The Springfield News-Leader had a recent column entitled  Vandeven: Greitens never shared his vision for education, commissioner role.

It’s a pity that former Missouri Education Commissioner Vandeven never received the Governor’s vision for education and the commissioner’s role in implementing that vision. It’s an odd complaint given how familiar Vandeven is with withholding information in a political process. She frequently used the Delphi technique in working with those she knew in advance she would likely disagree with and paid little but lip service to hearing their concerns. So if the Governor was the big bad guy for doing the same thing, then Ms. Pot meet Mr. Kettle.

Remember the eight  state-wide meetings in 2013 DESE held through out the state ‘informing’ parents about Common Core?


Concerns about Common Core were ignored by DESE and honest dialogue never occurred between the administration and parents.  Those DESE meetings occurred while Vandeven was assistant commissioner.  Transparency to the taxpayers did not improve after she was named commissioner in 2015.  From Misfeasance, Malfeasance, Nonfeasance at the Missouri State Board of Education?:

Representatives from Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2) and Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU)  held a hearing in Jefferson City today about questionable practices by DESE and The State Board of Education.  Janet Parks of MORE2 had previously filed FOIA requests (2013) to determine the process in which the state educational agency and State Board awarded a state contract ($385,000) to CEE Trust (a private NGO) for education reform in the Kansas City School District.   In the hearing, Parks and Randazzo (MCU) accused the newly appointed DESE commissioner Margie Vandheven, at that time an assistant commissioner, of fixing a bid process for the turn around model for the Kansas City School District. 

State board members have, in recent weeks, accused the governor of keeping members appointed by Nixon in the dark regarding his plans. And here we thought it was oh so critical that the State Board of Education be independent, not political, not mere implementation drones of the Governor’s policy wishes. Which way is it superintendents?

Vandeven said she was “ready and willing to work with the Greitens administration” and there was never any falling out or refusal, on her part, to be a team player. She said if Greitens had concerns about how she was running DESE, he never shared them.

“I participated in large cabinet meetings but never had conversations specific to his vision for education nor my performance as a commissioner,” she said. Alas, elections have consequences and political appointees (State Board Members) are vulnerable when there is a changing of the guard. The Executive wields tremendous power to jettison or keep key officials under the Executive Branch as we saw with Nixon who would not fire Jackie Bemboom even though her fingerprints were all over the illegal implementation of the Real ID Act in Missouri. It’s not a matter of you being a team player Dr. Vandeven, it’s about the Governor using the system to choose with whom he works.

If It Looks Like A Cult…

Vandeven lamented that turnover was happening so quickly she had not even “met one of the new board members” and only briefly spent time with two others during a board orientation the day before the 5-3 vote to remove her.

“As far as developing a relationship, we just haven’t had time,” she said. “That was one of the things that was on my plans, to have a board retreat once the board members were all named and in place.”

Vandeven was pre-empted from having the State Board of Education members receive the same type of training provided by The Missouri State Board Association (MSBA) and directives written by The Missouri Association of Superintendents (MASA) to ensure the lock step decisions previously made by State Board members. In other words, she had the kool aid all ready to serve, she just never got the chance.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.  All the king’s horses (MASA, MSBA talking points that all board members must agree and no dissension is allowed ever) and all the king’s men (CCSSO appointment to the Board, Regional Centers) couldn’t put Humpty together again.


Collusion is Sometimes a Good Thing?

Vandeven said by the time she became Commissioner, the state education department had developed strong avenues of communication with Nixon’s office. He appointed a liaison to work directly with education institutions.

“I was able to walk in and I had weekly meetings with one of his advisers. We talked about the direction, about what was happening,” she said. “We provided updates, from both sides, and there was a mutual respect of the roles of each entity.”

She talks about this close working relationship like it was a good thing and forgets that it is exactly that kind of behind the scenes cooperation between Nixon and the Department that allowed them to circumvent the existing state standards adoption process and adopt untested unproven Common Core standards in exchange for $1.7B in stimulus money.

When the shoe is on the other foot.

It’s hard when the governor won’t talk to you, but then again that is his/her prerogative. Legislators experienced the same freezing out with Governor Nixon:

“In our Republican caucus meeting before the first day of the session, to our great surprise, Governor-elect Greitens came, spoke to us and worked and planned with us on the upcoming session,” Beard said.  “As you can imagine, that has never happened, at least in my tenure, for a long time. The biggest complaint about (Gov. Jay Nixon) was we rarely saw him, he didn’t care to reach out, talk, communicate, work together. We never saw him, so to have the governor-elect come down and shake hands, talk with us, work with us, ask about priorities, that’s a huge change.”




Part two tomorrow – What benefit did Vandeven provide in her role? We see no specifics from her supporters.


Coauthored by Gretchen Logue and Anne Gassel


Gretchen Logue

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