Nine apply for Mehlville school board seat vacated by Ocello

Appointee will serve on school board until April when seat is up for election.

By EVAN YOUNG

While nine Mehlville School District residents have expressed interest in filling a vacant seat on the Board of Education, it’s unclear if they’ll all be interviewed for the post.

The board is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road, to discuss how it will go about naming one of the applicants to the board seat vacated by Micheal Ocello, who resigned in April.

“What we’re going to do Saturday is basically figure out the process for who we interview — do we do one round of interviews or do we do two rounds of interviews and then make the final decision? That’s going to be all up for discussion on Saturday,” board President Venki Palamand told the Call.

Board policy states that the school board “may select final candidates from the applicants, and these individuals will be interviewed in open session at a regular or special meeting.”

The appointment “will be made in open session at the next board meeting held subsequent to the interview process. Appointments shall be made through a formal motion and seconded, and an affirmative vote by a majority of the board. This vote must be held in open session,” according to board policy.

Whoever is appointed will serve until April, when the seat will be up for election for a three-year term.

While 10 people submitted letters of interest by the close of the application period Friday, Gary “Brit” Rose, the first person to apply, since has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Rose, who ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for one of two seats on the board, issued a statement saying he “heard through the grapevine” that some candidates were “persuaded” to apply for the vacant seat by current board members.

“So I already know this would be a waste of my time …,” Rose stated. “It is sad that this is a political stunt and should never be. I have decided that this will be my last time for running” for the school board.

The remaining nine applicants, in the order which they applied, are:

• Ken Leach — Leach, of Oakville, served one term on the Board of Education, from 2005 until 2008, including one year as board president. Leach and his wife, Diana, have two children who will attend Oakville Senior High School and Oakville Middle School next school year.

Leach wrote in his application that, if appointed to the vacant board seat, he would not seek a full term next year.

“My motivation of volunteering is simply to serve — as asked — and try to help bridge the vacancy into a good transition for the new board members elected in 2012,” he wrote. “If it is the board’s preference, I would serve to the best of my ability and always keep in mind that I am representing the community and will do so with respect and integrity … My goal would be to assist the board in any way that I am able, and to provide supervision of conducted procedures and decisions being made for and by the Mehlville School District and its community.”

• David Wessel — Wessel, of Oakville, is employed as senior information technology manager-engineering at Enterprise Holdings Inc. He vied unsuccessfully for one of three open seats on the board this year. He was fourth-highest vote-getter out of nine candidates in the April election.

Wessel and his wife, Tracy, have a son who attends the John Cary Early Childhood Center and a daughter who eventually will attend the center.

“As a parent with young children I have a vested interest in the success of the education provided to our students. This is one of the most powerful motivating factors in my life and will guide me to do the best that I can in service to the district and our children,” Wessel wrote in his application. “I do not have prior school board experience, however, my life experiences in education, fiscal discipline and my motivation to work hard, will allow me to provide immediate value and I believe will make me an excellent member of the Mehlville school board. My desire to serve will not cease in the next election cycle and I am not looking for a short-term involvement.”

• Michael Gindler — Gindler, of Oakville, is employed by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District assistant accounting manager. He has served on the school district’s Finance Committee since its inception in 2008 and is the committee’s vice president.

Gindler’s wife, Franchesca, ran unsuccessfully for the school board in April. They have two daughters who attend Oakville Elementary School.

“I believe I am well informed on the issues that are important to this community as they relate to the school district,” Gindler wrote in his application. “Financial strains have forced families, businesses and organizations such as the Mehlville School District to make difficult decisions.

“I recognize this fact, and I would be mindful of it when fulfilling my duties as director on the Board of Education should that opportunity be awarded to me. I consider myself a financial conservative and an advocate for public education.”

• Greg Frigerio — Frigerio, of Concord, worked in construction for 30 years and most recently co-owned a construction company. He is a founding member of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, a group that formed last year to oppose the district’s Proposition C, a proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase that voters defeated in November.

Frigerio has an adult son and a daughter in college.

“There are many issues that are important to the district and the Board of Education. In my opinion, the most important issue is returning credibility and respect to the board and showing ‘the boss’ — our taxpayers — that the board, administration and faculty are all committed to the job at hand,” Frigerio wrote in his application. “The boss has suffered more in the last several years than the three parties mentioned. The boss has had to pay their employees and fund their capital investments while still suffering the effects of the bad economy. The boss works 2,080 hours per year or is retired and has no other income besides Social Security. You get the picture.

“… I believe I can bring that confidence back to the board because I have been and still am one of ‘the bosses.”’

• Timothy Champion — Champion, of Oakville, has been the head women’s soccer coach at St. Louis University for the past 15 years. He previously was an elementary and middle school teacher in the Ritenour and Affton school districts. He has a son who attends Bernard Middle School.

“As a member of the Mehlville school board I would place a priority on maintaining and improving the academic integrity of the district,” Champion wrote in his application. “I would also like to see more emphasis put on preparing our students for university study. Additional gifted programs and college preparation course that would benefit our students should become a priority.

“We as a school district should look first and foremost at how we can best serve the students in our community and provide the best possible educational setting within the parameters of the district budget.”

• Marea Kluth-Hoppe — Kluth-Hoppe, of Concord, is a community volunteer and small-business proprietor. She and her husband, Ray Hoppe, have a grown daughter.

Kluth-Hoppe served one term on the Board of Education, from 2002 until 2005, including one year as board secretary. She ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2005, 2008 and last April.

“There are many important decisions that need to be made in a difficult economic environment, while maintaining a quality education for the children and meeting the state mandated educational requirements,” Kluth-Hoppe wrote in her application. “… I believe that my varied experiences of personal education; professional work skills; community volunteer experiences and my knowledge of the Mehlville School District and knowledge of educational practices and mandates will benefit the Board of Education; the Mehlville School District; the staff; students and families; and the community.”

• Fred Padberg — Padberg, of Lemay, is the founder and president of Padberg Graphic Design Studio. He also is the president of Padberg Properties of St. Louis. He served in the military from 1960 until 1963 and attended Washington University.

Padberg has four adult children and seven grandchildren. He wrote in his application that he has served on a number of parent-teacher organizations and was president of the Home and School organization of Our Lady of Sorrows in south St. Louis.

• Aaron Hilmer — Hilmer, of Oakville, is a self-employed plumber. He is the chairman of the Mehlville Fire Protection Dis-

trict Board of Directors. Hilmer was elected to the board in 2005 and was re-elected to a second six-year term in April.

In his application, Hilmer criticized the board for seeking tax-rate increases in 2006 and last year when the public had “little to no trust in the financial acumen or past stewardship” of the board.

“I will bring sorely needed credibility” to the board, Hilmer wrote. “… Trust will not be regained with circus-stunt ‘public engagements’ and doctored-up phone surveys. Trust will only be regained slowly through proven results and a stellar track record. I have both.

“… As a director, I would work with the (board) and (soon-to-be Superintendent Eric) Knost to clearly articulate what is expected of him as we work together to regain the public’s trust and make Mehlville the destination district in St. Louis County.

“I have more experience and have more proven results in the area of public government reform and public labor law than any other applicant for this position.”

• Ronald Fedorchak — Fedorchak, of Oakville, earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2005 from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He and his wife, Micki, have three daughters who attend Oakville Senior High School, Bernard Middle School and Blades Elementary School.

Fedorchak recently served on a committee led by Assistant Superintendent-Curriculum Connie Hurst-Bayless on the future of the district’s Strings program.

If appointed to the Board of Education, Fedorchak wrote in his application that “the issues I want to address are teachers’ salaries and requirements, facilities and funding. I want our teachers to be paid among the best in Missouri. Great pay is the way to draw great talent … Our standards should be high but only if we reward the best.

“… I have attended events at Rockwood Summit, Eureka, Lindbergh and Parkway South and have seen what they offer their students. We need to address this soon.

“Their (junior varsity) fields outshine our best varsity fields. Our plays are performed in basements. They perform in professional theaters. In my opinion we need a third high school in the district. This issue is something I would love to explore. Lastly, balancing the budget and looking for alternative funding sources would be my last issue. Tax levies will not pass. We will need to fund programs in new ways.”