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Court decisions, state Board of Education resignation once again put Vandeven’s job in jeopardy

Provided | Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri’s education commissioner could soon be out of the job after a State Board of Education member resigned — and a judge refused to reinstall a Joplin pastor to his slot.

Claudia Oñate Greim resigned from the state board on Thursday night, less than a day before members are slated to meet. Greim was the only person who Gov. Eric Greitens appointed who voted earlier this month against firing Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven.

“As I made clear during my two-month service, when and how change in leadership at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should occur require thoughtful and independent study,” Greim wrote in her resignation letter. “I regret I cannot get comfortable with the current process by this is taking place.”

Greitens could replace Greim before Friday’s meeting with a new board of education member who wants to dismiss Vandeven. While school administrators and a bipartisan group of legislators have praised Vandeven’s work as the state’s top education official, Greitens has sought tobring in a replacement that’s more amenable to expanding charter schools.

The prospect of Vandeven’s dismissal became more likely thanks to two court decisions from Cole County Judge Jon Beetem.

Beetem rejected a bid from former board member Tim Sumners to immediately regain his seat on the board of education. He also declined to rule right away on whether the last board of education meeting violated Missouri's open records laws.

“Today's decision was a win for teachers and students,” said Greitens spokesman Parker Briden in a statement. “It affirms the Governor’s constitutional authority to make appointments as Missouri’s chief executive. Now we need to focus on the Governor's priorities: raise teacher pay, support public schools, and help students succeed.”

The upshot of Beetem’s ruling appears to be that Springfield resident Jennifer Edwards, who Greitens appointed to take Sumners’ place on the board, can stay on for Friday’s meeting. Edwards voted with three other Greitens appointees on Nov. 21 to fire Vandeven.

Friday’s meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in Jefferson City.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin contributed information for this story.

Follow Jason and Ryan on Twitter: @jrosenbaum@rpatrickdelaney

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.