By RACHEL WHITTEN
TOPEKA – Members of the State Board of Education deadlocked over electing new leadership Tuesday.
The 10-member board split five to five, with votes divided between Sally Cauble, a Republican from Liberal, and Dave Dennis, a Republican from Wichita. After two rounds of voting the split remained, so the board moved on to other agenda items with intentions to try chair nominations and a vote again today.
The chair of the board determines the monthly meeting agendas, which board member John Bacon said is an important role.
“We haven’t given up yet, we only tried two times this morning,” Bacon said. “The chair is important because they set the agenda, that’s why people see importance in the position.”
Members of the State Board of Education discuss electing a new chair. The board will attempt another vote today after gridlocking twice on Tuesday. Current chair Janet Waugh said a split is not common, but it did happen when she was elected chair in 2008. In that case, the board came back the next day and found a majority to vote for Waugh and end the split.
Waugh said the vote is not divided along party lines – there are four Democrats and six Republicans on the board – but rather political leanings within those affiliations, such as moderate and conservative.
“I think our districts are facing some extreme challenges, and we each have different philosophical views in regard to issues they’re facing,” Waugh said. “We each have different perspectives on how to address these challenges.”
But Waugh added that the past two years have been particularly challenging for her as a chair, since the election of board member Walt Chappell, from Wichita.
“One board member tended to manipulate a lot of meetings, that’s been the biggest challenge for two years,” Waugh said. “He’s very passionate about his opinions, but others don’t feel they have time to express their opinions.”
But Chappell said his priority is not to lay low, but impact education in the state for a positive change.
“Sometimes it takes one or two individuals to raise the flag and say ‘there are issues we need to deal with,’” Chappell said. “Right now, what we’re producing in schools isn’t getting the job done.”
Chappell voted for Dennis, saying that it’s important to find leadership that will guide the board in the direction it needs to go, and who will make rational and informed decisions.
“Some on the board say business as usual, and others of us want to buckle down and get to the issues,” Chappell said.
Dennis is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who has taught in the USD 259 district for 10 years, and served on the board since 2008.
Cauble has been a teacher at various locations for 33 years and served on the board since 2007.