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by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

What does it take to be a school board member?

Time and thick skin, says Bob Shaw, Platte County R-3 board president.

Shaw said he spends between 20 and 25 hours a month on board related duties. That’s what he told current candidates for school board during a self-proclaimed “candidate orientation” session held Thursday evening.

“We try to be prepared in advance to save time,” said Shaw. “When I first joined, the meetings would last past midnight. It is vitally important to be prepared.”

Shaw said the board member's packets are sent out on the Friday before the meeting and the members are expected to read the materials before the meeting.

All elected board of education members must also complete 16 hours of training within one year of being elected to the position.

Shaw told the candidates that sometimes the press will criticize the whole board or sometimes individual members.

“As a member of an elected body you are subject to public scrutiny,” said Shaw. “You'll find that when you become a member, some things get printed and you'll be amazed. You have got to develop a thick skin. People have a right to publish what they want. Every member has been personally criticized in one paper or the other. I got the daily double and have been ripped in (two) papers.”

Shaw explained to the candidates that the role of the board is to simply direct, and not be involved in every function of the district.

“We are a board of directors and are not involved in the day-to-day operation of the district,” said Shaw. “You'll find members of the public want to test you, but it is not our job to tell teachers what to do.”

Shaw said the district has good administrators who handle complaints and so very few actually reach the board.

Only two of the four candidates for election to the board were in attendance during the meeting. Alan Williams and Jeana Houlahan were present for the meeting. Other candidates are Bill Kephart and incumbent Karen Wagoner.

During the meeting the board also officially voted to refinance bonds from 1999 in order to save just under $1 million.

According to Greg Bricker, financial consultant with George K. Baum Company, the refinancing will actually save $950,879.67 in interest on the bonds.

The previous interest rate for the bonds was set at 4.8 percent in 1999; the new rate is at 2.86 percent.

The district will have the option to pay off the total of the bonds in March 2016 or the board can choose to refinance the bonds again.

The board approved the refinancing with a vote of 6-0, with Karen Wagoner, board member, absent from the meeting.



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