The Missouri Board of Education has launched a search for the next leader of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. During Thursday’s conference call, the board voted in favor of allowing the public to begin applying immediately and stop accepting applications after January 8.

Speedy search underway for new Missouri Education Commissioner

Vice President Victor Lenz said accepting applications before a board committee could gather suggestions about what Missouri officials are hoping for in the next commissioner “defied common sense.”

“It’s a slap in the face to educators,” Lenz said. “It’s a slap in the face to legislators. It’s a slap in the face to executives in the Governor’s Office if you ask for applications to go without getting their input.”

In comparison, the 2014 search for a new education chief lasted about seven weeks. Board President Charlie Shields wanted the search to last for a few weeks to also get input from stakeholders and to allow a search firm the opportunity to pull nationwide candidates.

Governor Eric Greitens’ five controversial appointees said there is no reason to hold off on letting people apply because the board can reopen the search if applicants don’t measure up. The board has not worked out the details of the qualifications it wants the next education CEO to hold. Greitens appointees Eddy Justice, Doug Russell, Sonny Jungmeyer, Jennifer Edwards and Eric Teeman might not receive a Missouri Senate confirmation hearing by the January 8 application closing.

The search follows the members appointed by Greitens voting this month in favor of firing Margie Vandeven. Those voting against terminating Vandeven were veteran members Shields, Lenz and Mike Jones. Greitens, who orchestrated the removal of Vandeven, says the board has taken a major step in the right direction to improve Missouri’s public education.