The St. Joseph Board of Education (SJBE) in Missouri is under fire again for commitments to spend money without clear planning and authority.
A minority of the board members, with the help of lawyers consulted by the school district, recently created a job description for a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officer at a salary of $100,000 per year, even as the proposal only had three of seven board members voting in favor.
Another board member voted no, and three others abstained.
“Now? At this time? Another six-figure director? Is there a need? What is the need?” asked Board Vice President Kenneth Reeder, the sole “no” vote. “This position makes it seem like we are guilty and have a problem. We do not.
“This position by description appears to justify and legitimize controversial and moral issues under the heading of schooling, not educating.”
The move comes on the heels of a projected $20-$80 million SJBE bond issue that was approved by the board, despite having no defined use of proceeds for the money.
Because the vote to approve the DEI position lacked a majority, abstaining members assumed that the vote had failed.
But subsequent revisions to the meeting records that were made with the help of attorneys at EdCounsel, LLC of Columbia, Missouri, show that the item passed, according to one board member who abstained, said the local newspaper.
“There was some confusion on whether the motion passed or failed,” said board member Isaura Garcia, according to News Press Now. “Most of those in attendance believed that the item had failed for the lack of a majority of the Board voting approval, and the meeting adjourned. However, the subsequent record of the meeting was revised and now shows the item passed, and therefore is approved.
“To dispel any confusion and in the interest of transparency, as one of the board members that abstained, I would like to revisit this matter. This is the best practice.”
The News Press said that abstaining board members have contacted the superintendent and said that they don’t approve the creation of the position.
They asked that their votes be changed to “no” votes.
The board may take up the matter again at the Feb. 19 meeting where a simple majority can vote to rescind the approval of the job description.
The vote on the DEI position and the bond issue has led to criticism the board lacks leadership. In April, three board seats are up for election.
The approval of the job description does not give the school district the authority to actually hire somebody for the position, said local KQ2.com.
But that hasn’t stopped a minority of progressive board members from pushing the DEI agenda, said one social media user.
“The problem is that this was not developed by the board but was initiated by [progressive board members LaTonya] Lanning and [Whitney] Williams without input or knowledge from the rest of the board. This is not the first time they have done something like this without the knowledge of the rest of the board,” said Dennis Dobbe on Facebook.
Comments on Facebook about the DEI proposal were mostly negative, with residents saying that the money would be better spent on teaching.
“How about using that money for teachers! Floundering school district that can’t keep quality teachers and your genius ideas are a 4-day school week and a DEI bureaucrat. The children in this town are doomed!” said resident Thomas Carr.