By SUMMER BALLENTINE, Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — One of Gov. Eric Greitens’ appointees to Missouri’s embattled State Board of Education resigned Thursday, opening the door for the governor to pick a replacement who could revive his efforts to oust the state’s top education official.
Claudia Onate Greim’s resignation came after months of work by the governor to fill the board with a majority of his appointees, who have the power to fire Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
Greitens had filled enough seats on the board with his appointees to get the needed majority to fire the commissioner. But the plan backfired when Onate Greim voted against those efforts during a special closed-door meeting last week. All four of Greitens’ other appointees voted to fire Vandeven.
In her resignation letter, Onate Greim said changes in leadership require “thoughtful and independent study.”
“I regret that I cannot get comfortable with the current process by which this is taking place,” she wrote. “The academic futures of our young Missourians depend on honest, open, and deliberate Board action on these leadership issues.”
She urged her successor to be “contemplative and steadfast” in working to improve K-12 public education in the state.
Onate Greim’s departure came the day before another scheduled board meeting. That opens the door for Greitens to appoint a replacement before the meeting, possibly someone who could provide the fifth vote needed to oust Vandeven.
It’s still unclear exactly why Greitens wants a new commissioner to lead the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, an agency that is quasi-independent from the governor.
Greitens’ office put out a statement after last week’s vote that did not specifically address what about Vandeven’s performance led him to seek her ouster and raised concerns with some decisions that were not made by Vandeven. Greitens said “insiders and bureaucrats will lie” and they are desperate to avoid change.
Also ongoing is a lawsuit filed by John “Tim” Sumners, another Greitens’ appointee who was rescinded and replaced by the governor shortly before last week’s board meeting. He had publicly stated his support for Vandeven.
Sumners now is suing Greitens, arguing the governor didn’t follow state laws to remove him. Sumners says he still deserves a seat on the board and asked a Cole County circuit judge to block his replacement, Jennifer Edwards, from voting. Edwards was among other Greitens’ appointees who voted to remove Vandeven.
Circuit Judge Jon Beetem held a hearing Thursday on the issue but did not immediately rule.