After a brief and at times acrimonious debate [mp3], the Olympia School Board couldn't settle on an applicant for the District 2 position, vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned earlier this year.
The meeting opened at 6:32 as Russ Lehman, who had been felled by a stroke, returned, taking his seat to healthy applause. All three applicants and about twenty audience members attended.
The Board decided to have an open discussion, and started debate when Bob Shirley nominated Theresa Tsou, citing her expertise and the diversity she would bring to the Board. His motion rallied no support.
Lehman then nominated Paul Parker, noting his work on the Budget Advisory Group and his progressive vision. Shirley voted in favor, but Frank Wilson and Barclift voted against.
That left John Keeffe for consideration. Wilson mentioned his extensive previous experience on the Board and his focus on "the kids." The first member to specifically criticize an applicant was Shirley, who said he couldn't square that with Keeffe's previous statements about the opening being "right for him right now." Shirley characterized Keefe's attitude as self-centered.
Lehman, responding to Wilson, said, "Certainly no one who's on the Board more than a year should ever say it's about the kids." He described Keeffe's career on the Board as ineffective, saying, "It's unbelievable what little has been accomplished in those twelve years."
Wilson and Barclift, speaking strongly in Keeffe's favor, said their minds were made up, and voted for him, but the two votes weren't enough. Frustrated with the sharp dialogue, student representative Adam Buchholz described the resulting impasse as "kind of ridiculous," urging the Board to reconsider compromise.
Eventually, the Board voted to meet again on April 2, in closed session, to discuss the applicants. If they cannot reach a decision, representatives from ESD 113 will choose Nafziger's replacement.
The meeting adjourned at 6:59.
I'll add more should any of the applicants return my request for a comment. The Olympian's brief initial recap is here.
Update: Paul Parker writes, "With three capable and qualified candidates before them, it will be disappointing if the Board cannot find a way to make the decision and move ahead."
Ironically, Parker's most vocal supporter on the Board, Russ Lehman, doesn't share Parker's view, describing the other primary applicant*, John Keeffe, as ineffective in the past and wrong for the Board right now, spouting clichés instead of substance in his public appearances. Lehman's hardline approach might have sunk Parker's bid, unfortunately, by pushing Keeffe's supporters away from a potential compromise.
Near the close of the meeting, Frank Wilson publicly expressed willingness to listen to Shirley and Lehman's side, though, so things may turn out in the end. If they don't, the decision falls on the ESD's Board, at which point the outcome is anyone's guess.
*Theresa Tsou gained only one vote to Parker's and Keeffe's two, though Lehman listed her as his second choice. Three votes are needed for a majority. The student representative's vote is symbolic.