Ryan Murdock has his hands full right now.
Beyond the headaches of parenting during COVID, Murdock had to essentially parent for much of the messy last hour of the Nov. 17 Lee’s Summit Board of Education meeting — a three-plus-hour affair that put on display many board members’ lack of knowledge of process and resembled more of a junior high football team attempting the ol’ Fumblerooski trick play.
Their decisions aside, when Dr. David Buck has to send up Dr. Emily Miller to inform the board when school starts back in January after the holiday break, we’ve lost our collective minds.
Buck kept his cool. As did Murdock. But my God, they had the patience of Job during a meeting that should have been done in 90 minutes or less.
Work sessions are there for a reason. But instead of using that time wisely (a lesson we hammer our children with) we spent minute after minute asking about the right and wrong way to present motions, the school calendar, discussing what learning happens (or, more truthfully, doesn’t happen) on Wednesdays and then sitting in silence while the board president tries to talk his way through an impossibly heart wrenching and difficult decision about what next education model our schools will be turning to.
Spoiler alert: If you’re counting at home, we’re at five.
While surrounding school districts are a mere blip on the 5 o’clock news, Lee’s Summit continues to grab headlines with their “hey, we’re changing things up again” type of leadership.
And let’s be honest here, there is really no good answer. It stinks to be virtual. It’s risky to be in person. We can do everything humanly possible to mitigate the risks and look at statistics until we scream, but the school board is in an insanely difficult situation here with these votes. And knowing that, you would think they would do all they can to make the best of the situation and not muck up the process.
As we were rounding the corner in the Tuesday night meeting, new board member Megan Marshall asked about motions but refused to give one herself, which shows a lack of leadership we unfortunately see across some of our school board.
As Murdock tried to herd the group, the silence was positively deafening.
“Does anybody have other questions or discussion … or are we all stalling to try to essentially figure out how to go about this motion?”
Yep, our board president had to go there.
It’s a problem that has lingered on our boards since at least the final days of Dr. David McGehee’s tenure in Lee’s Summit. Heck, when those boards were essentially rubber stamping everything McGehee brought forward, at least we had confidence they knew the process.
Murdock can make any motion he wants, of course. He can second motions. And he can work fellow board members through the process and rules, but in doing all of that heavy work, a lot of inaction is revealed.
Marshall, Kathy Campbell and others didn’t seem to understand how or when to offer votes and what the intentions and technical aspects of “motions” actually entail. And discussions before the votes rambled on like a fourth grader I know well, telling me about how to play “Among Us.”
Buck appeared at times frustrated, too. But there’s no way to hide the frustration any of us feels during this pandemic.
And one of the more baffling (and sadly, not surprising) decisions didn’t come on that Tuesday night meeting, but rather two days later as the district very quietly tucked in a new agenda item for the Nov. 19 meeting — revisiting the K-3 decision that affirmed our youngest learners would be back in school and not intaking endless hours of screen time. Some have surmised that the board possibly was taken by surprise when Julie Doane made the Tuesday motion to keep K-3 in person. Either way, votes flipped and flopped.
It may have been divine intervention. Or parental pressure. Or pressure from the teachers and unions. Or all those new stats that came in between 10 p.m. Tuesday and whenever the agenda was released Wednesday. Or all or none of the above.
I’ll show grace during trying times, but man we need to expect more of our leaders, both elected and paid, in this community.
While Buck is doing his community talks, he needs to bottle the endless pages of statistics and just talk to us. We haven’t had a personal relationship with our superintendent since McGehee departed and this community is hungry for that.
The next time Buck has a room, he and his board members need to take advantage of it and just talk us off the ledge a little bit.
And for our board, my goodness, show courage and tact and poise and confidence in your meetings and in your decisions. When you do that, even the unpopular votes are a little easier to stomach.