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Rockwood Board of Education President Resigns Presidency

At Thursday night's Rockwood School District board of education meeting, Steve Smith stepped away from his presidency of the group, citing it was to remove potential bond-related concerns. Vice President Janet Strate will lead until reorganizing Jan. 5.

Steve Smith, president of the board of education, resigned his presidency at Thursday's meeting held at Crestview Middle School in Ellisville. Smith stated he intended to complete his term as an elected member of the board, however.

"While I am honored and humbled to have been selected by my fellow board members as president, this position is not my priority," Smith stated in his resignation letter. "My priority is honoring the trust placed in me by our voters to serve our students, staff and community."

In the letter, Smith said his only motivation for serving on the board was to ensure the welfare of the district's more than 22,000 students. "We know students need a learning environment that is safe, secure, comfortable and equipped with the latest technology. The Rockwood School District uses funds from no tax increase bond issues to help provide that environment. Our community has historically supported those bond issues," he said.

"It would be a disaster if some people's opinions about my role as board president jeopardized this support."

Smith previously served on the Rockwood board of education from 1989 to 1995. He was appointed in 2003 to fill Judy Dungan's position until a 2004 election. He also was appointed in 2010 to fill Rao Kaza's position until the April 2011 election, in which he was elected to serve until 2014.

At Thursday's meeting, Smith said he believed the district has achieved much for the students, due to the people employed there. "They have done so with relatively low pay and old curricula. While I believe we cannot seek a levy increase now to address those issues, the board appears to be reconsidering a decision on a potential 2012 bond issue," he stated.

"Some people expressed concerns about my being the board president while working for the company that has provided program management services for the district's bond issue projects. Today, I remove that concern."

Smith is employed by Glenn Construction, starting in 2004.

Smith said if a bond issue is put forward, he hoped the people who expressed concerns about his position as board president will demonstrate their concern for the children in the district and support the bond issue.

Board Vice President Janet Strate said she was sad to see Smith resign. "I know you have put a great deal of thought into your decision," she said to Smith during the meeting.

"It has been an honor to serve as vice president with you," she said, addressing Smith. "You have led by example — being honest, caring and fair; and making sure that each board member's thoughts were carefully considered."

Strate said those who knew Smith and who have worked with him over the years know in their hearts that he always has had the best interest of all Rockwood students at the heart of all his decisions.

She called Smith "a person of integrity."

Per Rockwood board of education bylaws, Strate will serve as president until board members meet again on Jan. 5; at that meeting, they plan to vote to reorganize board officer positions.

D December 16, 2011 at 01:32 PM
I didn't realize public pressure was so significant with regard to this issue. But perhaps it's a vote of no-confidence in the board's reconsideration of posting a bond issue on the ballot. I'm also perplexed about a recent report that the district "found" $880,000 dollars in some bond issue arbitration fund- what is that? While I'm all for transparency and close inspection of school board policies, I am beginning to wonder if all the controversy in Rockwood is affecting home values.
Dennis Broadbooks December 16, 2011 at 03:19 PM
From an article in another publication (which shall remain nameless!) Steve Smith is quoted as saying after this meeting..."Of course, there is a conflict...conflicts are not bad." What?!
Eileen Tyrrell December 20, 2011 at 05:16 AM
The watchdog group Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions response to Director Smith's letter. Go to www.rsdstakeholders.org and read the RS for RS officials press release.
AnneT December 20, 2011 at 09:38 PM
I’m curious where we hold the line on conflicts of interest in regard to the upcoming Rockwood Board election? If a candidate in the upcoming election has worked for Rockwood or has a spouse that has worked for Rockwood, does that count them out? If a candidate has kids in the district can he or she really be allowed to vote on issues that directly affect their children's particular school? If a candidate or their spouse works for a company that does business with Rockwood, we count them out too, right. Good luck to any candidate running in the upcoming election, guess only those who have nothing to do or know even less about the district are allowed to run.
Eileen Tyrrell December 20, 2011 at 10:55 PM
@Anne Read an excerpt from the RSforRS press release (www.rsdstakeholders.org) "The stakeholders who have expressed concern over Mr. Smith's conflict of interest as a Rockwood Board director, while also serving as the Glenn Construction contract administrator for multiple Rockwood bond construction projects over the last decade, certainly do care about the children of Rockwood,” says Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions spokesperson and co-founder Eileen Tyrrell. “What they don't care for is the fact that Mr. Smith, during the 2011 campaign for his current seat on the school board, failed to fully disclose to the voters of Rockwood his position at Glenn Construction as it related to Rockwood bond construction,” Tyrrell continued. A January 3, 2011, proposal submitted by Glenn Construction to the City of Eureka (the same month Mr. Smith filed to run in the school board election) clearly notes Mr. Smith's position with Glenn. Despite Mr. Smith's resignation as board president, the conflict still remains – the Glenn Construction contract administrator for the current Rockwood bond construction projects is also a director on the Rockwood Board of Education. Until this issue is cleared in the eyes of the Rockwood stakeholders, a cloud will remain hanging over the Rockwood Board of Education.
AnneT December 21, 2011 at 05:55 AM
Mrs. Tyrrell, I find it interesting that you constantly refer readers to a website that you control and point to articles that you write, and even quote yourself in the articles...It seems I can't read an article on Rockwood without your negative comments in the article or comment section. Is it really a "group" when it seems it is only one person and their ideas that are being presented?
Mark S December 22, 2011 at 07:44 AM
Dear AnneT, PART1 Your assumptions about RS for RS are uninformed. Let me help you understand. This group was indeed founded by Eileen and she is their sole spokesperson and takes her job seriously and with great alacrity. But make no mistake, their numbers are many and their views are the opposite of negative. That means they are positive. They are trying to help the taxpayers and students of the district, even if the district or the uninformed such as you object to their efforts. They’re organization began as a mission to assist Rockwood by helping to find solutions to their on-going budget crisis. Rockwood has asked for community involvement and this organization is an assertive answer to that call. The researchers at RS for RS spend many hours everyday pouring over district records to find budgetary irregularities, anomalies, and waste.
Mark S December 22, 2011 at 07:55 AM
Dear AnneT, PART2 What RS for RS has discovered through their comprehensive on-line research is massive district-wide and systemic waste of YOUR tax dollars. So much waste in fact, that if these habitual and harmful practices were simply eliminated and cleaned up, the district’s budget problems would be solved - forever. Now, government waste is nothing new or earth shattering. In fact, the modern solution that Rockwood and most other government institutions choose to utilize to solve their “budget” problems are to bombard their constituents (such as yourself) with tax increases and bond issues initiatives. They further plan to cut bus services for students who live within 3 miles of their school, and eliminate programs like elementary strings and music programs. So, if you are in agreement with fewer key services, higher taxes, wasteful spending, and deficient curriculum, then by all means feel free to disagree with RS for RS. That’s your right.
Mark S December 22, 2011 at 07:56 AM
Dear AnneT, PART3 Another outcome of the research done by the folks at RS for RS was the grotesque and symbiotic relationship of the School Board’s President Steve Smith and his “day job” employment as a senior construction supervisor for a company that is the main project builder for the district. Now, if that prima-fascia conflict of interest doesn’t bother you that’s okay. Maybe the many millions of (your tax) dollars that have flowed through their dirty hands bother you. Maybe not. That’s okay too. Maybe the no-look sealed bids bother you. You know the ones - where competitive bids from other construction companies get shredded without so much as a glance by the board. Does that bother you? Maybe you’re okay with that too. Oh, by the way Mr. Smith doesn’t even bother hiding his activities. His office, his base of operation for his day job is in fact within the main office of the Rockwood School District. Everybody has to earn a living – right?
Mark S December 22, 2011 at 07:58 AM
Dear AnneT, PART4 What should upset you though is that your elected representative is forced to remove himself from 70% of the discussions and votes that take place on the board. In essence, not representing YOU. He takes a pass. He steps out of the room. He is prevented from discussing or voting on the largest parts of the district’s budgetary items. In reality, he is disenfranchising YOU, on purpose, while earning many millions for his company, and many thousands for himself. So, maybe you are okay with his activities. I am not. I will not vote for him in any election, nor will I vote for any current board member when they run for re-election because of their sandbox, look-the-other-way mentality with my precious tax dollars. Further, I will not support any tax initiative or bond issue that they place on a ballot until they solve they’re spending problem. You see, RSD does not have a budget problem – they have a spending problem and it’s time to cut up their credit cards. RS For RS is for the students, for the parents, for the taxpayers – even for you AnneT. Merry Christmas
Susan Hunter DuBois December 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Get rid of all the bums! He can't fix this by stepping down as president. Smith must go but they are all implicated in the misuse of funds. Susan DuBois
AnneT December 23, 2011 at 05:30 PM
RS for RS, Mark and Susan, Guess we disagree and we must be looking at different facts but that's OK. I think the main thing is that we want the best for the Rockwood district and its students. I'm sure we will discuss these differences at a later time but for now Merry Christmas and hope everyone has a Happy New Year...
AnneT December 23, 2011 at 11:46 PM
One last thing...I would have been glad to post my comments on the RS for RS website and have a discussion but it seems that only those comments that are deemed acceptable by the "board" of RS for RS are allowed....Thanks to Patch.com for letting me be heard. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!!
Susan Hunter DuBois December 24, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Sorry, I meant the misuse of influence not funds. That is the conflict of interest here - we can't prove smith misused his influence on the board but many of us feel that he did.
Eileen Tyrrell December 26, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Anne, To date the RS for RS blog @ rsdstakeholders.org has not received a comment from you; regarding any of our articles. Please feel free to visit and leave a comment for posting. Thank you.
Jim Nelson December 30, 2011 at 05:15 PM
The activities of the Rockwood School Board regarding Glenn Construction and former Board President Steve Smith are appalling in the extreme and recent effort to silence critics by Smith becoming a mere Director is laughable. The incestuous relationship between Glenn Construction and the Rockwood School Board has gone on for years and only recently revealed to the general public and the cost in efficiency and to tax payers is substantial. To my knowledge, Mr. Smith has never revealed or been asked to reveal his yearly income from Glenn deals with Rockwood; never revealed his contractual arrangement with Glenn; never revealed his percentage of income derived from Rockwood business. One might think such information is important in evaluating conflict of interest issues considering that Rockwood policy states “Members of the Board of Education will conduct themselves in a manner which complies not only with the letter of conflict of interest laws, but also in the spirit of those provisions. Board members will at all times make good faith efforts to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest”.
Jim Nelson December 30, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Regardless as the whether Mr. Smith recuses himself from certain discussions or votes, he has a long-time ally and supporter in now Acting Board President Janet Strate who has shown an unceasing ability to justify every outrageous act by the Board. One is a fool not to recognize that Strate’s close relationship and support for Smith does not end merely because Smith leaves the room during certain discussions. When recently confronted by concerned citizens about Smith’s conflicts she calmly said she didn’t know specifically what Smith does for Glenn. “It’s really not an issue,” she said. “He’s very knowledgeable, he’s very calm, he’s very thoughtful.” So much for looking out for Rockwood’s interests! Normally one would expect Patch to pursue Strate’s consistent lack of concern for serious mismanagement by the Board except that the Patch reporter on these matters, Julie Brown Patton, is a personal friend of Janet Strate. So much for conflicts of interest!
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) December 30, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Jim Nelson, the information from Janet Strate provided in this article was what she read to everyone in attendance that night of this meeting. It's a matter of public record, and she appeared to be acting on behalf of the other board members. Feel free to ask others who attended the meeting. The purpose of this article was simply and solely to inform everyone that Mr. Smith's resignation of the board presidency had occurred. Thanks.

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