The City Council isn’t the only Bellevue public entity with a vacancy to fill.
Bellevue Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that school board member Alicia Richards will resign effective May 28.
The board accepted the resignation Monday. Richards cited “primary obligations to my family and business” as the reason for her departure in her resignation letter.
“I want to thank the Bellevue community for allowing me to serve as a member of the Bellevue Board of Education,” Richards wrote. “The Bellevue Public Schools are a source of pride for our community, and my service on the board has allowed me the rare opportunity to even better understand why that pride is so richly deserved.”
State statute allows the remaining members of the board to fill Richards’ term with an appointment of a qualified registered voter. If the school board fails to fill a vacancy, a special election can be called.
The City of Bellevue has waffled on how to fill a vacancy for Ward I on the City Council after Mayor Rita Sanders’ original choice was blocked. A special election was considered, but now Sanders plans to resubmit Mike Hall for confirmation.
The path forward for BPS is clearer. The school board decided Monday to accept applications for the seat May 15 through May 28. The board will review names at its June 3 meeting, either making a selection if only a couple apply or narrowing down the field of potential appointees.
A special meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 11 to interview candidates, which the option of board members making a decision that evening. If the board needs time to deliberate, another special meeting would be held June 18, so that whomever is selected can be sworn-in at the July 8 board meeting.
“Until they fill the vacancy, they will function as a five member board,” Superintendent Frank Harwood said. “It does not impact what the board does or can do in any way.”
Richards served just over half of her four-year term, which was her only experience in an elected office.
She was sworn in Jan. 10, 2011, in a campaign that followed the controversy of former Superintendent John Deegan’s resignation.
After her election, Richards said her priorities were communication and developing the school board’s leadership role. She told the Bellevue Leader in 2012 that the culture of political coercion that many described under Deegan was fading into the past.
“My goal is to hope that the culture continues to change and people do not feel compelled to have any political influence,” she said at the time.
Since then, she said she believes the board has made a lot of progress on her goals.
In addition to those priorities, Richards served as part of the three-member committee that helped identify candidates to replace Deegan.
One of the highlights of her tenure on the board was the selection of Harwood as superintendent and a shift in the leadership of the school district.
“I have a lot of confidence that (Harwood) will continue to lead Bellevue Public Schools in the right direction,” Richards said. “I still believe that building a positive culture is an important aspect for any organization to be successful.”
Richards served as a leader on the board, most recently as its president. Nina Wolford, the board’s vice president, will perform the president’s duties until the board can hold an election to name a new president. That election is expected to be held July 8 once the new board member is appointed.
Wolford praised Richards as a natural leader after the board voted to accept her letter of resignation on Monday.
“She has been a consensus-builder on the board,” Wolford said.
Harwood, joked with board member Frank Kumor, who asked whether the board could reject Richard’s resignation. Harwood also praised Richard’s leadership, and said he supported her decision.
“In the almost two years I have been here, Alicia has been great to work with,” he said.
“We will certainly miss her on the board. Being a board member does bring up some conflicts. When you get pulled in several ways, you have to make tough decisions.”
Richards is the former director of secondary education, a senior member of the BPS district administrative team.
Previously, she was principal of Logan Fontenelle Middle School, an assistant principal and a dean of students at Bellevue West High School and a mathematics teacher for the now Springfield Platteview Community Schools.
Now she is a financial advisor with Principal Financial Group, where she operates her own business in Bellevue.
“Serving my clients well is very important to me, and I don’t want any conflicts as my business continues to expand since I have opened an office in Bellevue,” Richards said. “I enjoy education and serving the community, but I want to continue growing my business by always providing great service to my clients. “
Making more time for her family is also important, she said. Her and her husband Bill, who is the director of the Lied Activity Center, have two children who attend BPS.
“I have a wonderful family, and they are extremely supportive in all of my endeavors including opening my own business with Principal Financial group five years ago,” Richards said. “ My mother is a woman I deeply admire and hope to spend more quality time with her.”
School board members receive no compensation, although the district does reimburse them for expenses.