Judge considers voiding Missouri education head firing

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge is weighing on whether to void the Missouri Board of Education's decision to fire the former education commissioner.

Attorneys representing the board argued in circuit court Tuesday against lawyers representing Springfield teacher Laurie Sullivan, who sued the board in November, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Former commissioner Margie Vandeven was fired Dec. 1 after Gov. Eric Greitens stacked the education board to get that outcome. All five who voted in favor of her firing were Greitens' appointees.

The lawsuit seeks declarations that the board knowingly violated the state open meetings and records laws and a court order barring the board from interfering with Vandeven, according to Duane Martin, an attorney for Sullivan.

Martin alleged the board regularly posted the same notice for executive sessions regardless of the actual discussions that place behind closed doors, which is a violation of the law requiring meeting posting to be more specific.

The board contends it habitually goes above and beyond the meeting disclosure requirements under state law, according to Cheryl Ann Scheutze, an attorney for the board. Scheutze also argued that extraneous discussion about topics such as test scores and dyslexia tied back to Vandeven's performance as commissioner.

Martin based the lawsuit in part on recent testimony from board member Eddy Justice, who made the motion to remove Vandeven. Justice described discussions among the board in closed session that Martin said should have been held in a public meeting.

It's unclear when Judge Richard Callahan may issue a ruling on Martin's request for an order voiding the vote. It's also unclear as to what practical effect such an order would have. There has been no indication that Vandeven would return to her position, and the board currently lacks enough members to take any official action, including any decisions related to Vandeven's potential re-employment.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com


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