Board of Education searching for new leader

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JEFFERSON CITY - After being inactive for nearly a year, the Missouri Board of Education is launching a search for a new leader.

"The commissioner of education is the chief executive officer of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education." said Matt Michelson, a director for the Missouri State Teachers' Association. "They really are that leader for that entire state department."

The search follows the departure of Margie Vandeven, who was fired in December 2017 by a board nearly hand picked by former Gov.Eric Greitens.

Efforts to replace Vandeven proved challenging. Senators refused to confirm the former governor's five appointees, resulting in a six-month period in which the board was unable to convene or make recommendations on educational policy or regulations.

The board must have at least five sitting members in order to be considered active. 

"We did not have a functional state board," said Melissa Randol, the executive director of the Missouri School Board Association. "We only had three individuals who could vote and who could convene a meeting."

Michelson said, "Now we have a new board in place with appointees from Governor Parsons who ultimately have the job of hiring a commissioner of education."

According to the Missouri School Board Association, the commissioner is a crucial figure in decision making for institutions in Missouri.

"Their responsibility is to work with the state board in setting policy for all of public education throughout Missouri," Randol said.

That means the commissioner has a say in decisions ranging from graduation requirements to school accreditation standards.

"As a parent, it's very important to follow what's going on at the state board level because they will determine what the priorities are at the local level," Randol said.

Those priorities can range from evaluating the culture and climate of a school to reconsidering the significance of end of course exams.

"Whether or not you can graduate if you past the test," Randol said. "Those are the kinds of debates that go on at the state board level working with the commissioner.

With the appointment of four board members by Gov. Parsons, and the confirmation of three, the board now has six sitting members.

The deadline for applications is at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 19.