Pity the person who gets a job because no one else applied.
He or she could appear to be the choice by default. That’s not an acceptable scenario for a role as important as Missouri commissioner of education.
But so far, only one person has applied to be the state’s top education leader. Perhaps the dearth of candidates is a predictable result, given Gov. Eric Greitens’ recent meddling in this realm and the Board of Education’s efforts to pull off a lightning-fast, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it search that clearly isn’t aimed at attracting a large pool of strong applicants.
Now, qualified people who might entertain the prospect of becoming the commissioner might understandably be deterred after watching the governor go to inexplicable and unacceptable lengths to stack the board and oust Vandeven, the last person to hold the commissioner’s job.
It’s still somewhat unclear why Vandeven became Greitens’ target. Some suspect that the governor thought she wasn’t sufficiently supportive of his desire to expand charter schools and other school choice options in the state.
So who’s the lone candidate for commissioner? A good guess would be charter school advocate Kenneth Zeff of Georgia. Greitens rightly drew ire in October when it was discovered that he’d used $1,500 in campaign cash to pay for Zeff to visit Missouri last summer. It was one of the governor’s opening moves in his effort to fire Vandeven, which finally happened in December.
Those interested in filling her position have until Monday to apply. And while other candidates may emerge now that the holiday season has passed, the time frame for filling the position is far too short and the hiring process bears little resemblance to a legitimate search.
Board of Education president Charlie Shields tried to get the board to agree to open the process on Jan. 15 and then accept applications for at least a month. Instead, the board opted for a rushed approach. Board members plan to narrow the field (or perhaps choose the one and only applicant) on Jan. 9.
It’s not too late. If qualified applicants are in short supply, the board should extend the deadline and hire an executive search firm to aid in recruitment.
Meanwhile, the legislature should limit the ability of this or any future governor to to make interim appointments to boards and commissions, a loophole that allowed Greitens to strong-arm his way to creating a board willing to fire Vandeven.
The commissioner’s job is too consequential to settle for hiring by default.