USD 383 school board president Doug Messer tearfully announced his immediate resignation at the beginning of Wednesday’s board meeting. Messer cited “family, professional and personal reasons” for his decision.
Elected in 2009, Messer’s term had been due to expire at the end of June 2013. “I want to thank all the teachers, staff and administrators for all they do for education,” he said in departing. “I’ve enjoyed working with you.”
Messer also took the time to praise the other board members for their commitment to education, calling them the “epitome of elected servants.”
“They serve with no initial or letter behind their name,” he said. “They don’t do it for a paycheck. That makes them true stewards of non-partisan election process.”
Messer’s resignation appeared to come as a surprise to most of the board members, although he did advise vice president Dave Colburn and Supt. Bob Shannon in advance. After a standing ovation and handshakes and hugs from board members, Messer left and Colburn presided over the rest of the meeting.
Board members agreed Wednesday to address the question of filling the vacant seat during their April 4 meeting.
According to Kansas statute, the remaining board members can choose a person to fill the time remaining in the term. Board members also have the option of leaving the seat open, but board member Pete Paukstelis said it would be in the board’s best interest to fill it in a nonelection year.
The last board vacancy occurred in September 2000 when Farhad Azadivar resigned. At that time, the board chose to leave the seat unfilled until following the 2001 spring elections. Following those elections, the board chose Dorothy Soldan, one of the three newly elected members, to fill what remained of Azadivar’s term.
At its next meeting, the board will also take a vote on a successor to Messer as president; Colburn doesn’t automatically take on that role.
If the school board does not appoint a replacement, it would open itself up to 3-3 ties, raising the prospect of no action on issues on which the board was split. That could be particularly harmful during budget discussions; the board approved the budget by a 4-3 vote in 2010. The board didn’t have to go through the budget process without its full membership during the last vacancy.
Should the board decide at the next meeting to fill the vacancy, it will publish a legal notice in the Mercury and invite applications for appointment no sooner than 15 days after that publication.
Colburn said a special meeting Wednesday, April 25 might be dedicated to the selection of a new board member. That meeting hasn’t been set up yet because the board hasn’t made its decision on the vacancy.
Colburn said he didn’t know Messer at all when Messer was elected but has grown close with him over the years. “I’ve really come to appreciate what a fine individual you are and hope that I can keep you as a friend for the rest of my life,” Colburn said.