Overland Park & Leawood

October 25, 2013

Kansas school board member criticized for promoting business

At a meeting, Steve Roberts of Overland Park handed out brochures for his tutoring business. Ethics official says no law was violated.

A Kansas State Board of Education member from Overland Park is being criticized for passing out brochures for his tutoring business at a meeting.

The board member, Republican Steve Roberts, refers to himself as “Mr. X, Mentor of Mathematics.” Last week, he directed Highland Park High School students to a website where clients can subscribe to a math instructional program for $15 per month. The site, but not the cards, says Kansas residents can access tutorials for free.

Several fellow board members are objecting, including the board’s chairwoman, Jana Shaver.

“In my opinion, that is not the appropriate time to distribute that as they were leaving our state board meeting,” said Shaver, a Republican from Independence.

Roberts, who was elected last year to the board, has two decades of experience as a private tutor of math, engineering and science principles. He said positioning himself at an exit and handing materials marketing mrxmath.com to the high school students was a spur-of-the-moment calculation.

But Sally Cauble, a Dodge City Republican who serves as vice chairwoman, said members of the board approached Roberts after last week’s session to express reservations about his circulation of self-promotional advertising.

“A couple of us felt like it was unethical,” Cauble said. “My concern was that he was representing the state school board.”

Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said no ethics law in Kansas forbids Roberts from distributing information about his company while performing duties as an elected official. A conflict of interest could exist if Roberts attempted to persuade the state board to adopt his math tutoring or Internet instruction programs for use in public schools, Williams said.

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