Five finalists are vying to be Missouri’s next state education commissioner.
Deputy Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven is the sole internal candidate, and four current or former superintendents fill out the field announced by the State Board of Education on Monday.
The other finalists are Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff, former Springfield Superintendent Norm Ridder, Branson Superintendent Doug Hayter and former Wentzville Superintendent Terry Adams.
Vandeven was promoted at the first of this year to the deputy commissioner post that oversees learning services. She had been the state’s assistant commissioner for the office of quality schools.
Vandeven was a key lieutenant to retiring Commissioner Chris Nicastro as the department dealt with the Kansas City Public Schools’ loss of accreditation and its return to provisional accreditation.
Huff, who has been Joplin’s superintendent since 2008, led the school district through the devastating tornado of May 2011.
Joplin, which saw enrollment drop by more than 500 after the storm, has opened a new high school and several elementary schools and recovered most of its enrollment to nearly 7,600 students.
Ridder spent nine years leading one of the state’s largest districts in Springfield, with 25,000 students. He retired in June but immediately left for the Mehlville School District in south St. Louis County, which needed an interim superintendent.
Ridder was a finalist a year ago for Nebraska’s state commissioner post.
Adams most recently served his own interim superintendent role in 2013-2014, filling a temporary vacancy in the 22,000-student Rockwood School District in the St. Louis area.
Adams had been superintendent for the Wentzville School District since 2006, another St. Louis area district, with a growing enrollment of 13,700.
Hayter has led the 4,500-student Branson School District since 2003. Before that he was superintendent for the Logan-Rogersville School District east of Springfield.
The five finalists were chosen out of 40 nominations, the state board reported. The board will interview finalists next week and hopes to make a choice before the end of the year.
Nicastro’s retirement, which she announced in September, takes effect at the end of the year. The former superintendent of the Hazelwood and Riverview Gardens school districts has been commissioner since 2009.