Dale Singer

Education Reporter

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and a grandson, Jonah, who is the cutest child in the world.

Ways To Connect

DESE website

After four hearings in Normandy and Riverview Gardens, plus suggestions and plans and proposals from education groups and lawmakers from throughout Missouri, it’s time for state education officials to try to come up with a plan to help struggling school districts.

And Chris Nicastro, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, wants to make sure that whatever plan her department comes up with, that is the focus: helping underachieving students and schools succeed.

DESE website

Missouri’s commissioner of education has been buffeted by two controversies that have led to calls for her resignation but also expressions of support from her bosses on the state board of education.

To explain the controversy swirling around Chris Nicastro, Missouri’s embattled commissioner of elementary and secondary education, state school board member Mike Jones invokes the words of a legendary Texan, Jim Hightower:

The only things you find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos.

Normandy website

As opposed to the negative vote and heated discussion back in October, Thursday night's bills won approval without any comment, though one member voted no.

The issue was the same, but the atmosphere – and the vote – were quite different Thursday night at the Normandy school board.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public radio

  The crowd was a lot smaller at Wednesday night’s second hearing called by Missouri state school officials into the future of the Normandy school district, but its passion remained strong.

And its message was a simple one: Their school district deserves more time to turn itself around, so the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) should come up with a plan that stops students transfers and helps Normandy survive.

Governor's website

Gov. Jay Nixon wants public universities in Missouri to keep their tuition the same for the 2014-15 school year in exchange for an increase of $36.7 million in his budget request for higher education.

DESE website

Despite a growing chorus for Chris Nicastro to leave her post as Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, the head of the state’s school board gave her a vote of confidence Monday and defended the selection of a consultant currently looking into the Kansas City schools.

Nicastro has come under fire in recent weeks, first for her consultation with an education advocacy group on its initiative petition that included changes in teacher tenure, then from a Kansas City Star story on Sunday.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis startup wants to provide schools with a curriculum, training and support to help teachers show students how to write computer code so they can land a good job even if they don't go to college.

To get an idea of why training students to write computer code should be a higher priority for schools, consider these numbers:

As the committee assigned to help figure out what's next for St. Louis Public Schools winds up its work, one of the main questions it is asking is: How should the city school board be chosen, by election or by appointment?

But based on the discussion the five members had on Monday afternoon, as important as how is the question of who.

What the Jamestown Mall site might look like.
Provided by Dover, Kohn & Partners

After years of decline and four days of intensive planning, the drive to transform Jamestown Mall moved into the "what if" stage on Tuesday night.

For example: What if, instead of a large, empty Sears building and a deserted parking lot at the corner of Lindbergh and Old Jamestown Road, there were mixed housing, shops, restaurants, a farmers' market and more intimate, walkable space, designed not to draw shoppers from a wide area but to serve the needs of people who live in the area?

Opponents of a proposed casino in north St. Louis County near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers brought out two new weapons in their fight Monday: an economic impact study and a letter against the project from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

At a news conference on land just a few miles from the site of the proposed $450 million project, the coalition known as Save the Confluence presented the study it commissioned from John R. McGowan, a professor of accounting at Saint Louis University.

Students aren't the only ones who get report cards -- school districts do, too. And the latest numbers for some troubled school districts in the St. Louis area aren't encouraging.

The two Missouri districts in the area that have only provisional accreditation, Jennings and Normandy, still are far short from making the grade, preliminary numbers released Monday show. And the two districts that have been taken over by the state -- St. Louis and Riverview Gardens -- aren't improving either.

The troubled Jamestown Mall may have a hard time attracting customers, but there is no shortage of suggestions from the public on how its 142 acres could be redone.

How about:

that city voters retain the tax.

Even if voters were to decide to keep the tax next year, Proposition A would require a similar retention vote every five years after that.

He noted that the sequence of votes can be confusing, since he and others who want the earnings tax to continue are urging voters to say no in November and yes in April. But he thinks when the vote is limited to city residents, they will back his position once they realize what the consequences would be.

Paideia Academy, which had planned to open its school year the day after Labor Day despite having lost its charter to operate, won't be opening after all.

Fred Robinson, president of the school's board, said Thursday that an effort to secure financing for the school had not worked out, so it would not be accepting students, at least for now. He said the decision was made earlier this week.

"The deal we were working on didn't work," Robinson said, declining to give further details. "The deal we were working on fell through."

St. Louis Public Schools have paid out as much as a teacher's salary for a full year to teachers who have yet to have their own class this fall, the district acknowledged Tuesday.

Because of unusual movement of teachers, as schools were forced to reconstitute their staffs as part of a turnaround effort, as many as 26 teachers were not assigned to classes that matched their certification, according to Sharonica Hardin, the school system's chief human resource officer.

300 pixels wide Kiel to Peabody constrruction
Rachel Heidenry | 2010 | St. Louis Beacon

If you want to take a break from the economic dirge of the past few weeks, here's a number to ponder:

$929 million.

The elected board of the St. Louis Public Schools wants to resume control of the district no later than July 1 of next year, ending what would be four years of state control of the city schools. It also is looking for new sources of funding and a cap on new charter schools until the district's enrollment stabilizes.

When the cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership of St. Louis held a retreat last week, the main item on the agenda was to discuss faith as a bridge over the area's racial divide.

But Batya Abramson-Goldstein, chair of the cabinet, said she realized another topic cried out for the group to discuss and take a stand -- the controversy over a Muslim center planned for a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York.

What's the best relationship between teachers and students? Love? Admiration? Respect?

What would you do if your class were deeply involved in a creative project, like a movie or a newspaper or a play, and the principal came along and said you had to get back to basics because standardized test time was coming up?

The sign above the door at Paideia Academy in north St. Louis proclaims NOW ENROLLING, with another banner saying: Classes Begin Aug. 20th.

But four days before its school year was supposed to begin, Paideia Academy -- the north St. Louis charter school that lost its charter, its sponsor and its lawsuit to remain open -- isn’t saying whether it will be teaching students this fall or when those classes might really begin.

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