I just knew I would end up bored. I felt bad thinking that way but couldn’t shake the idea. The most recent Platte County R-3 School District Board of Education meeting seemed destined to involve only minutiae and procedure. Not really what I’ve been used to for most of my career. In fact, I’d never covered a BOE meeting before I went to the district building last Thursday to take notes on the proceedings. Didn’t expect that I’d be fascinated by so much, most noticeably the new teacher evaluation system generated with a lot of input from district educators. But not just the big items caught my attention. I marveled at the high-tech facility and how the members voted on measures electronically with the results immediately available. Activities director Phil Dorman gave details on how the average grade-point average for high school students involved in Missouri State High School Activities Association extra-curriculars went up 0.22 from 2012 to 2013. Rachel Nelson and Dana Smith – a social worker and special services teacher, respectively – received special recognition for their work in helping a student achieve graduation requirements. Somehow, I’m now really looking forward to this part of the job. Must have been really naïve to think the task would involve too many confusing numbers and process. My sports background always allowed me to understand the proceedings and potential results, and this will take me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to ask more questions and do more research – a welcome challenge. Before, I probably didn’t care enough about what happened. Let’s be honest. As students, we weren’t invested in government and school boards, even though they affected us. Now, I have significant reason to care. With my young son likely to attend school in this district, I have the perfect way to keep tabs on how the board operates, even if the meetings can take up a significant portion of the night. Sheepishly, I even acknowledged my own bit part in last week’s two-hour session. My former teacher and board member Lenora Miles welcomed me back to the community in her closing remarks, an unexpected but appreciated gesture. Brandon Gutshall, a classmate at Platte County and a man I’ve respected for many years, did the same. That’s part of what makes this accomplished district so great. Sure, many graduates from Platte County go far and wide to achieve successes, but plenty more stick around. The community remains big enough to support commerce but also resides very close to a major metropolitan area, yet manages to maintain a lot of that small-town feel. I’ve been amazed at all the familiar faces I’ve encountered, and I couldn’t have felt more welcomed in my new school-board environment. Over time, not every meeting will hold the same interest level. I’ll hit the wall every now and then trying to find the interesting angle for readers. I can’t promise that my reviews of the action will always be so positive. There will be plenty of time for criticizing, even Miles and Gutshall if warranted, but for now, I’m reporting what I saw. So far, so good.
Ross Martin is managing editor of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Citizen_Ross.