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Missouri's top education official announces her resignation: 'The right time to move on'

Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announces her resignation during the State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.
Annelise Hanshaw
/
Missouri Independent
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announces her resignation during the State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.

Margie Vandeven became the Missouri Commissioner of Education in January 2015, but was briefly ousted by Gov. Eric Greitens before being reinstated. Vandeven led the education department through the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaw a transition to a new standardized testing regime.

Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announced on Tuesday that she plans to resign at the end of June.

After making her announcement during the State Board of Education meeting, Vandeven told reporters it was “the right time to move on personally and professionally to a new opportunity [she] hasn’t discovered yet.”

Her resignation caps a tumultuous tenure as the state’s highest ranking education official.

Vandeven became the commissioner in January of 2015, but she was ousted from the job in December 2017 when then-Gov. Eric Greitens stacked the board of education in order to force her out.

After Greitens was himself forced out of office the next summer, the board reinstated Vandeven.

In addition to the saga with Greitens, Vandeven also led the education department through the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaw a transition to a new standardized testing regime.

“Margie has been a true champion for public education and a steadfast leader throughout her tenure as Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement released Tuesday morning

“During COVID,” Parson said, “Margie kept a level head and successfully led Missouri schools through a global pandemic. Margie will be missed, but my team and I wish her the best. We are grateful for her commitment and dedication to our Missouri administrators, teachers, students, and parents.”

Board members Tuesday lauded Vandeven’s leadership through “challenges.”

Charlie Shields, the board’s president, said he has served through five commissioners, but Vandeven has faced the biggest trials.

“The challenges Margie Vandeven has faced make the challenges those previous commissioners had pale in comparison,” he said.

Peter Herschend, a board member from Branson, said he’s been on the board through eight commissioners. He believes Vandeven had the best vision and hope for Missouri education.

“I hope your successor can do as well,” Herschend said. “You have made a difference in the lives of kids. And that’s all that really matters.”

Vandeven told the board that serving as commissioner has been “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“To be commissioner has meant building relationships with students, parents, educators, elected officials, community and business leaders, other state agencies, colleagues across the nation, board members and 1700 staff members at (the department) and helping them see what is possible when we all work together towards a common goal,” she said.

Her priorities in her final months as commissioner are the Success Ready Students Network, a competency-based learning program, and the Blue Ribbon Commission, a group that studies teacher recruitment and retention.

“The teacher is one of the most important professions of our day,” Vandeven told reporters. “It is the workforce that creates all other workforces.”

She said the teacher recruitment and retention problem must be addressed, and she has seen incremental improvements.

Although she does not have her next position lined up, she would like to stay attached to education, she told reporters.

Vandeven began her education career in 1990 as a communication arts teacher in O’Fallon. She served as a teacher and administrator in Missouri and Maryland until 2005, when she went to work for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The board will choose Vandeven’s successor.

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.

Annelise Hanshaw covers education for the Missouri Independent — a beat she has held on both the East and West Coast prior to joining the Missouri Independent staff. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.
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