Vote to remove DESE commissioner fails

10 months 1 day 3 hours ago Tuesday, November 21 2017 Nov 21, 2017 Tuesday, November 21, 2017 12:07:00 PM CST November 21, 2017 in News
By: Amber Sipe, KOMU 8 Reporter, Zara McDowell, KOMU 8 Reporter and Matt Weller, KOMU 8 Digital Producer
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JEFFERSON CITY - A vote to remove Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven failed Tuesday.

The vote was 4-4. Board members Eddy Justice, Doug Russell, Sonny Jungmeyer, and Jennifer Edwards voted in favor of a leadership change.

Board President Charlie Shields, Vice President Vic Lenz, Mike Jones and Claudia Oñate Greim voted against the motion.

In a press conference, Shields mentioned State Board of Education terms are eight years and staggered so one governor does not make too many appointments to the board. He said he has never, in his career, seen as many appointments as under Greitens, with five so far.

Greitens has been playing a little bit of political football with his appointee's. He puts one in and they are quickly benched.

All three of Greitens' appointees were able to speak at Tuesday's meeting but only the most recent appointee was allowed to vote.

Questions still remain as to who holds the seat.

"You have Mrs. Edwards as the last appointed and currently sits in the seat," Shields said.

The last two appointees, Tim Sumner and Melissa Gelner wrote a letter to the board asking for clarification on who has the seat and what the process will be.

"In their mind there's a belief that this issue is sufficiently vague and that it needs to be clarified. My position as board president is, Im not sure the board can clarify," Shields said. "I think ultimately that will be resolved in the court of law."

Shields said in a statement the board’s vote should “end the unnecessary chaos created by Gov. Greitens.”

The Executive Director of the Missouri School Boards Association, Melissa Randol, said in a statement the association is “very pleased” that the board voted against the “hasty decision” to remove Vandeven from her position.

Eddy Justice said, "The idea that the drive to change the status quo is distracting from teaching children is fundamentally flawed."

He said more than 60 percent of fourth and eighth grade students in Missouri cannot read proficiently and that has to change. If that status quo is not changed "we can't approve those numbers," Justice said.

Greitens withdrew appointee John "Tim" Sumners Monday evening. Sumners openly stated he would not vote for the removal of Vandeven, which does not align with Greitens's plan.

Greitens named Jennifer Edwards to the board Tuesday morning, after removing Sumners.

Sumners arrived at the meeting and could participate in discussion, but not vote on the motion.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Greitens said, "In our schools, we've got too many bureaucrats."

He said administrator pay has been increasing and, while there are complaints and ideas that Missouri does not give enough money to schools, Missourians actually spend the national average on schools.

Shields said, "The discussion has never been about competency or questions about skill set, qualifications, performance in the job. I've never heard any discussion about that from any member of the board."

"That money should go into the classroom. It should go to teachers," Greitens said.

Vandeven said, “I look forward to the focus returning to educating our children.” 

O. Victor Lenz, Missouri State Board of Education member, said, "I wish the governor would come and talk to us about what he wants done in education because then we could maybe work together. To this point, we haven't had any discussion from the governor's office."

The board is scheduled to meet again on Dec. 1.

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