JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri State Board of Education is trying to decide what qualities and characteristics they’ll be seeking in the next commissioner, though there are some questions about how to decide what those will be.
The board on Thursday entered into a meeting to discuss how to proceed in their search to replace Dr. Margie Vandeven, who was fired from her position in late November.
During Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners debated the merits of opening the position up for applicants immediately or waiting to put together a list of qualities they were searching for.
President Charlie Shields said that, given the public’s interest in the Margie Vandeven situation, it “would be wrong not to seek outside input in commissioner search.” He also told his fellow members it might be good to use an outside search firm to assist in the search.
Some of the board members pushed to start accepting applications immediately and make a decision by January 9, which would be before any Senate review of appointments.
One of Gov. Eric Greitens’ appointees, Eddy Justice, argued that the board shouldn’t wait until next month to open up the job to applicants.
But other members, namely the ones not appointed by Gov. Greitens, argued that there was a proper process to be followed, and that they should outline what they were seeking first.
As one commissioner said: “We don’t know what the Governor is even looking for.”
Vice President O. Victor Lenz, Jr. said they needed a finite date in place for when the applications will be accepted.
“That’s what being open and transparent is,” he said.
“You gotta remember that we are hiring a public official,” Commissioner Mike Jones said. “We need a process that validates that we were open to the best candidates and gave them all the opportunity to file an application.”
In the end, the Greitens’ appointees prevailed, voting 5-3 to open the commissioner application process on Friday and advertise the position on the web using the previous job description. Under the motion passed on Thursday, the board would close the process on January 8, and review everything on the 9th.
Justice told the Missouri Times after the meeting that he feels like they’re “in a good spot” and were able to get the ball moving in the right direction.
Justice said that the qualifications from the last search are listed on the website, and are very general in nature, but that the board will seek input from education organizations and stakeholders into what qualities they would seek, and then use those in the process of interviewing the candidates after the application period is closed.
But he noted that the decision leaves the door open on the 9th to continue accepting more applications if they feel it is necessary, rather than permanently closing the process off to applicants.
Not all agreed with the decision, as Lenz noted during the discussion, saying that it was “a slap in the face to educators, legislators, and executives if you ask for the application to go out before you get their input.”
“It just not how you would do this for a high-level job.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.