Apr. 13, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

There has been a change in leadership for the Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education. And after months of turmoil and controversy regarding equity training, racial bias and achievement gaps, things don’t appear to be calming down.

Recently elected board of education members Mike Allen and Judy Hedrick were sworn in at their Apr. 11 session. The oaths were taken following outgoing board members Phyllis Balagna, board president, and Bob White’s final meeting.

After Allen and Hedrick took their seats, the seven members voted on a new president and vice president to lead the new board. Jackie Clark, who recently ended her term as vice president, requested that discussion be allowed for the two agenda items. She posed four questions to Julie Doane, the sole nominee for president.

What are your top three objectives for board leadership?

What other leadership roles have you held?

Would you protect the fiduciary and confidentiality responsibilities of the board?

Do you have any conflicts of interest that should be disclosed this evening?

A discussion about teambuilding led Allen to jump in to express frustration about the board’s first planned event, a workshop with the Missouri School Board Association. The new board members were notified of the event after the Apr. 2 election.

“Eight days’ notice for most folks who have a life is not enough,” Allen said, citing his full-time job.

“Welcome to board service, sir,” Clark responded, adding that she also has a full-time job.

Hedrick echoed Allen’s frustration, adding that the board had not yet had time to determine what training was even necessary for the new members.

“You don’t know our personalities, you don’t know our experiences,” Hedrick said.

Tension rose in the room, with some members of the public exchanging surprised glances or shifting in their seats.

After Doane was voted in as president, with only Clark voting no, the board began to consider the position of vice president. Clark posed the same questions to Ryan Murdock, the sole nominee.

Murdock said that one of his primary objectives for board leadership would be working with Doane to present a unified front to both the community and the board.

“Any differences that Julie and I might have we need to be communicating those behind closed doors, getting those differences ironed out,” Murdock said.

He added that conversations like the one that had just taken place about training and scheduling conflicts should take place, respectfully, behind closed doors.

Murdock was voted in as vice president, again with only Clark voting no.

Clark said that it was a difficult decision to oppose both colleagues for these roles but that she wanted to end the lack of apparent transparency.

“I think it is important that we have this discussion in public. We have been criticized, as board members, for hiding information and not being transparent enough,” Clark said.

She said that she brought the questions to the public meeting because calls to both Doane and Murdock had gone unreturned in the days leading up to the session. Murdock said that he didn’t have Clark’s number and does not respond to unknown callers. Doane said that after multiple attempts to return the call last Friday, Clark “put a finger in my face and said ‘I’ll call you when I can’” on Saturday.

By the time the board got to the roundtable discussion, Dennis Smith said, a little sheepishly, “I’d just like to welcome the two new members to the board. Um, welcome aboard.”