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Mehlville delivering an excellent educational experience

"Your Call" by Daniel S. Fowler

A strong public education system, complemented by private schools, is essential for the vitality of every community.

Let there be no doubt that the Mehlville School District, by and large, is delivering an excellent educational experience to our children. Each school day children are in their classrooms and teachers are right beside them, working very hard to deliver a quality education.

That's not to say that there are not exceptions to the rule. But we can be proud of our children, teachers, support personnel and the up-to-date facilities in which we house them.

Mehlville taxpayers do more than their fair share of supporting an outstanding school district. In fact, the Mehlville School District is considered one of the best public education systems in all of St. Louis County.

If you have not visited any of Mehlville's facilities in a while, drop in at a school and ask the office staff for a tour. I'm confident you will be very impressed. We hear a lot about other school districts having problems meeting federal and state guidelines, but not in Mehlville.

Classroom teachers in Mehlville have worked hard with limited resources to earn the school district the Distinction in Performance Award for two consecutive years.

Yes, students are learning in Mehlville and preparing themselves for the outside world. Many Mehlville graduates have gone on to make significant contributions to our society.

In recent issues of the Call, we have read news stories and opinion columns about some of the sorry decisions our school leaders have made relating to the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program and the lack of adequate policies and procedures regarding reimbursement for cellular phone usage and travel expenses.

Board of Education members last week began the finger-pointing game at the construction management company and the architects involved with Proposition P.

Although a little late — not to mention the fact that there's plenty of blame to go around — this is not a surprising event because you know there is no way that school board members themselves will take any responsibility for this colossal mess.

This is likely to be ugly and embarrassing for board members, particularly Rita Diekemper, who ran for the school board on a platform of fiscal accountability and whose seat is up for election April 6.

Expect Mrs. Diekemper, who faces a contested school board race, to take the lead role in blaming someone else as she defends her seat on the board. But when the finger pointing starts, it's always important to remember that there are three of your own fingers pointing back at you.

Now you will see validated the news stories and opinion columns written in this newspaper about Proposition P.

Don't forget that as recent as last April, Board of Education President Cindy Christopher told 500 people at the district's Recognition Night that Proposition P — then estimated to cost $72.4 million — was on time and on budget. We now know that statement was not true as the cost of Proposition P has swelled to $86.7 million. I believe that final cost will be greater than that.

Since the Call began last spring to uncover and publish the truth about the real cost of Proposition P, Mehlville officials adamantly have insisted everything was going according to plan and any confusion about Proposition P's true cost merely was the result of poor communication.

Stay tuned folks — I think you're in for some interesting reading.

In the meantime, many good things are happening in our schools of which we can be extremely proud, so let's not lose sight of that.

Thank you for the hundreds of positive comments I get from all of you in the community about my columns. In particular, I must thank Mehlville employees, many of whom are afraid to speak out, for their support. They often ask me why I have not been writing as many columns as I have in the past. In the mist of a busy life, I am in the process of writing a book that has consumed much of the little free time I have. I promise you I will pop in every once in a while with my thoughts about an issue.

I urge you to continue to stay informed about how your tax dollars are being spent and when the time comes — such as on Election Day — make it your call.

Editor's note: Daniel S. Fowler served nine years on the Mehlville Board of Education.

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