Board of Education meets during time of conflict and controversies

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JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri’s State Board of Education gathered together Friday morning for the first time since two lawsuits were filed against Governor Greitens.

With a lot of drama and controversy surrounding Greitens, the Board of Education and Commissioner Margie Vandeven, the meeting could look different than usual, especially after one board member resigned late Thursday night. Claudia Onate Greim wrote that she "cannot get comfortable" with how the process is taking place. Greim voted against firing Vandeven.   

Columbia Public School’s Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said its possible there could be a closed meeting held to discuss the future of Vandeven for the second time.  

“A closed meeting to discuss personnel would mean that an attempt would be made again to remove our commissioner,” Stiepleman said.

“I think it’s really important to note that rural, urban and suburban superintendents support the commissioner of education, but more than anything, they support the independence of a the board of education, that they should set the goals for the commissioner and they should decide whether the commissioner has met those goals, and they should then decide whether or not the commissioner gets to stay. It shouldn’t be a political type of thing,” he said. 

Greitens attempt to get the board to remove Vandeven as commissioner in a recent election has led to a number of issues, including two potential lawsuits. 

One law suit was filed from a Joplin man who used to be on the board. Tim Sumners is asking that a judge to decide whether Greitens broke the law when he removed him from the board, just days after appointing him.

Stiepleman said the removal of Sumners raised a lot of questions. “That person took the oath, was installed, then was asked to remove the commissioner and then when they said ‘Look, I don’t even know who the commissioner is yet, like I have a job to do, you’ve hired me to do that,’ then to have their name pulled back out, there is a question about if that’s legal or if that’s not legal.”  

Another school teacher from Springfield filed a law suit saying the board broke the sunshine law by having a close-door session where it discussed whether or not to fire Vandeven.

Stiepleman said many superintendents are worried about the independence of the Board of Education and the politics that are making its way into the election.

 “It’s interesting that all of a sudden we find ourselves in a time where the independence of the state board of education is being challenged.”

Stiepleman also said he finds it peculiar that this is the first time the board doesn’t seem independent.

People from all over Missouri are sharing their thoughts on Twitter with the hash tag, #ShowMeMoEd.

Many users are posting reasons they think Missouri education is so great. Others are asking that the Governor come to visit their schools to see their success.

One twitter user posted, “MO educators, let's showcase the great things that are happening in education across MO before this Friday's board meeting. Add the #ShowMeMOEd twibbon to your profile pic & use the # to show our governor what's right in MO education!”

A number of other things are on Friday’s open-meeting agenda.

One of the issues being discussed is whether to move schools towards the Missouri Improvement Plan 6. According to Stiepleman, MCIP 6 looks at what Missouri employers look for in employees, while trying to intertwine those skills in the classroom.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is also recommending that the Board classifies Normandy Schools Collaborative as provisionally accredited.

Communications Coordinator Sarah Potter said Normandy Schools are the only under-credited schools in the state.  

Stiepleman said MCIP 6 should be the focus of the meeting, but he doesn’t believe it will be.

“That ought to be the conversation that’s going on right now, but now for the second month in a row we’re going to talk about whether or not the commissioner is doing a good job and I can tell you she is,” he said.   

The meeting took place at Friday morning at Jefferson City’s State Office Building.