Beth Phillips Tops Kestner By 3-2 Vote

MOUNDSVILLE – Marshall County Board of Education member Lori Kestner said she is reconsidering her position on the board after fellow board member Beth Phillips was elected the board’s new president at a Monday meeting.

Both Phillips and Kestner were nominated for the position Monday, with board member John Miller nominating Phillips and Tom Gilbert nominating Kestner. Phillips won by a 3-2 vote with board members Phillips, Duane Miller and John Miller voting for Phillips and Kestner and Gilbert voting for Kestner. The board also voted unanimously to elect Gilbert as vice president.

Phillips replaces outgoing president Roger Lewicki, who was defeated by Duane Miller in May’s election. Kestner most recently served as vice president of the board.

“First of all, congratulations Tom and Beth,” Kestner said near the end of the meeting. “I do want to say … after 10 years of service, obviously those around the table do not feel that I fit the bill for president and if that’s something that … you don’t believe that I’m filling the role of the board, I just wish you all would stand up and say so … and if there was some reason you didn’t think I could fulfill that I would appreciate you tell me that.”

“I think moving around isn’t a bad idea,” John Miller said in response to Kestner’s comments. Lewicki “left some very big shoes to fill.”

After the meeting, Kestner said she will have to take time to evaluate whether she can continue to serve on the board after Monday’s vote.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely,” Kestner said. “Because I’ve worked so hard and because there are things I’ve done for the schools they don’t even know about it. I think I have to evaluate if this is a group of people I can work with. I think it’s a personal evaluation. I think I can do just as much good on my own than with people who don’t want me there. It’s just like any team: Some people click and some people don’t. It was very upsetting. It was almost like a marriage. You put in the time and energy and they say they don’t want me there.”

Kestner said she attempted to contact Phillips several weeks before Monday’s meeting to ask her thoughts on the restructuring of the board’s leadership, but Kestner said Phillips ignored her calls and attempts to talk to her about the position.

“I heard she contacted the other two board members before tonight,” Kestner said. “When she sat there in silence at the time of the vote … it’s really hard to work with people you don’t trust. She did her internal campaigning. That’s what hurt was for them not to comment. I think I deserve at least that. I know its for the kids, but at the end of the day there are teams that work together and teams those who don’t. I don’t want to be that person they put to the side as they take over.”

Phillips said she was shocked by the vote and said her goals as president will be no different from the goals of the board.

“I’m just going to focus on student achievement and hopefully keep us moving in the right direction,” Phillips said.

John Miller explained his vote for Phillips, saying there are board members who have not had a chance to be in a leadership position yet.

“I think we need to pass leadership responsibilities to other board members,” John Miller said. “We are all duly-appointed public servants.”

Monday’s meeting was also the first for Duane Miller.

“I’m looking forward to working with the superintendent and the rest of the board,” Miller said. “Being the new person, I want to make new relationships and give kids the best education possible. My goal is just to put kids first and being open and having good communication with the public.”

The board will meet next at 7 p.m. today in the board offices.