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I am Greg Talbert, a Pike County R-III (Clopton) School Board member. On Feb. 24, I was informed from the School Board that I could no longer serve on the Board due to consecutive unexcused absences. However, I was previously led to believe that I was excused by the Board from the meetings I missed.
A letter from the Clopton Board of Education Secretary stated that my dismissal was because I “failed to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the Board” and “the Board did not excuse Director Talbert from any of these meetings and Director Talbert did not request to be excused,” citing Board Policy BBD and Section 162.303 of Missouri Revised Statutes.
However, the statute reads: “Any member of the school board of a seven-director district, including urban districts, failing to attend the meetings of the board for three consecutive regular meetings, unless excused by the board for reasons satisfactory to the board, shall be deemed to have vacated the seat; and the secretary of the board shall certify that fact to the board. The vacancy shall be filled as other vacancies occurring in the board.” (emphasis added)
I missed the meetings because I was coaching the Clopton girls JH basketball team. During the September 2018 meeting, the Board had approached me and asked me if I would be willing to donate my time to coach. The Board had knowledge that asking me to coach would mean that I would have to miss some meetings. Both the athletic schedule and the board meeting schedules were approved by the Board before the start of the academic year.
I agreed to coach the team, rearranging my work schedule and donating 10-15 hours of my time each week, along with four of his vacation days from my job, to give back to the community by coaching the JH team. The coaching position was unpaid since I am also on the Board.
I missed the October and January meetings because I had to rearrange my work schedule in order to meet the new requirements as a basketball coach. I missed the November and December meetings because basketball games were those same nights.
I reminded the Superintendent, Mark Harvey, that we had basketball games on the same nights as Board meetings in November and December by texting him. Plus I texted him about the January meeting letting him know that I had to work late. Mr. Harvey always texted me back with a positive response indicating there was no problem whatsoever.
There was never any request for further documentation or approval for these school-related absences.”
I had believed that my absences were excused by the Board for “reasons satisfactory” to them (coaching basketball). My absences were never addressed as problematic in any Board meetings until after the February meeting. During the open session in the February meeting, I voiced opposition to the process the Board took in renewing Harvey’s 2-year contract extension, which was voted on during the January 2019 meeting. I stated the Board President did not follow the district’s requirement of conducting a formal review of the Superintendent before taking a vote to renew his contract.
On top of that, if the Board truly believes that they did not excuse me from those meetings, as they stated in my dismissal letter, then according to the Missouri State Statute mentioned above, the Board should have stated the seat as vacated after the third consecutive missed meeting, which was December 2018. That would have allowed my seat to have been posted as open for the upcoming April elections, as January 15 was the cut-off line for signups.
As it currently stands, the board now has the control to handpick any person they choose to fill my position, leading some to feel as though underhanded games are being played to keep a pro-superintendent board.
I have been an active board member during the past couple of years and I greatly understand the importance of the position. I do not take it lightly. My goal is to serve the community and help further our Clopton children’s education. This is why I missed the board meetings by helping the Clopton kids.
I an now requesting the Board to rule as a body whether or not my absences were excused and to vote on reinstating me to the Clopton School Board. If the Board will not or cannot vote on this, I am requesting to be able to address the Board in open session at the next Board meeting on March 18.
Signed, Greg Talbert