Missouri's new governor has restored the State Board of Education back to working order with the appointment of two new board members, including one from Kansas City, and another who has had experience on the board.
The appointments come in time for the state board to meet its obligations to hold a constitutionally mandated meeting later this month and puts the board in position to begin the search for a new commissioner of education. The board meets Thursday, June 14.
"We owe it to our students to provide the best, high quality public education in Missouri," Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement released on Tuesday. "It was important to act quickly to restore and provide functionality to the State Board of Education. We expect the Board will begin conducting a diligent national search, to find a capable, qualified candidate to serve as Missouri's Commissioner of Education."
Parson appointed Carol Hallquist, of Kansas City, and Peter Herschend, of Branson, to the eight-member board which had been down to only three active members since January when political maneuvering by former Gov. Eric Greitens left the board without a quorum to conduct business.
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"Delighted to see Governor Parson make balanced appointments to the State Board of Education," State Rep. Kathy Swan, said in a statement. Swan, who chairs the House Education Committee, said she is looking forward to continuing to work with the state board on behalf of the state's nearly 900,000 students.
Hallquist, the director of SchoolSmart Kansas City, retired as president of the Hallmark Corporate Foundation at Hallmark Cards Inc. in 2016. Her community involvement focuses on education, diversity and women's leadership.
She is the founder of PrincipalsConnect, a nonprofit organization that matches retired business professionals with urban school principals, and serves as regional board chairwoman of Teach for America, as a trustee on the William Jewell College Board of Trustees, and as a board member of Turn the Page KC, a Kansas City Mayor Sly James initiative.
Hallquist holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Iowa State University and a master's degree in business administration from Rockhurst College. In 2016 she was a fellow at Harvard's Advanced Leadership Initiative, where she focused on urban education.
Herschend, a co-founder and co-owner of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, formerly Silver Dollar City Inc., served as executive vice president of the organization for 20 years and then as vice chairman of the board until he retired in 2006.
Herschend is graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia where he got a degree in business administration. He also holds an honorary doctorate in business administration from Southwest Baptist University.
Thursday's appointment brings Herschend back to the state education board where he previously had served three terms, including several years as president.
In 2011, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce honored Herschend with its Education Supporter of the Year award.
Charles Shields, current president of the board, said Herschend is "a great board member with a lot of experience."
Shields said he had spoken a year ago with Hallquist about her interest in serving on the state board.
"I think Carol will be a great addition. She is well respected in Kansas City in the corporate and philanthropic communities."
Given that the board has not met in five months, Shields said when the members come together on Thursday they will have an extensive agenda.
The to-do list will include deciding on charter school renewals, and going through a pile of school district teacher disciplinary actions. The board also will re-energize discussions on development of the sixth iteration of the Missouri School Improvement Plan and on how to proceed with a new commissioner search.
Former Commissioner Margie Vandeven was fired in December after Greitens made several attempts at appointments and appointment withdrawals in order to get a five board members — a majority — who would agree to oust Vandeven.
Once Vandeven was gone, Greitens withdrew all five of his board appointees, then quickly reappointed them in an attempt to buy more time for confirmation by the state Senate.
That plan backfired. None of his appointees was confirmed and nominees appointed during the legislative session aren't allowed to serve until they are confirmed, leaving the state board with only three members.
Shields said the board will likely continue to consider the 10 people who applied for the commissioner's position earlier in the year but will probably reopen the application process to expand the applicant pool.
Shields said he has spoken with Vandeven since she was terminated. Vandeven was well liked by educators across the state who said she had done a lot to bridge a gap between district and state administrators.
Vaneven, who still lives in Missouri, has taken a position, with a education data company.
"I think she is very happy," Shields said. "I don't know if she would be interested in coming back."
For now, Shields said he's ready to see the board get back to work with its two new members.
"Governor Parson's decision to appoint Carol and Peter to the board will help restore and maintain stability."
In additon to Shields, Hallquist and Herschend, other on the board are Vice President O. Victor Lenz Jr. of Lindbergh and member Michael W. Jones of St. Louis.