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Karl Frank Jr. clear choice for Mehlville school board

"Call the Tune" by Mike Anthony

Mehlville School District voters have one clear choice to make when they go to the polls Tuesday, April 6, for the annual Board of Education election.

Without a doubt, they should vote to elect Karl Frank Jr. to the Mehlville Board of Education. Mr. Frank is the only candidate running who recognizes the lack of public confidence in the Board of Education and the administration and who offers solutions to restore the public's trust in the district's leadership.

Mr. Frank, Tom Correnti and incumbent Rita Diekemper are seeking election to two seats that carry three-year terms. Incumbent Rich Huddleston did not seek election to a third, three-year term.

Because school board members are volunteers who are not paid for their service, those who seek and hold office are to be commended for their commitment to their community.

However, holding public office is a public trust in which elected officials must be accountable to residents and take responsibility for their actions.

Three years ago when Mrs. Diekemper ran for the Board of Education, the district was basking in the glow of the most successful ballot measure ever approved by voters — Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. Passage of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program that was recommended by the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities was proof that residents had the utmost confidence in the Board of Education and the administration.

But in the three years Mrs. Diekemper has served on the Mehlville school board, public confidence has plummeted to what only could be considered an all-time low, while the cost of Proposition P has soared to $86.7 million and, by all indications, will continue to increase.

Ironically, Proposition P accountability was the cornerstone of Mrs. Diekemper's campaign when she ran for the school board in 2001.

In fact, when asked to identify the most important issue when she ran three years ago, Mrs. Diekemper said, "The oversight and implementation of the CACF facilities plan, to be funded through the $68 million bond issue passed by voters, as the first step in developing excellent education opportunities for the children of our community.''

She also said that her experience as a certified public accountant, "... coupled with my knowledge of the CACF facilities plan, gives me the ability to work professionally with the administration, the oversight committee and other board members to deliver the project to the taxpayer as expected.''

We don't believe taxpayers expected the cost of Proposition P to increase by more than 26.5 percent to $86.7 million from the original estimate of $68.4 million. Quite frankly, some of the increased costs are justifiable and, in fact, prudent expenditures of taxpayer dollars.

But Mrs. Diekemper — and the majority of current board members — have elected to remain publicly silent over clear violations of the trust voters placed in both the Board of Education and the administration.

For example, during a board meeting last July, she specifically requested the dates the board approved contracts with Dickinson Hussman Architects, the Proposition P architectural firm, and the McCarthy Construction Co., the Proposition P construction manager.

She never was given those dates because as the Call reported last fall, those two contracts — then totaling more than $10.8 million — never were approved by the Board of Education.

Yet when she learned those contracts never were approved by the board, Mrs. Diekemper — and her fellow board members — remained silent.

That is not the kind of oversight Mrs. Diekemper promised Mehlville voters.

Given her "answers'' to questions posed during a recent candidate forum and to this newspaper's questionnaire, Mrs. Diekemper has demonstrated that she has no desire to be accountable nor take any responsibility for her actions as a school board member. But that's certainly her prerogative.

If you are satisfied with her silence or non-responsive answers to tough questions, her propensity for discussing public business behind closed doors, her finger-pointing over problems with Proposition P, and her refusal to accept any responsibility whatsoever for the public's lack of confidence in the school board and administration, we urge you to cast your vote for Mrs. Diekemper because, if re-elected, we believe you'll get more of the same.

As for Mr. Correnti, while he may possess the qualities the public desires in a board member, he demonstrated during the candidate forum that he is woefully uninformed on critical issues facing the district.

On the other hand, Mr. Frank clearly has done his homework about what's right and what's wrong with the Mehlville School District. He has taken a refreshing approach with the goal of re-engaging the community through open, accountable government and restoring public confidence in the Board of Education and the administration.

Mr. Frank has outlined clear goals and how he would achieve them on such issues as academic performance, financial responsibility and administrative accountability.

Given that, we believe Mehlville voters have one clear choice and should elect Karl Frank Jr. to the Board of Education when they go to the polls next Tuesday.

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