FESTUS, Mo. — Some meetings are standing-room only, but at the Jefferson R-7 school board meeting Tuesday night, there was barely even room for that.

Parents and students were packed in like sardines, demanding to know from the school board what happened to their superintendent, Clint Johnston.

"Why is he not here?" one parent asked.

Students said they got an email late last week that said Johnston had been placed on a leave of absence. No explanation was given.

"He's the backbone of this community,” sophomore Laney Smith said.

The loss is hard on her. She loves her school.

"All the teachers know your name, every one of them cares. You aren't going to find that anywhere else,” she said.

She said Johnston is the reason for that culture.

“It’s definitely him, it's definitely him,” she said. "He wants to hear from the kids, he truly cares about our opinion.”

The school board remained in closed session until after 10 p.m. Tuesday.

5 On Your Side reached out to the chair for comment but has not received a response.