Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Say State Board Is Moving Too Fast to Replace Education Commissioner

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Say State Board Is Moving Too Fast to Replace Education Commissioner

Article excerpt

The Missouri Board of Education will begin closed discussions this morning on how to replace retiring Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, who leaves the state's top K-12 post at the end of the year.

State Board President Peter Herschend backed away Friday from earlier comments that a new commissioner could be named by Tuesday, when the two-day meeting wraps up. Alarmed by the lack of a more formal search, superintendents and education groups have written the board asking for a process with greater transparency.

"We'll announce the process on Tuesday," Herschend said. "My full intention is still to have a new commissioner named before Chris Nicastro retires."

Nicastro announced last month that she'll vacate her position on Dec. 31, after 40 years in public education, most of which was spent in north St. Louis County. Her replacement will have to pick up efforts to expand early childhood education, set higher standards for teachers colleges, integrate Common Core learning standards into classroom instruction and improve troubled schools.

The new commissioner also will face a rocky relationship with the Missouri Legislature, whose members have been at odds with Nicastro and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over issues ranging from Common Core to student transfers, which nearly bankrupted the Normandy School District last year.

"We need a commissioner that understands the ever-changing world of education, and will work hand-in-hand with the Legislature to ensure Missouri students succeed," Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Kansas City, wrote on his website.

Herschend said that "a number" of candidates within and outside of the education department had been identified and that some discussions with those candidates had taken place.

"We want to get on with it," Herschend said. "Our concern is essentially 1 million kids and the machinery that is in place now that is getting results for our kids in this state. We don't want that disrupted."

But lawmakers and educators said sidestepping a formal search would undermine the credibility of whoever is chosen. It was the theme of letters written to the State Board by the Parkway and Ladue school districts, as well as by EducationPlus, an organization representing St. …

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