JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson appointed two people to the State Board of Education on Tuesday, giving the group that supervises the state’s public schools enough members to meet for the first time since January.
The board had been in disarray since lawmakers balked after then-Gov. Eric Greitens maneuvered last year to appoint new members to the board so that it would fire the state’s education commissioner. The stalemate between Greitens and lawmakers had left several issues hanging, from finding a new education commissioner, to a remake of the state’s public school evaluation system, to a decision on what kind of board should govern St. Louis Public Schools. The clock is also ticking on five charter schools that will lose their ability to operate at the end of the month without approval from the board.
“It was important to act quickly to restore and provide functionality to the State Board of Education,” Parson said in a statement announcing the appointments of Peter Herschend and Carol Hallquist.
Those appointments mean that five of eight slots on the board are filled. State law requires only that the board meet twice a year, but it generally gathers monthly and has now missed five meetings. Its next meeting is Thursday.
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Greitens worked for months last year to stack the board with people who would fire then-Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. Many lawmakers saw Greitens’ maneuvering as an inappropriate power grab.
The governor has the authority to nominate people to the board, subject to Senate confirmation. Because Greitens made multiple appointments while the Legislature was in recess, his picks were allowed to begin serving immediately and were then subject to Senate approval later. Greitens’ board voted to fire Vandeven in December. But once lawmakers were back in session in January, the Senate refused to consider Greitens’ recess appointments, leaving the board with just three members.
In moving to oust Vandeven Greitens pointed to general problems with education, but did not specifically criticize Vandeven’s performance. Vandeven has said the governor never gave her a clear explanation.
Greitens resigned June 1 amid allegations of political and professional misconduct. Parson, who was the lieutenant governor, was then elevated to higher office.
Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones said the Board of Education was the new governor’s main priority. She said Parson did not have a preferred candidate for education commissioner, and that reinstating Vandeven had not been discussed.
Parson’s appointments also came as the Legislature is in recess, and they may not be subject to confirmation until next year.
Both Herschend and Hallquist have experience with education. Herschend is a former president of the education board and co-owns the company that runs Silver Dollar City. Hallquist founded PrincipalsConnect, a nonprofit to help principals in Kansas City, and is a retired president of the Hallmark Corporate Foundation at Hallmark Cards Inc. She had previously been appointed by Greitens to the state Coordinating Board for Early Childhood, which she will now resign from.
Hallquist said she has had an interest in serving on the education board for several years, and was excited about the opportunity. She said that Parson had “absolutely not” asked for any assurances from her regarding policy or personnel.
Herschend echoed that sentiment, and said he would have refused the appointment if it had come with strings attached.
He also said he was glad to be back on the board after being removed by Greitens, and added that he was open to talking about reinstating Vandeven, whom he characterized as “the best commissioner of education Missouri has ever enjoyed.”