Friday, February 7, 2014

Mo. Senate confirms two appointments to state Board of Education after debating definition of 'layperson'

Mo. Senate confirms two appointments to state Board of Education after debating definition of 'layperson'

I applied for the open position in my area. I guess I didn't have enough experience working for the system. I guess I am the lay person that they didn't need.

JEFFERSON CITY • Five Missouri Senators huddled around a dictionary in the Senate Chamber this morning, page open to the word "layperson."

It was one several dictionaries floating around the chamber today as Senators debated the definition of a "layperson" for more than two hours.

The topic was brought up by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, as the Senate examined two gubernatorial appointments for the state Board of Education -- who were later confirmed.

Schaaf said, according to law, that board should consist of eight lay members appointed by the governor.

Schaaf did not think the two appointees -- Republican O. Victor Lenz, Jr. and Democrat John A. Martin -- met the definition of a layperson because they had too much experience in the education field.

Lenz is the current president of the St. Louis Area Curriculum Coordinators Association and former president of the Lindbergh School District Board of Education. He also was that district's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Martin is a board member for the Missouri Center for Safe Schools and former superintendent of the Grandview School District. He also was the former interim superintendent of the Kansas City School District.

"We need to have lay people who are not conflicted by a lifetime of experience in the education community," Schaaf said.

While some senators agreed with Schaaf's sentiments, others felt the experience of the two appointees is important to address the tough questions related to education.

"This board needs people who know the ropes a little bit, but are willing to ask tough questions," Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said, in particular, she supported Lenz's appointment, despite her initial hesitations.

"I started my conversation (with Lenz) saying, 'I plan to kill your appointment,' " Chappelle-Nadal said. "I said at the end of the conversation, 'You have impressed me more than any other (appointee).' He has the ability to be intelligent on issues and think independently of others."

Lenz will begin serving on the board immediately. His term will end July 1, 2019. Martin's term will end July 1.

The Senate confirmed 18 other appointments today, including Richard Fordyce as director of the Agriculture Department and Mike Downing to head the Economic Development Department.

Alex Stuckey covers Missouri politics and state government for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter at @alexdstuckey.

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