*Editor's Note: John Tucker is the publisher of Lake Media.
The term “Brain Drain” can sometimes refer to the exodus of talented or skilled individuals from a community. It usually occurs because of the economic conditions or the quality of life in an area. Simply put, skilled people who can or are able, leave an area because it is not a great place to live. This exodus makes it even harder for the community they leave to improve and grow. In fact, it eventually worsens a community's qualities.
The Camdenton School District’s version of “Brain Drain” continued last week when Dr. Kristy Kindwall, the director for the Department of Intervention, turned in her resignation. At the end of the school year, she will take her family to the St. Louis area for a similar position to what she holds currently in Camdenton. She has been in the school district since 1995.
But Dr. Kindwall is not leaving for economic reasons. Insiders say she is leaving because of the uncertainty of keeping her job and the disruptiveness of current school board members. She is the second high ranking school administrator to leave this year. The first, Dr. Henry, cited very similar reasons.
Her one-year contract was renewed by a vote of only 4 to 3 (the same as Henry’s). That means that if one board member changes their mind (or gets voted out) she loses her job. With the school board election coming up and that one vote possibly changing, one has to assume she saw the opportunity in St. Louis and took it. Even though that meant leaving a community that she and her family have lived in for nearly 20 years. I would have probably done the same thing.
When Dr. Henry resigned two months ago, we were told that there were more in the school district that might leave. That turned out to be true. We’re told that there are more than a few more that will follow in Kindwall's footsteps if things continue.
Some will say that there was probably a good reason the three voted against Henry and Kindwall. That Laura Martin, John Beckett and Jim Besancenez were concerned with their job performance or disagreed with how they were going about their responsibilities. Fair enough – they have the right to judge. That’s what they were elected to do.
But common sense tells you that some form of verbal or written feedback should have been given to Kindwall and Henry. Surely the two were told how they could improve their performance to the satisfaction of the board members who voted against them. At the very least, they should have been told by those board members what they were doing wrong.
Page 2 of 3 - But they were told nothing. They simply received three votes against renewing their yearly contract. Three votes that said – “we don’t want you to work here anymore.”
Henry nor Kindwall had ever had a board member vote against their contract in the past. In fact, and this is interesting, Jim Besancenez and John Beckett had approved these two individual’s contracts in previous years. That changed when Laura Martin came onto the board and all three began to vote as one.
Why the sudden change? What happened from this year to last? What happened last year that made Beckett and Besancenez decide these administrators weren’t doing their job? Why do these three board members think that these top administrators should be terminated?
We don’t know, because they aren’t saying.
For people who claim that transparency and communication is so important – it’s surprising to see how little explanation they are willing to give for their “no” vote, not just to the public (once again, all three board members gave a “no comment” on this matter to this paper), but to the employees themselves whose livelihood depends on their vote.
There will certainly be people in the camp of Martin, Besancenez and Beckett who believe that running the two administrators out of town was the right thing to do – or at least that they acted within their right vote against a contract.
I would agree that they did have that right – but if you think that the manner in which they did it, by a public vote of no confidence, put Camdenton in a good place to hire someone better for their position – think again.
Word gets around quickly – and Camdenton is unfortunately getting a reputation of being a questionable place to work. A place where board members micro manage employees, write on their personal web sites that they don’t trust the administrators of the school district – that they believe something is wrong with how things are being done at the school.
Who wants to come to work in a place as dysfunctional as that?
Unfortunately, we are already starting to see less people interested in working in Camdenton. A job at the Osage Beach School district, similar to Henry’s was recently posted. Approximately 60 people applied for it. The Camdenton School District only received about 30 applications for Henry’s job. Working in Camdenton has suddenly become less desirable. It’s simple math – a lesser amount of candidates means your restricting your chances of finding a quality replacement.
Take that out further – even if you are OK with those two administrators leaving – the atmosphere that Martin, Beckett and Besancenez are creating is draining our school district of qualified administrators and lessoning our chances of finding quality replacements – decreasing the chances of our children receiving the best possible education.
Page 3 of 3 - These upcoming elections are critical – one more vote toward the Martin, Besancenez and Beckett camp and the Camdenton School Brain Drain may turn into a flood. We could incur turnover of employees faster than we can replace them – certainly faster than we can replace with quality people. Our kids deserve better than this – I hope the voters put a plug on the drain.