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Sunshine issue nearly bites R-3 school board

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

A problem with proper notification about a meeting for the Platte County R-3 School Board created a difficult situation on Thursday.

According to Bob Shaw, board president, the problem arose after a faxed notice of the meeting did not “go through” the evening before and was only sent to the media on Thursday morning around 9 a.m., not meeting the mandatory 24 hour notice for public meetings. An R-3 board member became aware of the situation after being notified by The Landmark Newspaper of the potential legal problem Thursday afternoon.

The failure to meet proper notification requirements means if the board had a quorum for the meeting it would have been in violation of RSMo 610.020, the Sunshine Law.

To avoid this, before the meeting began Shaw made an announcement to the members in attendance.

“There was a slight foul up on the meeting. It was questionable about whether this meeting is legal,” Shaw. “I may have to ask folks (current board members) to step in and out at times so we won't have a quorum. We can work out some sort of tag team here.”

The meeting was scheduled to help the board candidates better understand what will be expected before the April election and was organized by Shaw.

“The reason for this meeting is because we have a lot of important business facing us this year and to give you all some information about it,” said Shaw.

Those in attendance included, incumbent Dave Holland, candidates Deanna Hon, Bill Kephart, and Sharon Sherwood. Incumbent Patricia Stinnett was present, but had to leave before the meeting started to attend another meeting to which she had previously committed. Board members Karen Wagoner and Mary Temperelli were present, but Temperelli was out of the room for the first half of the meeting, until Wagoner stepped out, as the board worked to avoid the presence of a quorum to avoid a Sunshine violation.

Shaw expressed some points about what the board has control over and what the board makes decisions about. The board will have to begin looking for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Mark Harpst, when Harpst retires after the next school year.

“One of the most important things a board does is hiring a superintendent,” said Shaw. “It's probably the single biggest task since I've been on the board.”

“A board is not supposed to be involved in the day-to-day operations of a district. We have administrators to handle that job.”

Shaw also explained that newly elected board members are required to complete training through the state.

“Under Missouri law, new members are required to undergo training for 16 hours. You will have one year to fulfill the requirement,” said Shaw.

He also said there is a lot of time involved in being a board member.

“There is a lot of time involved in talking with constituents,” said Shaw. “I'm stopped everywhere in Platte City. It is part of the job to listen to the patrons.”

Another item Shaw described to the board candidates is their role in the media.

“As someone in the public eye you will be listed in the newspaper,” said Shaw. “This board gets a fair amount of criticism in both newspapers. It's part of the job, you've got to develop a thick skin. Sometimes it's not pleasant to read criticism.”

During part of the meeting, Harpst told the candidates about some upcoming meetings they might want to attend. Harpst said there are two bond presentation meetings coming up, the first will be on Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. and the second will be Thursday, March 13, during the regular board meeting at Barry School.

“I really appreciate you all coming here,” said Shaw. “The more you know before taking office the easier it will be. This is a job that doesn't pay so we rely on people to donate their time.”




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