March 20, 2013 - Despite initial resistance from some board members, the Mehlville Board of Education renewed a policy agreement with the Missouri School Boards' Association.
The board recently voted 5-0 vote to renew the full policy maintenance agreement, which allows the MSBA to monitor and review legislation and policy changes for the district at a cost of $2,850 per year with an additional $950 for providing online access.
Board member Rich Franz was absent. Board member Ron Fedorchak left the March 14 meeting early due to illness.
Superintendent Eric Knost said the district uses the MSBA legal service, which is part of the agreement, as much as possible — something his predecessor also did.
"I think we do save significant money on that because there are a lot of things related specifically to the policies that (MSBA) recommend that we can get the questions answered from them," Knost said, "especially when it comes down to those procedural things … We can pick up the phone and call them and it's no cost."
Another company offer services similar to what is offered in the MSBA contract, according to Knost, but the company, which Knost chose not to name during the meeting, would charge $10,400 for a merger fee. Annual costs after the merger would be $1,500.
"If you do the math to get to where the lower monthly cost would benefit us, it would be a 10-year return," he said.
Knost also said he spoke to local attorneys, but they were not willing to "put a dollar amount" on how much they would charge to do the same work as MSBA.
"They didn't want to sound as though they weren't willing to help us or that they would be so through the roof," Knost said, "but, the reality of it is, what they do know is they're not equipped to handle the daily monitoring that we talked about at the last meeting, the legislative monitoring."
However, the superintendent said local attorneys "would be willing to try" to monitor legislation, but they would "most likely" hire a paralegal.
"Ultimately, they said what they are willing to tell us is they cannot provide — apples to apples — they cannot provide the services from MSBA for the amount of money that MSBA is providing ...," Knost said.
Assistant Superintendent--Supervision of Schools Lisa Counts explained how the district uses services the MSBA agreement provides, including monitoring changes in state law, data entry, customizing applicable district policies and procedures, among other services.
"(MSBA) keep our policies updated so that we are in compliance with all the state and federal laws," Counts said, "and they do that in a very timely manner so that when there are due dates they make sure they get that to us in plenty of time so we can review and revise our policy ..."
Mehlville does not, however, have its board meeting minutes submitted for review, according to Counts.
MSBA also provides the district with sample policies, especially, Counts said, when there are changes in legislation and state statutes.
"(We) want to see what other school districts are doing or what other people around the state are doing and even maybe around the country," Counts said, "and so they can pull their resources and provide us sample policies."
Franz wrote in a letter to the board and public that MSBA staff has "no motivation to represent the parents and taxpayers of our state" and urged the board not to renew the agreement.
Board member Mark Stoner said while he agrees with Franz that "the MSBA doesn't necessarily reflect the views of voters" the agreement is "probably a necessary thing."
"… I don't think there's a law firm out there that could effectively monitor legislation," Stoner said, "and (another thing), I'd also like to point out too is that ultimately any policy changes we are in control of. We can vote them up. We can vote them down."
Knost said it's "no secret" the MSBA is an advocate for public schools and because of that it will have a "legislative platform that promotes legislation that is pro-public school." He also noted that the MSBA is governed by a Board of Diirectors.
"That Board of Directors is made up of elected board members from districts throughout the state …," Knost said. "There is accountability on the decisions they make and the people that are involved…"
Board Vice President Elaine Powers addressed previous concerns about the MSBA agreement as a duplication of services.
"From everything I've heard tonight, that's clearly not the case," Powers said. "It provides a foundation … I'm really concerned that at this point we are technically unsupported in terms of policy review and any monitoring. And so there's a good faith continuance on their part, and I have to say that I personally appreciate that, but I think the fact that we did not act on this put the district at risk ..."