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Mehlville board member unveils 'bold vision' for school district

Karl Frank
October 05, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A Mehlville Board of Education member last week unveiled a long-range plan with "a bold vision'' of making the school district the best in St. Louis County by 2015.

Addressing his fellow Board of Educa-tion members during a period for public comments Sept. 27, Karl Frank Jr. discussed his long-range plan for the Mehl-ville School District that he termed "The Frank Plan'' based on his family's long history with the school district.

Frank, who was elected to the board last April, frequently quoted President John F. Kennedy during his presentation, noting at one point that the late president "is a personal hero of mine.''

Referring to Kennedy, Frank said, "I found we had something in common when he said: 'When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd been saying they were.' It is on this basis that I set in motion a bold vision of where I want Mehlville to be 10 years from now. In the next 10 years, this district must reach for the stars and failure is not an option.''

Frank's plan contains seven priorities, three action steps that need to be taken immediately and 10 long-range goals.

The long-range goals include having Mehlville become the best school district in the county by 2015 and earning the state's Distinction in Performance Award on an annual basis.

The school board member noted that his family's history with Mehlville schools dates back to the 1930s and his late grandfather, Kurt Frank, was a 1942 Mehlville graduate. Frank's parents, Karl Frank Sr. and Debra Trolinger, are Mehlville graduates and he is an Oakville High graduate. He further noted that his stepson attends Bernard Mid-dle School and one of his sons attends the John Cary Early Childhood Education Center.

"By the time my youngest son, Joseph Frank, graduates from this district, our family, the Frank family, will have re-ceived nearly a century of public education from Mehl-ville,'' Frank said, noting, "... There may be people that care as much about the success of the Mehlville School District as me, but no one, and I mean no one can say they care more than me.''

The seven priorities outlined in The Frank Plan include:

• 1. Classroom teachers — "... It is our responsibility as a board to make sure that we are on a constant search to better our already great teaching staff and to elevate teacher morale to levels not previously thought possible. To do this, we must respect them both privately as well as publicly. And we must pay them and pay them well. Not just on par with the other district's in our area, but above and beyond ...''

• 2. Buildings and support staff — "Having stated the priority of a top-notch teaching staff, the next priority is safe and up-to-date facilities ...''

• 3. Books and other resources — "Times change. People change. Societies and governments change. Imagine teaching our children from history books that stop with Jimmy Carter as our president. Since then we have had four presidents, the Iran/Contra Affair, the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, the fall of Communism, the spread of democracy, Microsoft Windows, complete mappings of the human genome, countless advances in science and health, as well as in the arts and technology. In a time of instant gratification and information overload, how do we best provide our children with 21st century resources?''

• 4. The basics — "The basics are reading, writing and arithmetic. There are ways to master to these basics. Comp-licated theory and practices can only be appropriately taught if these basics are understood ... We must get back to the basics to achieve advances in education ...''

• 5. The community — "For the ultimate survival of a school district in today's society, a school must recognize it is only a cog in the gear that makes their community go around ... A public education institution today must realize that there are other cogs in this gear called our community. The others are our public school parents, our private school parents, our senior citizens, our clergy, our newspapers, our first responders, our utility and transportation departments, our elected officials and our small-businessmen, among others. All of these subgroups have their own sets of realities, positions, needs and desires. If we have a student whose parent is not involved in their lives, is that going to be our excuse, or is that going to be a challenge that we will dedicate ourselves to meeting? If our public relations have been soured, are we going to continue to deny it? If we cannot maintain an even disbursement of socio-economic status of our students, what are we going to do in those schools to make up the difference ...''

• 6. The administration — A well-oiled machine requires a smart and savvy administration. With a budget of nearly $100 million dollars, we need dedicated business people in place to best handle their fiduciary responsibilities. Much like the CEO of a large corporation, we need a chief executive officer and his/her support staff to provide the best possible 'business' and investment of the public's tax dollars as it is conceivable to achieve. At the same time, they must provide the ideal environment for the classroom teachers to teach our children in. We need an administration that like the support staff looks at their jobs as not only a job, but as a service to the community they are working in. Resources are slim, so an administration must be slimmer. Remember, our focus must reside in the classroom.''

• 7. The Board of Education — "As board members and public servants, it is important that we realize that while our decisions affect priorities 1-6 in the most direct kind of way, we are individually the least important and most re-placeable of any or all of the previously mentioned priorities. However, because of the way we are organized, the buck stops with us. If Mehlville has bad public relations, it is our collective fault. If we cannot acquire funding en-hancements from the community, it is our collective fault. If we do not provide the best classroom teachers to our child-ren, it is our collective fault. If we do not properly oversee the administration and operations of this district, it is our collective fault. If we cannot get the community to care about our success and our needs, it is our collective fault. Priorities 1-6 need this board and future boards to dedicate ourselves to our responsibilities — responsibilities that con-sist of transparent oversight and accountability.

"We can blame our shortcomings on everyone and anything other than ourselves, but doing so is only a testament to our ineffectiveness and poor job performance. With this in mind, we must recognize that we can not scare our public into supporting us. They are too smart for that. If we want our school district to be the axle that turns this community, we must first admit openly that we have some problems. Some very serious problems. And we then need to permanently invite this community in to help us fix them. That is our place on this cog, on this gear, moving our community along. As Kennedy said: 'Things do not happen, they are made to happen."'

In his plan, Frank outlined three action steps that he be-lieves the district must take immediately "to set Mehlville back on the path of success.'' Those steps are:

• 1. "The board must set a vision for this district. A measurable vision with an established metrics system built on specific performance goals designed using national, state, local and community benchmarks. My contribution to this vision is The Frank Plan itself, as well as some specific goals that I have for the district, outlined at the end of this plan.''

• 2. "Set up a permanent, living, breathing strategic planning committee. This committee will function like a public education 'think-tank,' brainstorming ideas to study and test them. This strategic planning committee will be skillfully put into place, not as an extended mouthpiece of current establishments of the Mehlville School District, but as its own independent institution of thought and planning. The details of this committee will be worked out in the future, but in short, it will be considered as important and as relevant as the individual members of the Board of Education.

"I envision each board member appointing three individuals of their choosing to serve on the strategic planning committee during their elected terms. Most importantly, the community will be encouraged to participate in the strategic planning meetings as they will most definitely be 'public meetings,' not just 'meetings in public.' The ongoing goal of this committee will be to provide a broad, unique and creative vision for the board and ad-ministration to take into consideration when making long-range planning decisions as well as providing a satisfying outlet for critical patrons of our district.''

• 3. We must relax the board meeting agenda. In order to promote transparency and open dialogue between members of the Board of Education, topics on the agenda should be generalized. Common and ongoing business will be listed under 'Old Business' on the agenda as a category, not as a particular item of business. Items that would qualify would be similar, but not exclusive to Technology, Curric-ulum, Finance, Board Policy, etc. The purpose of the agenda is not to restrict conversation, but only to act as a guide to dialogue and provide proper notice to the public of possible topics to be covered.''

Frank told board members his plan has 10 goals.

"Finally, by the year 2015, just 10 years away, Mehlville will have accomplished the following, therefore fulfilling the vision and goals of The Frank Plan,'' he said.

Those goals are:

• 1. "In 10 years, the Mehlville School District will measurably and indisputably become the best school system in St. Louis County based on area benchmarks. There is absolutely no reason why in this proud community that this is not a possibility. Some district will be No. 1, the best — why not Mehlville?''

• 2. "Related to goal No. 1, based on recent comments at a previous board meeting, it can be interpreted that we will most likely not reach Missouri's Distinguished in Performance Award. In the next couple of years, this will change — and Mehlville will once again be 'Distinguished in Per-formance' on an annual basis.''

• 3. "Related to goals No. 1 and No. 2, over the next 10 years, we will have multiple schools reach 'Blue Ribbon School' status.''

• 4. "Phase II of the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities plan will have been completed, truly 'on time and on budget.'''

• 5. "We will have formed and molded the Strategic Planning Committee as previously mentioned to tackle the needs outlined in The Frank Plan.''

• 6. "We will have written and published an entire custom set of textbooks and learning plans for grades K-12. These textbooks, in whatever form necessary, will continue to be updated on an almost in-stantaneous basis year after year after year, providing our children with the most up-to-date and relevant information; freeing us from the financial strain of keeping our students current — better known as self-publishing.''

• 7. "In the spirit of Missouri's Sunshine and Open Records Law, we will provide a timely, complete and user-friendly electronic Sunshine Law Library. This library will be fully searchable and available to the public on the Internet as well as printable if hard copies are requested. As is stated under the law itself, it should be construed as liberally as possible. It was President Kennedy who said: 'The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.' The operations of the Mehlville School District will have become completely transparent.''

• 8. "We will have successfully implemented an endowment and pledge program from our patrons as allowed by state law.''

• 9. "We will have successfully lobbied the state of Missouri to allow a 100 percent rebate of up to $200 per person, donated to a public school and a public school only to stay at the public school of their choice. In effect, helping Mehlville residents keep more of their money in their community and without removing any traditional state funding of public education.''

• 10. "Public education in the Mehlville School District will once again have be-come democratized.''

In other business at the Sept. 27 meeting, two motions proposed by Frank died for lack of a second.

One motion sought to dissolve the district's Long Range Planning Committee, effective immediately, while the second sought to "rescind the previous action by the Board of Education to hire an outside accounting firm to perform a partial audit of Proposition P as permitted to do so under the current contract with RubinBrown.''

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