School Board Members Sworn In

Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer, far right, administered the oath of office Thursday morning to three school board members elected in the April 8 election. From left are Rebecca Voelkerding and Susan Thatcher, who are beginning their first three-year terms, and incumbent Scott Byrne, who is beginning his third term.     

Newly elected candidates for the Washington School Board were sworn into office Thursday morning at the district office.

The oath of office was administered to incumbent Scott Byrne, Labadie, and newcomers Rebecca Voelkerding, Washington, and Susan Thatcher, Labadie, by Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.

The three defeated Anton Hinrichs, Janie Chalem and Dan Haire, all of Washington, in a six-way race for three board seats.

Before the swearing in, the current board held its final session and certified results from the April 8 election.

The Washington School District takes in parts of three counties — Franklin, Warren and St. Charles. The vote totals in all three counties are: Voelkerding, 1,857; Byrne, 1,704; Thatcher, 1,342; Chalem, 1,038; Haire, 985; and Hinrichs, 629. There were 40 write-in votes.


At Thursday’s meeting, resolutions also were presented to outgoing board members Brian Sumner and Jennifer Triplett, who did not seek re-election. Both served three terms for a total of nine years.

Byrne thanked Sumner and Triplett for their service and helping him to learn the ropes when he first came on the board.

“When I was a newbie and you were seasoned, you really helped me in a lot of ways . . . to understand the Sunshine Law and Robert’s Rules of Order . . . and I really appreciated it,” he told them.

VanLeer said it’s unusual to have two board members begin at the same time and retire at the same time.

“It’s a big loss,” she said. “Nine years, three terms, that’s wonderful consistency and I appreciate the trust you’ve had in me.”

The superintendent said both should be commended for asking the right questions, understanding different situations and expressing their opinions eloquently.

Sumner said he’s enjoyed his time on the board and encouraged the new board members to continue to fight for public education.

Triplett agreed, and advised them to stay focused on making the school district the best it can be without personal agendas.

“You don’t all have to agree, but you do need to work together,” she said.

Triplett added she will miss serving on the board and thanked VanLeer and the administration for the support over the last nine years.

Officer Elections

The new board then met briefly to reorganize and elect officers for the next year.

Byrne was re-elected board president and Dan Contarini will remain as vice president. Trish Mitchell was elected secretary and Kevin Blackburn remains treasurer.

Julie Bell, assistant to the superintendent, will remain as custodian of records.

VanLeer also passed out packets to the board listing upcoming meetings, contact numbers, Sunshine Law requirements, confidentiality rules and other board-related information.

New board members also will have an opportunity to visit with each department at the district office to meet staff and gain a better understanding of what each office does, VanLeer said.

Byrne told the new board members he highly recommends they read the Sunshine Law thoroughly and understand it.

The next regular meeting of the school board will be Wednesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. at the administration building.