There is still a vacancy on the Webster Groves School District Board of Education because the board is split on which candidate should fill the position.
Erin Gunn and Joel Oliver each got three votes at a special board meeting on Nov. 22, which means the vacancy created by Arnold Stricker’s departure in October remains remains open.
Stricker resigned with two years in his term left due to a residency change. The interim board member, if one is chosen, would serve through April and have to run in the spring election if he or she wanted to remain on the board for two more years.
After the 3-3 tie vote for Gunn and Oliver, District Community Relations Director Cathy Vespereny said Superintendent John Simpson will be looking into what procedure comes next as far as filling the board vacancy.
Gunn and Oliver are the remaining candidates from the eight who initially applied to fill the unpaid seat. Brian McQueary was also a close contender.
At the board’s special meeting on Nov. 22, Board President Amy Clendennen asked board members to rank Gunn, Oliver and McQueary, first preference through third preference.
Gunn and Oliver each gained three first-preference votes, effectively eliminating McQueary, a high school English teacher. The six members then briefly explained why they voted for either Gunn or Oliver.
Board Members Christine Keller, Kita Quinn and Alex Kahn preferred Gunn, who is a school counselor and parent educator of 15 years experience.
Keller said Gunn’s interests aligned with the board and credited her interest in equity. Kahn also said Gunn’s responses lined up with the big picture interests of the district. Quinn cited Gunn’s engagement in mental health issues.
Board President Clendennen, Vice President David Addison and Board Member Jo Doll went with Oliver, who is a real estate manager and former one-term school board member.
Addison said the school board has immediate issues to deal with and he believed Oliver could “get up to speed more quickly.” He also noted that despite not being re-elected to a second term, Oliver has dedicated himself to the District Foundation. Doll said there is “no substitute for experience” and that would be no learning curve for Oliver.
The board took a second vote, which again yielded a 3-3 tie. Addison suggested the board could pull a name from a hat, but Clendennen said she wasn’t comfortable with choosing a candidate that way.
“I don’t think anyone was going to change their mind, so we will discuss it at our next board meeting. Right now, there is no plan to fill the vacancy,” Clendennen said.