In a letter sent to the Rockwood School District Board of Education Sunday, Director Steve Smith resigned from the board, effective today.
He also stated: "...As I step aside, I challenge all to now focus on our children."
Smith was elected to the district's Board of Education in April 2011. His term would have expired in April 2014.
His resignation comes after Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich's presentation Wednesday evening regarding audit findings of the Rockwood School District. Schweich also said the state's auditing team believed Smith represented a conflict of interest pertaining to some of his votes during board meetings regarding work change orders that benefitted his employer, Glenn Construction Company.
Smith became the lightning rod of controversy in 2011 over his dual role as board president and project coordinator for the construction company, which had overseen all of the Rockwood district's bond-related construction projects for the previous 14 years.
Rockwood board of education directors said they did not agree with the auditors' assessment of Smith, citing legal advice they were provided in writing by two Missouri School Board Association attorneys when Smith joined the board.
Smith said Wednesday evening, after the audit presentation, he was never contacted by the auditing team to discuss or confirm any details about board matters.
He previously stepped away from leading the board in December 2011: Rockwood Board of Education President Resigns Presidency
Following is Smith's full announcement from Sunday:
About three years ago, I decided to run to fill a board vacancy in Rockwood because I thought that I could help the Board and a newly-hired Superintendent focus on kids. Because I remain committed to keeping the focus on kids—our students—it seems to me that it is time for me to resign.
I have become the shorthand version of what is holding Rockwood back. It is easier to blame me than to honestly discuss what our shortcomings and strengths are. It is more convenient for adults to blame me than consider what is best for children. Some citizens and the State Auditor find it easy to blame me without talking to me about their accusations.
I have tried time and again to defend myself. However, politics and journalism have become drive-by events, rather than dialogue and discussion. I have become the main target, and that is not helpful to kids.
I will take this last opportunity to try to explain: I was not on the Board when Glenn Construction was hired by Rockwood for the 2010 Bond Issue package; I received an opinion from the Missouri School Board Association that I could vote on construction matters that did not benefit Glenn; this opinion was seconded by former Superintendent Dr. Larson; when votes were needed, I left the room; I never knowingly voted to benefit Glenn Construction; and I never cast a deciding vote on any Rockwood change orders.
I don’t see the conversation changing as long I remain part of the Board. The conversation must change, so that everyone’s time can be refocused on children. At this time, this means that education and Prop S must be in the forefront of the community dialogue and vision. I have become convinced that there are people who will not allow this to happen if I am still on the Board. As I step aside, I challenge all to now focus on our children.
When I first moved to the St. Louis area in 1973, my then fiancé, now wife, had a job in Rockwood. So the first people I met in St. Louis were Rockwood teachers and administrators. They were outstanding human beings: hard workers, with a very strong work ethic, who focused totally on children. As Rockwood grew, it continued to attract those people. Our district has grown strong on the backs of those. Recently, we have challenged their ability with sub-standard pay and political shenanigans. Some allege that our schools must behave like businesses. Our “product” is children: their future and the future of our country. That “business” cannot be run like any other.
At the same time, I admit that I no longer wish to expend my energy trying to explain myself and to withstand the diatribes of the uninformed. I am tired and, quite honestly, unwilling to continue in this vein. My family and my friends have suffered as well and my aim is to get them and myself some relief.
I have notified the Board secretary of my resignation from the Rockwood Board of Education, effective Monday, March 4. While I know that this will not solve all problems, I hope that it will change the focus. At the same time, I hope that others, especially those others at whom fingers are pointing, will examine their roles in current issues. One person did not bring us to this point and one person will not be the solution. We must get beyond the point of believing that disagreement on an issue is reason to create discord and incivility (I wonder what lessons we are teaching our children). Every issue has at least two sides. Please begin to listen to each other.
I don’t intend this to be maudlin. I am simply going to give other parts of my life more of my time. I have enjoyed, always, giving time and attention to the education of my community. I believe that I have been a positive influence by insisting that this is all about people, mature people of good will collaborating on behalf of young people.
Let’s all move ahead.
Board members who wish to resign from office follow Rockwood School District Board of Education Policy 0323, and send a letter of resignation to the board secretary.
When a vacancy occurs on the Rockwood School District's Board of Education, remaining board of directors will, by majority vote, select an individual to fill the vacant position until the next annual school election.