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St. Louis' elected school board race has possible implications for regaining local control

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Public Schools' elected board discusses business during its June 2016 meeting. State board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.

The St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board hasn’t had direct control of the district for a decade. Regaining that control from the state may hinge on the April 4 election, when voters will choose from among seven candidates for three open seats.

Board member Bill Monroe is seeking a second term. But the president of the SLPS board and some state-level education officials see his continued presence as a possible disruption in getting back local control.


Monroe, however, said that is “certainly very important that there be someone with the experience, the honesty, the integrity, the desire to insist upon transparency, be involved in this election.”

There is no defined process for shifting control of the district, which is now fully accredited, back to the  elected board from the state-appointed board. Preliminary, informal talks on how that could happen started in July, but didn’t get far.

There were an intentionally low number of people at the meetings so there wouldn’t be a quorum and the conversations could be private, said Mike Jones, a member of the Missouri board of education from St. Louis. Monroe showed up uninvited to the second meeting, pushing the elected board over the quorum threshold, so the meeting was halted rather than opened to the public.

Monroe was “vowing to be a disruptive at any meetings of transition,” according to SLPS elected board President Susan Jones, who is also up for re-election.

Mike Jones said the outcome of the meetings showed it “would be clear that given current makeup of the board, we were not able to engage them in the conversation about the process. You’d have to wait until you potentially had a different board.”

For that very reason, state officials decided to suspend transition talks until after the April 4 election “and see who the members of the elected board are and then at that point possibly try to reinstitute that meeting,” said state board Vice President Vic Lenz, who’s from south St. Louis County.

Monroe scoffed at the idea that he shouldn’t run for re-election because it would delay a transition, saying the meetings should be re-started “immediately.”

But the meetings should not be done in private, he argued, saying he was kept out because he’s outspoken.

“What is it about his representation of his community (that) makes him that which white people don’t want at a table?” Monroe asked rhetorically about himself in an interview. “That’s what it is, it’s a black and white issue.”

The top three vote-getters will earn a seat on the board.

Camille Phillips contributed reporting.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney.

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.