By one more vote than required, Missouri’s Board of Education has removed Margie Vandeven as state education commissioner. Members voted 5-3 in favor of firing Vandeven, who spent more than an hour today behind closed doors with them before they voted.
The board has made Deputy Education Commissioner Roger Dorson the interim chief. He says he’s not interested in the permanent top spot.
Republican Governor Eric Greitens, who has worked relentlessly to appoint members to the board to terminate Vandeven, said kids, teachers and families have won today. He said the board has taken a major step in the right direction to improve Missouri’s public education.
“Our teachers need a raise. If they just got paid at the national average, they’d make nearly $10,000 more a year. Meanwhile, we’ve got more administrators than most of the country, and their pay is rising more than twice as fast as teacher pay. Some make big bucks—more than $250,000 a year—while too many teachers struggle to get by,” Greitens said in a written statement.
Greitens wants to reportedly replace Vandeven with charter schools advocate Kenneth Zeff of Atlanta.
Former Greitens appointee Claudia Onate Greim of Kansas City, a Democrat, resigned yesterday after breaking rank with the governor last week and voting to retain Vandeven. Two minutes before today’s board meeting, Eric Teeman of western Missouri’s Raytown, was announced as the governor’s new appointee to the board.
Teeman told Missourinet he spoke to Vandeven prior to the board’s public portion of the meeting. How involved his discussions were with her about how she would move education forward is unknown. Prior to the board vote, Teeman was asked if he felt informed enough to vote.
“I’m a very informed person,” said Teeman.
Missourinet asked him if he is prepared to vote either way.
“I guess I’ll know after I listen and learn,” said Teeman.
Member Mike Jones of St. Louis, who voted in favor of keeping Vandeven, said the board has lost its legitimacy as a governing body.
“I think this board today, forfeited its right to ask for your cooperation in implementing public policy. I know that’s hard because children are at risk,” said Jones.
Vandeven, Board President Charlie Shields, Vice President Victor Lenz and Jones spoke to the press after today’s closed session. The governor’s five appointees did not stick around to answer questions.
Vandeven, who has been praised by many education officials for her grace throughout this drama-filled time, said today should not be about her but instead about the board voting to make Normandy Public Schools a provisionally accredited district.
“It’s a great celebration. It shows exactly what people have done to come together throughout our communities for the betterment of kids. The stories are countless on how districts have worked together, the region has worked together to support our children and to provide better opportunities,” said Vandeven. “If I had to go out on a day, this is a good one to go out on.”
Vandeven said she is thankful to those who have supported her leadership.
“The job of commissioner in Missouri is traditionally not a political role. But at the moment, political forces are eclipsing educational decisions. Although I didn’t come to Jefferson City to fight, I’m willing to fight for children and teachers,” said Vandeven. “Missouri is my home. It’s a great state because it has amazing and compassionate people and our schools are the soul of our state. While I’m sad to leave a job that I wasn’t ready to leave, I know Missouri will stay strong in its commitment to our children.”
Vandeven shook every person’s hand and thanked them before leaving the public portion of the meeting.
Cole County Judge Jon Beetem has denied two temporary restraining orders after hearing arguments in court Thursday afternoon. The court motions were filed after Greitens withdrew and replaced some of his appointees to the board who voiced support for Vandeven.
The judge’s decision prevents former appointee John Sumners of Joplin from retaining his position on the board. The judge said Sumners’ request to bar his replacement from serving on the board would have to be submitted by the Attorney General or an elected county official.
The second lawsuit has been filed by Springfield teacher Laurie Sullivan against the board about whether the panel going into closed session last week and making decisions or votes about who should be on the board was done in a legal manner.