The Twilight District, Episode Seven

It was a quiet and peaceful night. Every school board seat held a warm body. A faint but sweet scent of success hung in the air: Rising test scores and falling dropout rates just might deflect the state from seizing control of the schools.

And so the December 4 meeting settled down to a droning, thoughtful debate of education, punctuated by votes and sincere questions from even Elma Warrick, who’d previously reigned as the queen of grandstanding rhetorical barbs. State Representative Sharon Sanders Brooks was on her best behavior for several minutes, grumbling her insults against Warrick so softly from the audience that, for a change, she couldn’t be heard by board members up on stage.

Then, suddenly, the one-time poster child for board propriety, Patricia Kurtz, took the full measure of her own foot and found it fitting for her mouth.

The lame duck warned her colleagues not to vote for a pilot program that would relieve the district’s chronic teacher shortages by funneling Northwest Missouri State University students into Kansas City teaching positions. She said the proposal wasn’t sufficiently specific and that it would improperly send money to NMSU in Maryville. The proposal needed to “get made professional,” the English teacher sputtered, blasting district superintendent Bernard Taylor, state education bureaucrat Marilou Joyner and three university officials who’d traveled to Kansas City to present the program. “I think at some point this board has to draw the line about the quality of the materials that are put in front of us,” she said.

Al Mauro pointed out that the internship program had been two years in the making. And, NMSU President Dean Hubbard said, “There is no income stream on this program to Northwest Missouri State University.” In oh-so-polite terms, he told the board to take the program or leave it, because many other school districts want NMSU grads as teachers: “We don’t have any problem placing our students.”

Kurtz lost the vote eight to one, then got really fired up.

“I am sick of doing the job of a $200,000-a-year administrator!” she shrieked, berating Taylor for suggesting that extra board meetings (“workshops,” he called them) might allow Kurtz to explain to him what’s needed in his “entrepreneurial-schools” program.

Why was it we wanted these people to meet in public?

Categories: News