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Missouri state school board finally has enough members to meet again

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The roster on the Missouri State Board of Education is deep enough to hold a meeting for the first time since December.

Gov. Mike Parson appointed two people to the board Tuesday morning, ending six months of paralysis in which the school board — short of a quorum — was unable to vote or advance education policy in the state.

Parson, a Republican, appointed Carol Hallquist and Peter Herschend a day after the state legislature adjourned. By using recess appointments, the two can begin serving immediately but will be subject to Senate approval when it is next in session.

“It was important to act quickly to restore and provide functionality to the State Board of Education. We expect the Board will begin conducting a diligent national search, to find a capable, qualified candidate to serve as Missouri’s Commissioner of Education,” Parson said in a news release.

Read more: Missouri’s new governor expected to soothe relationship with state educators

Hallquist, from Kansas City, is the founder of education nonprofit PrincipalsConnect. It pairs business leaders with principals in Kansas City to provide leadership training and mentorship.

Herschend’s name will also likely sound familiar to those who follow education in Missouri. The Branson businessman served three terms on the board from 1991 to 2017. He oversaw a major overhaul of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s school accountability metrics.

Credit File | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Vic Lenz, Charlie Shields and Mike Jones were left as the only three members of the State Board of Education in January. Five appointees of former Gov. Eric Greitens were never confirmed by the Senate. As a result, the board hasn't met in six months.

Since January, what should be an eight-member board had only three sitting members. The board needs five people to hold meetings and pass measures. Parson will need to appoint three more people to board to get it up to full membership.

At their last meeting in December, a board stacked with five loyalists to former Gov. Eric Greitens fired Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, a move that angered both the education establishment and lawmakers. As payback, the Senate refused to consider Greitens’ nominees and the board was incapacitated.

The three remaining members are Charlie Shields, who is board president, Mike Jones and Vic Lenz. Those three, along with Hallquist and Herschend, are scheduled to meet Thursday in Jefferson City to begin chipping away at a backlog of duties, though likely not everything will be tackled in one meeting.

“Gov. Parson’s decision to appoint Carol and Peter will help restore and maintain stability,” Shields said in the news release.

On the agenda is the reauthorization of five charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City. The board is also scheduled to discuss the search process for a new education commissioner as well as the transition of St. Louis Public Schools from state oversight to local control.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @patrickdelaney

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