© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vandeven gets her old job back as Missouri's education commissioner

Then-Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, left, speaks to St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams in January 2017. Vandeven was fired last December but will return as education commissioner.
File Photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Then-Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, left, speaks to St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams in January 2017. Vandeven was fired last December but will return as education commissioner.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. with comments from Vandeven — Margie Vandeven will return as Missouri’s top education official a year after her unpopular firing by then-Gov. Eric Greitens.

The State Board of Education announced its selection of Vandeven as state education commissioner Tuesday. She ran the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, for three years before she was ousted.

“It is an honor to return to this role,” Vandeven told the news media after the announcement. “There is still work to be done.”

Greitens spent several months in 2017 stacking the state school board with enough loyalists to remove Vandeven, finally getting his way Dec. 1.

She was well liked in the public education world and superintendents across the state vocally opposed her sacking, filling the halls outside the state school board’s meeting to vote on her fate.

Greitens said after Vandeven's firing the state's education system is filled with overpaid bureaucrats who were failing children.

After her removal, Greitens’ school board picks failed to install a replacement before running into opposition from the state Senate.

The whole process left the board without enough members to meet for six months. Three appointees by Greitens’ predecessor, Jay Nixon, who opposed Vandeven’s removal, remain on the board and Peter Herschend was put back by Gov. Mike Parson.

“This was not about righting a wrong,” Board President Charlie Shields said. “This was about the ability to continue to move the state forward when it comes to education.”

Vandeven was nominated to be commissioner again, a process she said was humbling and exciting. She said she doesn’t hold a grudge over being removed last year.

“I really do hope that we don’t lose sight of the lessons we learned through that process but I certainly do not want to linger there,” she said.

Vandeven will return to supervise the education of 900,000 children in more than 500 school districts. DESE is overhauling its school accountability program, known as the Missouri School Improvement Program, and working to stabilize the assessments given to students each year.

“I am a strong believer that we need a great teacher in every classroom. And in order to do that we need great leaders in every school. So we’ll continue to focus on how we teach our children and making sure that we support our teachers,” Vandeven said.

The search for a commissioner restarted in September and yielded five applications and seven nominations. The board on Monday interviewed four finalists, who also included Interim Commissioner Roger Dorson and Rockwood Superintendent Eric Knost, who is retiring from the west St. Louis County district.

Vandeven spent the year away working at the SAS Institute in North Carolina as the director of education partnership. She will take back the reins of DESE Jan. 2 with a salary of $191,544, a slight raise from her previous pay.

Vandeven was named commissioner the first time in December 2014. Shields along with board members Vic Lenz, Mike Jones and Herschend voted to hire Vandeven that time as well.

Her education career began in 1990,  as a teacher in her hometown of O’Fallon, Missouri. She later became an administrator in both Maryland and Missouri, joining DESE in 2005, where she worked her way up to deputy commissioner. She took over for the retiring Chris Nicastro Jan. 1, 2015.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Ryan Delaney works on the Innovation Trail project - covering technology, economic development, startups and other issues relating to New York's innovation economy.
Ryan Delaney
Ryan is a reporter on the education desk at St. Louis Public Radio, covering both higher education and the many school districts in the St. Louis region. He has previously reported for public radio stations WFYI in Indianapolis and WRVO in upstate New York. He began his journalism career working part time for WAER while attending Syracuse University. He's won multiple reporting awards and his work, which has aired on NPR, The Takeaway and WGBH's Innovation Hub. Having grown up in Burlington, Vt., he often spends time being in the woods hiking, camping, and skiing.