The Missouri State Board of Education is opening up its search for the next education commissioner, and it wants input from the public.

A job description for the position of commissioner was formalized Tuesday by the state board. The commissioner's primary responsibility is to supervise the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In announcing the application steps this week, the board outlined a list of characteristics that it prefers in candidates, including empathy and good team-building, communication and management skills. Candidates must also possess a vision for public education in Missouri and understand the challenges in improving student achievement, the board said.

Through Friday, Nov. 21, members of the public may submit feedback or suggestions on those characteristics and other factors that should be considered by the board in evaluating candidates. Nominations, applications and other recommendations related to the search for the next Missouri commissioner of education can be submitted via email to commissionersearch@dese.mo.gov.

Nominations for the position will be received at the department's office, directed to Chief of Staff Robin Coffman, through Nov. 21. All nominees will be contacted to determine their interest in becoming a candidate.

Applications from interested candidates will also be accepted; complete application information is available at dese.mo.gov. All candidates will be asked to submit a letter of application, resume with references and a personal essay by Dec. 1.

Board members will review all complete applications, and the most qualified candidates will be notified and invited to interview.

The board is expected to name someone to the position by Dec. 31. The initial date of employment will be jointly determined by the board and the selected candidate.

Board members believe they already have qualified internal and external candidates, department spokeswoman Sarah Potter said. Representatives of some organizations, including the Missouri Association of School Administrators and the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, had recently called on the state board to slow its search procedure, open a national search and hold public forums.

The selected candidate will replace current Commissioner Chris Nicastro, who was named to the position in 2009 after previously serving as a school administrator. In September, she announced plans to step down at the end of 2014.

Her tenure included the implementation of new educational and classification standards for public schools, as well as an initiative intended to push Missouri into a top 10 ranking for student achievement by 2020.

She also had been frequently criticized by some state legislators and officials for her handling of high-profile issues, including a student-transfer law for unaccredited districts in the St. Louis area and the implementation of the Common Core educational standards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Local connection

Ron Lankford, a former superintendent of the Webb City School District, is a deputy commissioner with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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