It wasn't the air conditioning that was providing the chill, however, as the new school board began its activities.
The division became apparent with the board's first vote.
When Superintendent Melinda Moss asked for nominations for president, Lori Musser quickly nominated Jennifer Martucci. "She has served wonderfully as vice president for the past couple of years and I believe it is her time to step up," she turned to Martucci, "if you like and if you are so willing."
In his first action as a board member, Derek Gander nominated Jeff Koch, who has served as president for the past two years. "He's done a great job."
Martucci voted for herself, then new board member Brent Jordan paused for a long, uncomfortable moment before saying, "No.
Musser voted for Martucci, then another new board member, Deborah Gould shook her head, not offering a verbal response. She was told she needed to say her vote for the record and she voted "no.'
Gander provided the third vote against Martucci.
"Yes," Sharrock Dermott said, evening the vote.
Koch cast the fourth vote against Martucci.
Koch and the three newcomers, Jordan, Gould, and Gander, voted for Koch, with Musser and Martucci voting against him and Dermott abstaining, putting Koch in charge of the board for a third consecutive year.
The division continued with the vote for vice president.
Martucci nominated Musser. "She served on the board last year. She knows how the board works and I think she would make a terrific leader of this group."
Koch nominated Gould.
As the discussion began, Martucci explained why she thought Musser's experience, both on the board and with her years as a district administrator made her the right person for the leadership role.
Koch said it was important to have new leadership on the board. "Besides this year, she (Gould) has two more years to serve. If we nominate someone who has more time (Musser is serving the second year of a two-year unexpired term) she'll also have an opportunity to serve later. Jennifer, you already have a year's experience understanding the inner workings."
"I've been on the board two years," Martucci said.
"As an officer, that side of it."
"I've been on the board as long as you have."
"Right, so you have that, I have that. We nominate someone who has more time who will have an opportunity to serve later on, it will be two years worth of service."
Martucci responded, "You're serving the last year of your term and you want to be president for a third year, so I can't see this being a thing."
"I don't know if this is a debate," Koch said.
"I'm just throwing it out there."
"I'm trying to share comments. You had an opportunity to share comments."
Koch explained why had he had nominated Gould rather than Jordan or Gander., noting that Jordan had 20 years of experience in school districts. Turning to Gander, he said, "Mr. Gander, there are other places you might be able to serve to start.
"I need to make sure we have a great team in place."
Koch asked Dermott if he had an interest in serving as vice president.
"No, I do not," Dermott immediately responded.
The vote was 4-3 against Musser with Martucci, Musser, and Dermott voting for her, while Koch, Gander, Gould, and Jordan voted no.
The same four voted for Gould, with Martucci and Musser voting against and Dermott abstaining.
While the new board era opened with a dispute, after a brief break following the officer election, the board returned to business as usual, conducting a meeting that lasted less than 45 minutes. (More information about the rest of the meeting will be posted later today.)
The evening began with a seven-minute session of the old board with the former interim superintendent Norm Ridder, who is working with Moss until the end of June, presenting plaques to outgoing board members Debbie Fort, Lynda Banwart, and Chris Sloan.
Fort and Banwart offered advice to their replacements.
"Always vote your conscience," Fort said.
Banwart said, "You were elected as an individual, vote as an individual."
As the session came to a close, Banwart quickly left as an individual, while Fort and Sloan remained for the new board's first meeting.
(Photo: Deborah Gould, Brent Jordan, and Derek Gander are sworn in as Joplin R-8 Board of Education members.)