One week after the Missouri Board of Education voted in a 4-4 split to keep current Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, she found herself out of a job after more turnover led to a new appointee pushing the vote to 5-3.
This decision came in spite of school boards from all over the state passing resolutions in support of keeping Dr. Vandeven in the position she’s served since January 2015.
The night before this week’s meeting, board member Claudia Greim stepped down. Her appointed replacement, Eric Teeman, was sworn in before Friday’s meeting and apparently knew enough just one day on the job about the commissioner to cast a deciding vote to send her out of office.
Teeman had just resigned from the Raytown Board of Alderman on November 7. In other reports, Teeman noted he’d been offered an opportunity that would require his full attention. He noted the change in his professional life. It appears Teeman was being groomed to take his seat on the board and the plans were in place for nearly a month before he joined it. When Greim stepped down, she sent a letter to the governor regarding her decision.
“As I have made clear throughout my two-month service, when and how change in leadership at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should occur require(s) thoughtful and independent study,” she wrote in a letter to the governor. “I regret that I cannot get comfortable with the current process taking place.”
Political affiliations aside, this entire process doesn’t look good for the governor.
Gov. Greitens has already appointed 10 members two the board. Two declined appointments, Greim was clear with her reason to resign, and two others were removed after going public with pressure allegations in regards to the goal of removing Dr. Vandeven.
One of the board members he pulled off the board was Peter Herschend in July after he served 26 years. I knew Pete from when I worked in Branson and had a couple of Bible studies with him and several businessmen. I’m not sure why he was asked to step down other than he served for a long time and the governor’s office wanted someone new. The two members who complained of pressure have since participated in state board meetings since they’ve been booted off.
What is so crazy is that the governor’s office has appointed five members when the General Assembly has been out of session and none of the five members have been cleared through the Senate confirmation process.
So people are voting, board members are coming and going, and several people haven’t even been approved to be on the board.
Another problem with this whole situation involves the governor’s attempt to having a mostly Republican state board of education.
The Missouri Constitution requires the board to be made up of no more than four members belonging to the same political party. Without getting into specifics here, there is also a Sunshine Law lawsuit into how one issue was being handled. There has also been a lawsuit filed against the governor’s office for failure to follow the rules in removing one board member.
The governor’s goal is to end what his office calls the bureaucracy of the state education department.
Concerns relate to the pay of school administrators across the state while noting the teacher’s pay has been getting worse.
Some information to back up his claim might be a National Education Association report showing the average teacher salary ranking 40th in the nation.
Meanwhile, administrators’ pay result in the ninth highest per capita in the nation. That is according to a May 2016 report in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the surface, there appears to be some good intentions of what the governor’s office wants to do at the state board of education level in regards to teacher and administrator pay.
My problem is with how his office is going about it.
Board members are not even approved by the general assembly, there appears to be a disregard for the Missouri Constitution in regards to the makeup of the state board, and now there is just one mass shake-up that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.
Personally, I think he should have waited to get state board members approved by the General Assembly, which has a Republican majority, and then push for a vote.
It appears to be that most administrators throughout the state are against what the governor’s office is doing, and their political affiliation doesn’t effect where they stand on what is taking place. It will take the governor’s office some time to build up a trusted relationship with educators across the state after these recent events.