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Two Mo. Lawmakers Call on DESE Commissioner Nicastro To Resign

Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro
(Mo. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education)
Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro

Two members of the Missouri General Assembly are calling on Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign.

In a written statement, State RepresentativeGeniseMontecillo(D, St. Louis) and State Senator PaulLeVota (D, Independence) sayNicastrohas "demonstrated a troubling tendency to abuse power."  Montecillospecifically accusesNicastroof releasing inaccurate information regarding a proposed constitutional amendment to replace teacher tenure with evaluations based on student performance.

"We need to make sure that the commissioner is working on behalf of the children of this state and their education, not a special interest group whose interest is privatization and profit," Montecillo said.

Montecillo and LeVota also accuse Nicastro of releasing false information that led to the closing of Gordon Parks, a charter school in Kansas City.  A judge later reversed that closing.

In response, State Board of Education President Peter Herschend released the following statement defending Nicastro:

"Commissioner Nicastro's review of this petition was nothing out of the ordinary. Department staff performed routine consultation on this measure just as when staff consulted on charter school legislation with Rep. Montecillo during the 2013 session."

Below is the full statement from LeVota and Montecillo:

"During her tenure as state education commissioner, Dr. Chris Nicastro has demonstrated a troubling tendency to abuse power. The recent revelations concerning her involvement in overruling Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff to secure a more favorable cost estimate for a ballot measure being proposed by a special interest group is just the latest example.

This incident comes months after a state judge found Dr.Nicastroand her staff provided false and misleading information to the State Board of Education that led the board to order the closure of the Gordon Parks charter school in Kansas City, a decision the judge overturned.

When there is so much at stake for the future of public education, this is not the type of leadershipDESEneeds. The General Assembly must believe that the state education commissioner will be forthcoming with accurate and credible information. But Dr.Nicastro'sactions to date have created a lack of trust and confidence in her leadership among lawmakers, education professionals and the public.

We believe the faith that Missourians once had in DESE has been shattered. As a result, Dr. Nicastro's resignation as education commissioner is necessary to restore public confidence that DESE is working on behalf of the children our state."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2013 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.