December 19, 2014

Dr. Margaret Vandeven named Missouri Education Commissioner

The state Board of Education has selected the state’s next Commissioner of Education.

Missouri Commissioner of Education-designee Dr. Margaret Vandeven (courtesy; Missouri Department of Education)

Missouri Commissioner of Education-designee Dr. Margaret Vandeven (courtesy; Missouri Department of Education)

It voted unanimously for Dr. Margaret Vandeven, who has been with the Department for nine years and has most recently served as the Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Learning Services. She will take over January 1, 2015 for Commissioner Chris Nicastro, whose retirement is effective at the end of this month.

In a statement, State Board president Peter Herschend wrote, “We believe in the positive impact of the Top 10 by 20 plan on Missouri’s children,” referring to the Department’s goal of getting Missouri students’ achievement in the top 10 of national rankings by 2020. “We strongly believe that Dr. Margie Vandeven is the right person to accomplish the goals of the plan.”

The Department says its Top 10 by 20 initiative will be a primary focus for Vandeven.

“I am honored to serve as Missouri’s Commissioner of Education, and I am committed to and focused on doing what’s right for the children of Missouri,” said Vandeven. “I stand ready to support our school districts and charter schools, working together to move Missouri into the top 10 in student performance.

Vandeven has been in education for 24 years. Prior to her work in the Department she spent 13 years as an English language arts teacher and administrator in private schools in Missouri and Maryland. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Education at Missouri State University, Master of Education at Loyola College in Maryland and Doctor of Philosophy at St. Louis University.

Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement congratulating Vandeven on being selected.

“I congratulate Dr. Vandeven on being named to this important post,” wrote Nixon. “Missouri’s Commissioner of Education plays a critical role in helping to ensure that all children in our state have the opportunity to go to a good public school where they will learn the skills and knowledge they need to find success in college or career. I look forward to working with Dr. Vandeven, educators and school leaders, and the Missouri General Assembly as we move forward toward our shared goal of continuing to improve the quality of education for students in every community.”

She will speak to the media in a conference call this afternoon. Watch for further news on her selection.


Board releases list of five Candidates for Ed Commissioner

The state Board of Education has narrowed to five its list of finalists to replace Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro at the end of this month.

They are Terry Adams, former superintendent at Rockwood and Wentzville, Douglas Hayter, superintendent at the Branson School District, C.J. Huff, superintendent at Joplin, Norman Ridder, interim superintendent at Mehlville and formerly at Springfield, and deputy education commissioner Margaret Vandeven.

The Board will meet next week to interview those candidates. They were selected from a field of 40 applicants and nominees.

Transfer legislation offered in the Missouri House

A bill has been filed that aims to fix problems with the state’s student transfer system without the contention of one that fell to a veto this year.

Representative David Wood (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative David Wood (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri law that lets students transfer out of failing schools to better performing ones at the expense of the failing districts threatens to bankrupt some districts. The issue was considered by many lawmakers the most important in the 2014 session

A bill to change the transfer law, or “fix” it in the words of most lawmakers, fell to a veto however because Governor Jay Nixon said it would have violated the state Constitution by allowing a way for public money to get to private schools. Many legislators opposed the so-called “private option,” so there were not enough votes to overturn his veto.

“There was a lot of good ideas that basically went down the tubes because of the private option,” Versailles Representative David Wood told Missourinet.

Wood is aiming for a more focused approach than was offered by that bill.

“I’m only going to look at the tuition portion of it, how we accredit school buildings inside an unaccredited school district and some other policy changes,” Wood said. “I haven’t touched on any of the private school option or any of the charter school changes that was in the previous bill.”

Wood proposes having accreditation determined by buildings rather than entire districts, and making the first transfer option for a student in an unaccredited building to be to go to better-performing school in the same district.

“It eliminates part of the transportation issue, you’re still getting them to a quality education, but you’re doing it inside the boundaries of that district,” said Wood.

Wood says he might offer separate bills to deal with the private and charter school options.

“For right now we’re just going to look at trying to keep from bankrupting the schools, having a fair tuition rate, and the way we actually look at the unaccredited buildings in the district.”

The new session begins January 7.

Schools, events cancelled ahead of Ferguson decision

Schools in the Ferguson area have already announced closings for tomorrow, in case protests –or celebrations— turn violent. Tonight, the public awaits a grand jury decision whether to prosecute a police officer in the deadly shooting of local teen Michael Brown almost four months ago. The Ferguson-Florissant School District announced there would be no day or evening activities “in consideration of the safety of all students and staff.”

Local TV station KSDK posted this list of school, club and community event closings. This is in response to protests turned violent after Brown’s shooting in August.

This time, St. Louis state Senator Jamilah Nasheed that she is “praying for peace for this city here.” “Protestors should peacefully protest and let their voices be heard and not wreak havoc on our community and tear down businesses and destroy properties and things of that sort,” she told KMOX in St. Louis.

International students a half-billion dollar boost (AUDiO)

More students from foreign countries than ever before are going to college in Missouri. That means a lot of money for the state’s economy.

The Institute for Higher Education counts a record 18-thousand-205 students from other countries are enrolled at Missouri higher education institutions, eight percent more than last year.   Almost two-thirds of them come from five countries–China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Brazil.  China, alone, accounts for forty percent of the international students in Missouri.

The chairwoman of the Study Missouri Consortium, Karla McCollum, says the consortium thinks those students put about one-half billion dollars into the state economy.

She says Missouri’s high-quality institutions and relatively-low tuition rates are attractive to students from other countries. She says many of them come here for the STEM programs–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

She says the schools try to make those students part of the campus mainstream. “One of the ways international students assimilate is through clubs and organizations.  Living in the dorm is another way.”  She says schools have International Program Directors who can help students from other countries fit in.

McCollum, who also is the Admissions Director at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, says most of the students have at least some proficiency in English. They have to reach a minimum score on an English test so schools know they can keep up in class and understand the instructors.  Schools do have some English-as-Second Language program to help students who need some help.

Audio: McCullom interview 14:09.