Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Jeff Koch elected board president, Banwart to serve as vice president
The election of Koch as president and second-year board member Lynda Banwart as vice president came near the conclusion of a five-and-a-half-hour open session which featured three 3-3 votes for Debbie Fort for president and three for Banwart.
Randy Steele, who has been on the board since 2008, had originally said he was interested, but indicated he changed his mind over the weekend. After word of that got out, Banwart said she received phone calls asking her to seek the position.
In what turned out to be a riveting exchange, both for those who were in the audience and those who watched it on television or online, Fort and Banwart presented their views on why they wanted to be president.
Fort stressed her educational experience and her ability to work with people as teams. Banwart described herself as "a mediator.:
In an effort in that direction, Banwart suggested that a temporary president be elected, a position in which she was willing to serve, so that whoever is selected to replace Lane Roberts, whose resignation was officially accepted tonight, will have a voice in selecting the president. The other five board members said they thought it was important to choose a president tonight and not leave the public thinking that the board of education was going to be dysfunctional.
In the midst of the back and forth, Board Attorney Norman Rouse, a long-time Jasper County assistant prosecuting attorney, said, "I feel like I'm back at a jury trial and we have a hung jury."
In a revealing exchange, Fort asked Banwart, "What can I do to make you have confidence in me?"
Banwart responded, "I see you not being able to work with other people." She said she had problems with times when Fort was questioning Superintendent C. J. Huff's top administrators and that Fort had forced Huff into attacking her because he is "very protective of his leadership."
With each vote, Randy Steele and Mike Landis sided with Banwart, while Koch and Jennifer Martucci sided with Fort.
Koch, who served in the mediator role during the discussion, said it was going to need to be either Fort or Banwart who stepped aside.
In the end, it was Banwart who suggested Koch as president with herself as vice president. She made the motion for Koch as president, which was quickly seconded by Steele, and then passed 6-0.
Seconds later, the same vote was repeated for Banwart as vice president.
(Photo: Jeff Koch takes his seat as president of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.)