Mehlville school board eyes OK of strategic plan, contract with new superintendent

Gaines will do ‘a great job in Mehlville,’ Simpson says

Chris Gaines

Chris Gaines

By Gloria Lloyd

If all goes as planned, the Mehlville School District will have a new strategic plan and a new superintendent in place after tonight — Feb. 19.

The Board of Education is set to approve the district’s first strategic plan and a contract for the district’s incoming superintendent, Wright City Superintendent Chris Gaines, who is slated to start July 1 at Mehlville.

The school board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in the boardroom of the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

In a Feb. 5 closed-session vote that followed the 4-3 approval of Gaines as the district’s next superintendent, board members authorized President Ron Fedorchak to negotiate with Gaines for a contract up to $200,000. The $185,000 contract offered to Gaines might have some add-ons such as a living allowance, but Fedorchak declined to discuss the final details until board members could discuss them tonight.

The Wright City Board of Education voted last week to release Gaines from his contract. The district posted on its website that since Gaines came to Wright City in 2008, the district became the most academically-improved district in the state, staff turnover declined, facilities were upgraded, land was purchased for a new high school and a new preschool is under construction.

Lindbergh Schools Superintendent Jim Simpson said Gaines is a national leader in education and predicted he will do a “great job in Mehlville.”

“I’ve known Chris his whole career. Chris and I go way, way, way back. I was delighted to see him as a neighbor,” Simpson told the Call. “He’s an outstanding superintendent. He’s a very respected superintendent. He’s a state leader and actually a national leader. He’s in Washington, D.C., representing Missouri superintendents and school districts through the American Association of School Administrators …”

The other two finalists for Mehlville’s top job included an internal candidate, longtime Assistant Superintendent Brian Lane, and Clayton School District Assistant Superintendent Greg Batenhorst.

The Call talked to all the board members about the superintendent decision, and they all agreed it was a tough choice among what they saw as three top-notch finalists. To come to a decision, the board members decided they would only cast a vote for their top choice.

That led board members Larry Felton, Jean Pretto, Samantha Stormer and Katy Eardley to vote for Gaines, while Fedorchak, Vice President Venki Palamand and Secretary Lori Trakas voted against him.

A focus group of 24 residents, parents, staff members and former board members ranked Batenhorst the highest of the three, scoring him especially high on communication and vision, but Gaines scored highly on finances and academics and received the most perfect scores from the panel. Lane earned top marks for his experience in a large district, experience in strategic planning and familiarity with the community.

Trakas said she looks forward to working with Gaines, but Batenhorst was her top choice.

“In my opinion, the cumulative results advanced him as the best match to what our community told us it desires in the next superintendent of MSD, as reflected in my vote,” she told the Call.

Mehlville’s Central Office administrators, including Lane, met with Gaines last week for the first time.

All of Mehlville’s administrators are top talent, including Lane, whose leadership has flourished under interim Superintendent Norm Ridder, Stormer said.

“I think Brian’s going to make an amazing superintendent, probably in the near future,” she said. “It’s only going to be a matter of time. Brian will be excellent.”