Kansas City School Board Member Resigns … Twice?
The Kansas City School District not only struggles to run schools, but also struggles to run the school board. On Dec. 18, the Kansas City Missouri School District (KCMSD) Board voted to accept the resignation of member Kyleen Carroll. This was the second time it did so; the first was on Sept. 25.
Carroll’s term would have ended April 2014. According to Missouri statute (RSMo 162.492.7), “Vacancies which occur on the school board… shall be filled by special election if such vacancy happens more than six months prior to the time of holding an election…” Carroll’s resignation was accepted on Sept. 25 with more than six months remaining. (In fact, it was tendered much earlier and appeared online Sept. 7.) It took an additional two weeks for Board Chairman Airick West to notify state authorities per state law, finally doing so on Oct. 11. On Oct. 22, the Missouri State Board of Education approved a special election to fill the vacancy.
In a Nov. 1 letter to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), KCMSD attorney Ray Sousley attempted to explain the confusion:
The last day for a candidate to be qualified to be on the November, 2013 ballot was August 27, 2013, and the ballot had to be certified on August 29, 2013. Because those dates had been missed when the verbal resignation was given, I think there was a misconception by the Board that we would not need to hold an election…
He continues by saying the district wants to avoid a costly election. But DESE doesn’t buy any of it. On Nov. 18, DESE certified the election in accordance with state law — a special election is to be held.
What about Sousley’s statement that the school board didn’t understand a special election was necessary? It is empirically untrue. The podcast of the Sept. 25 meeting includes the following discussion about Carroll’s resignation and replacement:
Board Member Marisol Montero: “So after–if it gets accepted, which I’m sure it will, the letter goes to the school board of education and then from there are we having a special election to replace the term that Ms. Carroll has left, six months?”
Board Chairman Airick West: “That is up to the determination of the state board as to the statute. We’ll accept this and send them a letter. If they determine that is within the parameters of state statute… they will make the determination.”
The Board knew exactly what was required, but they dragged their feet to avoid following state law. Now they think they can just re-vote and avoid a special election altogether. But not everyone will go along. Montero voted ‘no’ on Dec. 18 to this proposed do-over, expressing concern about the possibility of violating state law.
The KCMSD is one of the wealthiest in Missouri. It is ambitious, wanting to expand into pre-kindergarten care. But it also is failing to improve meaningful academic standards for accreditation and, apparently, struggling with managing the day-to-day legal requirements of the board.