One of Gov. Eric Greitens’ appointees to Missouri’s embattled State Board of Education resigned Thursday, opening the door for the governor to pick a replacement who could revive his efforts to oust the state’s top education official.
The departure of Claudia Onate Greim, of Kansas City, came after months of work by Greitens to fill the education board with a majority of his appointees to have them vote out Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. Greitens reportedly wants to replace Vandeven with a proponent of charter school expansion.
Greitens appointed Greim along with four other members of the eight-member state board. Other Greiten appointees have said it was made clear that one of their first duties would be to fire Vandeven.
But then last Tuesday, Greim joined with three board members appointed by former Gov. Jay Nixon in opposing the firing. The 4-4 vote left Vandeven as commissioner.
In her resignation letter, Greim said a change of leaderships requires thoughtful and independent study. She wrote that she “cannot get comfortable” with the way the process is taking place, and she urged her successor to be steadfast.
Greim could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Her resignation came the day before another scheduled board meeting. Greitens could appoint a new member to the board before Friday’s meeting, someone who would provide the fifth vote needed to oust Vandeven.
Greitens had pledged during his campaign for governor in 2016 to support charter school expansion and education savings accounts. During the campaign, he accepted more than $370,000 from some of the country’s top school-choice proponents, including Betsy DeVos, now the U.S. education secretary.
Changes on the board have been going on for months.
Last Monday, Greitens rescinded his October appointment of John T. Sumners of Joplin after Sumners said he would not vote to fire Vandeven. The next day, in a last-minute effort to tilt the board’s vote, the governor appointed Jennifer Edwards of Springfield to replace Sumners just before the board’s meeting began.
In August, Greitens appointed Melissa Gelner of Springfield. In September, he removed her from the board after she voiced concerns about the plan to oust Vandeven.
Sumners was Gelner’s replacement.
Thursday night, a Cole County circuit judge ruled against efforts by Sumners to keep his seat on the board.
Sumners had argued the governor didn’t follow state laws to remove him and asked Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem to block his replacement, Jennifer Edwards, from voting on the board. But Beetem ruled against the temporary restraining order Sumners asked for, saying it’s up to the state attorney general, a prosecutor or circuit attorney to seek her removal from the board.
Greitens’ spokesman Parker Briden in a statement called the decision “a win for teachers and students.”
The Star’s Jason Hancock contributed to this article.