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COLUMBIA - Columbia education leaders are concerned Gov. Eric Greitens is playing partisan politics with the state's board of education when they say the focus should be on Missouri children.

Monday, Greitens removed a board appointee the night before members are expected to discuss removing the state's top education official, Commissioner Margie Vandeven. 

The board is made up of eight members and the governor gets to appoint these members, but that's where Greitens' control is supposed to end. Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman is concerned Greitens is using the members he appoints to influence the commissioner's removal. He said Vandeven has had a positive impact on Missouri schools and she shouldn't be pushed out of her role.

"Never in our history have we had an assault on public education like this," Stiepleman said. "So, what does it mean for mid-Missouri? Not sure, other than it could mean that we are starting over for in terms of how we set goals for our state and where we go. And this is not a time to start over, this a time to move forward and this is a commissioner that can do this for us."

Since Greitens took office in January, numerous vacancies on the board led to him appointing five of the eight board members. And since making those appointments, he's withdrawn two. The members had indicated they did not support removing the commissioner. Columbia School Board Member Jonathan Sessions said education leaders statewide are questioning the legality of these last minute changes.

"It's clearly a tactic, it's clearly motivated by wanting control of a board that is supposed to be independent of politics," Sessions said. "That's my concern as a board member is playing partisan politics with an independent body that's supposed to be supporting our children."
The State Board of Education meets Tuesday morning in a closed session. Stiepleman said they're holding their breath for the results of the meeting. He has this message for the governor, "Don't fire a successful CEO, right? Just going from a business perspective, you don't fire a successful CEO."
Commissioner Vandeven declined to comment on the story. Governor Greitens' office did not reply to KOMU 8 News' request for comment.