Friday, May 29, 2015
The game that Mike Landis is playing
If any comment ever revealed the character of a man, it is that one by Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Mike Landis, who submitted his resignation Thursday.
Landis made the remark during a discussion over who should be appointed to replace Dawn Sticklen on the board last summer. The board asked for applicants and four- current Board President Jeff Koch, Shawn McGrew, Lane Roberts, and Jennifer Martucci, applied.
Why they bothered to take applications was never clear since Martucci and Roberts were immediately eliminated from consideration because they, unlike Koch and McGrew, had not run for the board in April 2014.
When it came to Koch, who placed fourth out of seven candidates, and McGrew, who finished hundreds of votes behind Koch in sixth place when Jim Kimbrough noted Koch's greater numbers during the election, Landis barked, "Elections don't matter."
In his self-serving resignation letter and in media interviews, Landis decried the politics that have entered the board of education since the election this year of Koch and Martucci and the election last year of Debbie Fort.
Of course, to Landis, it is only politics when someone is not doing what he wants them to do. The days of 7-0 votes for whatever Superintendent C. J. Huff wanted vanished when three people were elected on platforms of fiscal responsibility and improved academics, and since Fort, Koch, and Martucci were each the leading vote-getter in their respective elections, it is obvious that their positions on those issues resonated with the voters.
But that doesn't matter to Landis, because elections don't matter to Landis. When the people disagree with him, it is because they are an out-of-control mob, being spurred on by rabble rousers. It has nothing whatsoever to do with overspending and declining test scores, because C. J. Huff has explained that you can't believe what is written in black and white. He knows the truth and Mike Landis has backed him every step of the way.
Sources close to Landis (and his media interviews) indicate that his resignation, coming immediately after the resignation of Randy Steele, has been done in a calculated effort to strip Koch, Martucci, and especially Fort, who he has privately (and publicly) disparaged and who he allowed to be bullied by Huff during the April board meeting of their advantage and shift the balance of power back to those who support the way Huff runs the school district.
Landis has every reason to believe that the County Commission, a body he would dearly love to join sometime in the near future, will appoint three members to go along with Lynda Banwart and form a majority that will have control of the appointment of the new superintendent.
And not that anything like this could ever happen, but there is no law that would stop the County Commission from appointing one or more of the ones who resigned. And there would be nothing whatsoever to stop the new board from appointing one of the people who rose to upper administration during the C. J. Huff years as the new superintendent.
For that matter, there is nothing to stop the board from asking C. J. Huff to reconsider his retirement, which he could probably be talked into doing since obviously it would be "for the kids."
The key, obviously, is Lynda Banwart. Banwart has said publicly that she will not vote for Jim Kimbrough. Three hundred notarized signatures on Kimbrough's petitions mean nothing to her and neither does the fact that the people who voted for change with Fort, Koch, and Martucci want Kimbrough back on the board to be a part of that change.
Banwart's answer Tuesday night was her assertion that she knows more about "change" than the people who are wanting the change and that she (Banwart) is an agent of change.
Landis reportedly also is counting on Banwart's connection with the County Commission to steer the commissioners away from choosing anyone who would be approved of by the people who voted in Fort, Koch, and Martucci.
That makes tonight's 5 p.m.R-8 Board of Education meeting critical. The resignations of Landis and Steele have not been accepted by the board. They will make one last effort to appoint a replacement for Lane Roberts. If they are successful, then the resignations of Landis and Steele will be accepted and the board will be able to appoint replacements at an upcoming meeting and get down to the business of righting a ship that has veered dangerously off course.
If Banwart holds up the process by refusing to appoint a new member or fails to show up, that would be a clear sign of contempt for those who put her into office, under the impression that she, too, would be part of the change.
Whether that member is Jim Kimbrough or not, the local school board needs to be the body that makes the appointment, not the Jasper County Commission.
Elections do matter. Mike Landis may never realize it, but hopefully Lynda Banwart does.