By SUMMER BALLENTINE - Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said she’s looking forward to “the focus returning to educating our children” following a failed attempt Tuesday to remove her from office.

State Board of Education members voted 4-4 during a closed meeting on the question of ousting her. That’s one vote short of what was needed to ax her.

Vandeven had been quiet about the move to unseat her and released just the one-line statement after the vote.

The vote was the climax of months of effort by Gov. Eric Greitens to fill the state board with his own appointees and replace the state’s top education official. In a last-minute switch, Greitens on Monday rescinded an appointee who had said he supports Vandeven and announced a replacement within an hour of Tuesday’s meeting.

Including his latest pick Jennifer Edwards of Decoding Dyslexia Missouri, Greitens has filled enough seats with his appointees to get the needed majority to fire the commissioner.

But the plan backfired when one of Greitens’ own appointees, Claudia Onate Greim, voted against those efforts. She had been one of three Greitens picks who called for the closed meeting.

All of Greitens’ other appointees, including Edwards, voted to kick Vandeven out. Three members previously appointed to the board voted in favor of Vandeven, who has received widespread support from education groups in the state and from both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.

Local education officials and other supporters of Vandeven filled the halls outside the closed meeting and applauded as she and Board President Charlie Shields walked into the meeting. Shields was among those who later voted against dismissing Vandeven.

Missouri School Boards’ Association Executive Director Melissa Randol said the vote will “be very good for the 900,000 kids that are depending on us doing the right thing today.”

Greitens’ spokesman, Parker Briden, did not return multiple Associated Press requests for comment Tuesday.

It’s still unclear why the governor wants a new commissioner to lead the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, an agency that is quasi-independent from the governor. The governor can’t directly hire or fire the education commissioner, but Greitens can appoint the board members who have that power.

Shields, a fellow Republican, said Greitens has been vague about the issue. Spokesman Briden has not responded to AP questions on the matter.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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