Powerful Jackson County lawmaker calls for Nicastro's ouster - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Powerful Jackson County lawmaker calls for Nicastro's ouster


A powerful area lawmaker is calling for state Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro to step down, saying she has demonstrated a tendency "to abuse power."

Sen. Paul LeVota, of Independence, and House member Genise Montecillo, of St. Louis, both Democrats, said in a statement Tuesday that the most recent example arose in recently disclosed emails from the education department dealing with a ballot measure to end teacher tenure and require that student performance guide employment decisions.

A department staff member originally proposed reporting to the state auditor's office that the initiative had potential for significant unknown costs to local school districts. Nicastro changed that to say the cost was unknown.

A state judge also earlier this year said that Nicastro and her staff provided false and misleading information about the state's attempts to close Gordon Parks Elementary School, a charter school in Kansas City.

Some Kansas City political and community leaders have been critical of Nicastro for not pushing for a state takeover of the beleaguered Kansas City School District. Nicastro didn't do that but she also didn't support restoring provisional accreditation to the district.

A Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message seeking comment about the call's for Nicastro's resignation.

"She has a long career of helping education. She just may be the wrong person at this time for our schools because of where she wants to go and there is a troubling tendency to abuse that power," LeVota said. "We need to use facts to determine what is in the best interest of the children. We can't slant things to our own personal agenda."

The Missouri Board of Education appoints the education commissioner. Nicastro has been commissioner for nearly five years. She had previously served as superintendent in a St. Louis area school district. She replaced Kent King, who died in 2009 after battling brain cancer.

LeVota served in the Missouri House for eight years and was a ranking member in the House for Democrats. He moved to the Senate after fellow Democrat Victor Callahan, of Independence, could not longer run due to term limits.

Andrea Flinders, head of the Kansas City teachers' union, said Nicastro's actions show she doesn't support public school teachers.

"I think they need the support of their commissioner and to know she has their back," Flinders said. "I think it's time she move on."

Click here to read her complete biography on DESE's website.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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