Friday, May 12, 2006


My wife is a fifth grade teacher, and I can’t think of a more noble profession. She absolutely loves her job. She likes working with the students, the parents, and her colleagues. She’s been a teacher for several years, so she’s not that worried about the issues facing the St. Charles School District in a personal way. But, she’s worried about the students. What will happen to the students when they close down schools? What will happen to some of the newest (and most enthusiastic teachers?)

I noticed that she was intently grading papers the other night, so I asked her what the students were working on. (See I used to ask her what she was working on, and she would not so gently remind me that she doesn’t do the work – the students do the work.) She said that she was teaching the students to compare things. I asked her to explain it to me, because her explanation lacked some clarity in my mind. She explained that she is teaching the students to note comparisons between similar things and contrast differences between things. So, I asked her if she meant things like the comparison between St. Charles and St. Peters with regard to the controversy surrounding the selection of a Board President contrasted with O’Fallon, where the process went smoothly. She sarcastically pointed out that I would probably get an A in fifth grade, so I thought I better leave her alone, but that got me to thinking…

Let’s play the compare and contrast game right here in St. Charles County:

Update on Council/Board President Selection/Election in St. Charles and St. Peters:

Both St. Charles and St. Peters had issues regarding the selection of a leader for the legislative branch of government. One can compare these two cases and there are a number of similarities (compare), but there are also a lot of differences (contrast).

As you all know, the St. Charles City Council was having trouble choosing a Council President. After the Mayor’s failure to tip the scales in her favor (when Darling Dottie survived the recall effort aimed to unseat her), the Council was split 5-5, with 5 members supporting the re-election of Councilman Riddler as Council President and 5 members supporting the election of the Mayor’s favorite Magic Mirror, Councilman Kneemiller as Council President. It was a political stalemate, with no provision in the City Charter to break a tie.

You can compare the situation in St. Charles to the one in St. Peters where things got a bit sparky during the normally perfunctory process of selecting a President for the Board of Aldermen. Basically, Alderman Barclay is whining to anyone who will listen that it is his “turn” to be Board President. He seems to have forgotten that the Board elects its own President under state statute, and he also seems to have forgotten that no one can really tolerate him or his general weakness as an elected official. He does share the same fan club as Alderman Pagano, and the malcontent bunch that likes to speak at the meetings all support him. Barclay also seems to be confused since it’s the votes of his colleagues that he needs, not the support of the malcontent. Hopefully, the Board in St. Peters will not let the malcontent and their leader, Barclay, bully them into making Barclay President. I’m not sure that the people of St. Peters need a Board President who abstains on votes relating to the Operating Budget for the city. Barclay and his partner, Pandering Pagano are slinging as much mud as they can at Alderman Hawkins, we’ll see if it sticks. Either way, Barclay just doesn’t seem to get it, and he probably never will.

In St. Charles, 2 members of Riddler’s coalition missed the last meeting of the Council. The Mayoral bunch seized on this opportunity and elected Kneemiller as Council President by a majority vote of those present.

But in St. Peters, when 2 board members were absent, since Pandering Pagano and Barclay were incapable of seizing this golden opportunity, the Board agreed to postpone the discussion until the members were present. See, that’s what you call contrast.

One last time, we can compare and contrast these 2 cities. In St. Charles, the Council President is very powerful because he/she presides over Council meetings and sets the agenda, but in St. Peters, the title is more or less ceremonial and the Board President only oversees a portion of the work session meeting while the Mayor is the Presiding officer.

Just for fun, let’s take a quick look around at what’s going on in our school districts:

In St. Charles School District, the School Board is grappling with a crippling election loss and taking tours of some of the schools to determine which schools will be closed. They are planning to close their administration building as well.

In Fort Zumwalt School District, Bernie DuBray managed to convince the voters that the district needed additional funds to build the new high school. (As an aside, you might recall that last year’s increase was defeated because one of the major improvements was going to be a new swimming pool – who knows whether a pool is still part of the plan or if DuBray was engaged in an orchestrated campaign culminating with his most recent victory.) That wily Bernie DuBray had some school principals mail hand signed postcards to students’ parents – nice job Dr. DuBray.

Finally, in Francis Howell School District, the voters signaled that they were tired of business as usual, when they sent in two new board members, but the most important issue is re-naming Winter Break. Now, it’s Christmas Break, and no one seems to have a better explanation than Mark Lafata’s insatiable desire for press coverage.

Well, after all that comparing and contrasting, seems like I might do okay in fifth grade after all.