‘An honor to return’: Missouri’s new education commissioner got her old job back

Margie Vandeven has been reappointed commissioner of education in Missouri.
Margie Vandeven has been reappointed commissioner of education in Missouri. File

In a twist that takes the Missouri Board of Education full circle, former education commissioner Margie Vandeven was renamed Tuesday to the state’s highest education post.

Vandeven, who was dismissed last year by a state education board that was allegedly manipulated by then-governor Eric Greitens, was chosen from among four finalists as Missouri Commissioner of Education.

Board president Charlie Shields said all seven board members voted to rehire Vandeven, who was nominated for the position. Vandeven will earn just under $192,000 a year and will begin her duties on Jan. 2.

“I am grateful to the State Board of Education for entrusting me with the responsibility of serving as Missouri’s commissioner of education,” Vandeven said. “It is an honor to return to the department, and I remain committed to doing what is best for the children of Missouri.”

Vandeven was appointed Missouri’s sixth commissioner of elementary and secondary education in December 2014. Supporters said that during the three years she served as state commissioner, she had made great strides in building a bridge between state education administrators and district-level educators. She was known across the state as a highly popular commissioner.

Nearly a year ago, Greitens appointed five new members to the education board in a series of moves suspected to be part of a plan to oust Vandeven. Greitens eventually resigned in May under controversy over his involvement in an alleged affair with his stylist and the subsequent investigation. Greiten’s maneuvers even completely shut down the board for a while. Gov. Mike Parson, who replaced Greitens restored the State Board of Education back to working order with the appointment of two new board members, including Carol Hallquist of Kansas City.

The state went nearly a year without a permanent commissioner. During that time, Deputy Commissioner Roger Dorson served as the state’s interim commissioner of education.

Shields and Vandeven thanked Dorson for stepping in and educators across the state expressed satisfaction with the board’s hire.

“The State Board of Education has made an excellent choice to re-hire Dr. Margie Vandeven as commissioner of education,” said Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association. “Dr. Vandeven has a proven track record of effective leadership for both the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and for public education in Missouri. ”

Vandeven, who is director of educational partnerships at SAS Institute in North Carolina, said during a press conference Tuesday that she doesn’t hold any grudges over the political drama that temporarily halted the work she was doing in Missouri.

Vandeven began her education career in 1990 as a communication arts teacher in O’Fallon. She served as a teacher and administrator in Missouri and Maryland until 2005, when she went to work for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

As commissioner Vandeven will oversee a staff of about 1,650 employees and work with 518 public school districts. Nearly a million students attend public schools in Missouri. She said she’s ready to get back to public service work and making sure students are getting quality education, from the best teachers who are working in conditions well supported by the state.

“I look forward to working with stakeholders from across our state — urban, rural and suburban. Through active collaboration among state and local leaders, educators and our families, we will — together — advance opportunities for each student.”

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