board members last week took another step toward rebuilding the public trust by adopting a process designed to restore integrity to the district’s most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

As unbelievable as it may seem, the board voted unanimously last April to suspend the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award — which had been awarded annually since 1990 — due to Mr. Noble’s concerns about the integrity of the voting process, including the destruction of ballots.

“… The ballots had been shredded or destroyed,” Mr. Noble told the Call last year. “Some of the ballots had been taken over the phone with no paper trail and we couldn’t — just couldn’t validate it. And some would argue that well, it’s about who won. It’s also about who didn’t win. I mean there were several people nominated … We’d like to be able to tell anyone who asked what the results were, how they came out.”

Even more shockingly, Emily McFarland, hired last June as the district’s communications director, told the board last week she could find very little information in her office about how previous Distinguished Service Award winners were selected.

To prevent a repeat of last year’s fiasco, the board voted Feb. 19 to accept Mr. Noble’s recommendation to establish a 13-member committee to review and select recipients for the Distinguished Service Award. All nominees now can be certain they will receive due consideration from an objective and fair committee.

While we remain appalled about last year’s embarrassing situation, residents can rest assured that integrity has been restored to the process for presenting the district’s most prestigious award as a result of the actions of Mr. Noble and the school board.