In a special open session of the Bolivar R-1 school board Tuesday, June 4, all six current members unanimously selected Jera Shive to join their incomplete group.
Following public interviews of all applicants, Shive was voted in on the first and only related motion and without discussion or debate.
Bill vanHoornbeek promptly made the motion to nominate Shive, and Brandon Van Deren seconded.
Shive was one of four applicants to apply for the vacant position left by Nathan Duncan, who resigned June 1. Keri Clayton, Wren Hall and Jared Taylor were the other candidates vying for the spot.
The entire process of choosing the new board member was required to be done publicly, board president Paula Hubbert explained during the board’s regular May session. From the interviews and any discussion to nominations and eventual voting, all aspects of the board’s decision-making on the subject had to be open, she said.
“We did not, and legally could not, discuss candidates in a closed session or as a group outside of the board room,” Hubbert told the BH-FP via email following the session. “We stayed very true to that practice. I was in touch with several board members in preparation for the meeting, but we were all very committed to making this a very public process. Going into this, I had no prediction who would get the nomination.”
Hubbert said until the “show-of-hands vote, none of us had an idea of how that vote would turn out.”
Had Shive not received at least four votes, Hubbert said she would have asked for another nomination “and we would have kept voting.”
“As awkward as that would have been,” she said, “we would have done that.”
Hubbert theorized about the unanimity of the vote on Shive.
“I think that once board members saw four hands raised, there was a sense that we wanted that nominee to know they were welcomed by all of us,” she said. “I suspect that was the motivation for the unanimous vote.”
Shive told the BH-FP on Friday she was “super surprised” by the unanimous vote, “especially considering the caliber of the other applicants.”
“I’m just excited, honored and very humbled by the opportunity,” she said.
While Hubbert reiterated all four candidates were qualified, she especially noted two points that stood out about Shive.
“I think it’s worth noting that Mrs. Shive made a point to reach out to each board member separately to talk to each of us about why we chose to serve on the board of education before she submitted her application,” Hubbert said Thursday via text. “For me, that showed tremendous preparation and contemplation for this commitment. Plus, she attended our May board meeting.”
Shive said Friday those meetings helped her make the decision to apply.
“I wanted to understand what their experience had been,” she said. “... They all had a really positive experience.”
She said she was “really impressed” what a “good team” the board is.
Hubbert said those individual conversations did not violate the public openness requirements of the process.
She and another board member clarified that one-on-one conversations with the candidates were not limited to Shive.
“We all visit with constituents on a one-to-one basis regularly,” Hubbert said.
Shive immediately assumed the seat after being sworn in by board secretary Sheila Anderson, who administered her oath. Her term will run until April, when the seat will be up for election.
Each candidate submitted an application that demonstrated their experiences and strengths, which the board members had access to before and during the open session.
Hubbert moderated the interviews, during which the applicants stepped out into the hall when it wasn’t their turn in the hot seat.
Shive, current owner of local beauty supply store Classic Beauty Supplies, was the second candidate to be interviewed.
“My husband and I made a very conscious decision to move back to Bolivar, and a big part of that decision was the Bolivar school district. So, advocating for the strength of the school district is something that’s important to me,” she said during her interview.
She said providing opportunities for all students would be her focus as a board member.
“Football, obviously, is really important to some kids, but so is FFA, so is band, so are all the other programs that the school has to offer,” she said.
Taylor, a Mid-Missouri Bank loan officer, expressed his love and loyalty to the school district in his interview.
“I love our town,” Taylor said. “I just want to do what I can to help our town thrive.”
When asked what Bolivar can do better as a district, Taylor said, “I don’t know that I can sit here and say two or three things that I think we can improve on. I think I can tell you two or three things that are at the top of my mind when I think about our school and our town.”
His list included making student safety a priority, managing upkeep of facilities and preparing students for the growing influx of blue collar jobs.
Clayton, bookkeeper at A-1 Tool, emphasized her experience as a mother of Bolivar students in her interview.
“I’m looking for a new challenge and a way to be involved and contribute (to the school district),” she said when asked why she applied to the position.
She said she would bring a unique perspective to the open seat.
“My oldest (child) made some not-so-great choices early on that afforded us the opportunity to become familiar with the school discipline policy, as well as the alternative school,” she said. “I’m blown away by some of the great things that happen in that building, but I also feel like there are things that can be improved in that building, as well.”
The final interview was with Citizens Memorial Hospital Community Relations Director Wren Hall, who ran unsuccessfully for a board seat in 2014.
“I’m very passionate about our school system and passionate about making sure that the seat was filled with someone who was dedicated to the position and the district, so that’s why I put my name in the hat,” she said.
“I think right now our board as a whole has done a fantastic job. As a parent and a constituent, I don’t see a lot of red flags going on. We’re doing good with our budget, our curriculum and how our students feel, so I don’t see a lot of things needing to be shaken up,” Hall said when asked how the board could improve.
Following the vote to choose Shive, board members personally thanked each candidate for their eagerness to take on the position.
“I sincerely hope your desire to become a board member does not diminish between now and next April,” member J.R. Collins said to the candidates who weren’t chosen after the vote.
“There’s too many good candidates out here for one position, unfortunately,” board member Jesse Sheppeck added.
The board’s next session is set for Tuesday, June 18.