JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to appoint at least two new members to the state school board next week in a bid to close a controversial chapter of the state’s education bureaucracy.
Parson, who took over for former Gov. Eric Greitens last week, has said getting the board up and running after five months in limbo is a priority. And under state statute, the board is required to meet in June.
“We are very well aware of the state school board,” Parson said after he was sworn in last week. “We aim to get that board up and running as soon as we can.”
Word of the pending appointments came after a meeting Thursday between Parson and state school board President Charlie Shields. Shields, a former state senator, said he expects an announcement Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I think they’ve got a couple of people in mind,” Shields told the Post-Dispatch.
The board has had to cancel five of its 11 meetings scheduled for this year because it lacks enough members to meet and take action. It has just three of eight members because the Senate refused to confirm five Greitens appointees after he stacked the board in order to oust former schools commissioner Margie Vandeven last year.
Parson would need to appoint at least two people for the board to have a quorum and hold its next meeting, which is set for Thursday.
“We’ve been working constantly behind the scenes here just to make sure we are ready with everything that needs to go before the board the minute that they can meet,” said DESE spokesman Tyler Madsen.
As a backup, the board also has scheduled June 26 for a meeting if Parson doesn’t act next week.
“We’ve had these dates circled for quite a while because we knew that by state statute we’ve got to have a meeting in June,” Madsen said.
Current board members are Shields of St. Joseph, Mike Jones of St. Louis and Vic Lenz of St. Louis County.
Among items facing the board is the hiring of a replacement for Vandeven, who had been in the post since 2015.
Shields said making the hire is a priority, but there is no need to rush the process because the interim commissioner, Roger Dorson, is well qualified to handle the duties.
The board also must decide whether to renew six charter schools, including Lafayette Preparatory Academy, Lift for Life Academy and Eagle College Prep, all in St. Louis.
And, it must weigh in on whether an elected school board should regain control of St. Louis Public Schools from the appointed Special Administrative Board.
“There are a lot of things that are not complicated but they have been backed up,” Shields said.
An announcement on the appointees is not expected to come when Parson addresses a joint session of the House and Senate at 5 p.m. Monday.
The Legislature is currently in a special session that was called to consider the impeachment of Greitens over the circumstances of an extramarital affair and his use of a charity donor list to raise money for his campaign.
With the former governor now gone after his abrupt resignation, the two chambers will hear from Parson and then adjourn.
If Parson were to make the picks before the Senate adjourns from its special session, the appointees would need to be confirmed by the Legislature’s upper chamber. If he waits until the session is over, the new members can be sworn in as interim appointees and begin serving immediately.