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Growth in O'Fallon Means School District is Considered "Urban"

School Board members would have to serve six-year terms instead three-year terms if the district isn't given an exemption by State Legislature.

Legislative moves to exempt  Board of Education members from serving six-year instead of three-year terms are winding their way this week through the Missouri General Assembly.

A hearing on Senate Bill 450 that would allow the Fort Zumwalt School District to retain three-year terms for its seven-member board was scheduled before the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 11.

“So far it's moving pretty good,” said Bernard DuBray, superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt School District. DuBray was scheduled to testify before the education committee.

DuBray and the present school board want the legislation to move quickly because without a legislative remedy school board members elected on April 3 would serve six-year terms.

The bill contains an emergency clause that would mean it could be passed by April 3. An emergency clause would prompt a quick signature by Gov. Jay Nixon if bills get through both House and Senate education committees and are approved in both chambers.

The situation arose because the district is now classified as an “urban” school district, due to results of the 2010 U.S. Census, said State Sen. Scott Rupp, R- .

Rupp is sponsoring the senate version of the bill. A similar House bill is being sponsored by state Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-17th District. The House bill has been read twice but no hearing has been scheduled.

Rupp said state law now stipulates that a school district is classified as an urban district when its area includes more than 50 percent of a city with a population of more than 70,000.

More than half of the city of  is in Fort Zumwalt. The city’s population is now listed at more than 80,000, according . No other St. Charles County school districts are classified as urban districts.

Becoming an urban district apparently will have little impact on Fort Zumwalt, with the exception of the terms of office for its school board, DuBray said.

“Nothing much changes,” DuBray said. The urban classification may require some changes to the duties of the board secretary and some changes in bidding requirements, he said.

Until now, district board members have served three-year terms with no term limits. The new rules under the urban classification, unless changed, would mean that school board members serve six-year terms and are limited to two terms starting with the April election.

Two seats, held by incumbents Barbara Story and Mike MacCormack, are up for election in April. MacCormack, Jim Pepper and former board president Michael Swaringim have filed their candidacies so far. The candidate filing period opened Dec. 13, 2011 and runs through Jan. 17.

DuBray said the present board sought the legislative remedy to the term situation. The longer terms and term limits might discourage candidates from running, he said.

School districts in Columbia and Springfield have been granted exemptions in the past, Rupp said.

At least one school board candidate said he would be willing to serve a six year term to get done what needs to be done.

MacCormack, who is seeking his second, three-year term, said Wednesday that he would be willing to serve six years.

“From my perspective, it’s not a big factor one way or another,” he said. “My interest is seeing that the district gets through its rough financial waters in the next three years.”

MacCormack said he might want to run for another three year term if he was elected to the board in April anyway.

However, that term changes would limit how long board members could serve. He said many people who become school board members become even more dedicated to serving. The job requires sometimes long hours and a commitment from people who are volunteers and who aren’t being paid, he said.

“It kind of does seem to get into your blood,” MacCormack said.

Steve Pokin January 13, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Six years seems too long. A lot can happen in someone's life in six years and I would guess that if this longer term is forced on Fort Zumwalt you will have far more board members resigning before their term ends. Hopefully the district, with the help of Rupp and Schneider, can keep it at three.

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