Art McCoy may have a new job with an international focus, but the former superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant school district says he will still pay attention to the need for better learning in north St. Louis County.
McCoy, who resigned from his superintendent’s job in March after being placed on administrative leave for reasons that have never been made public, is the new chief academic officer and superintendent in residence at the MIND Research Institute. The California-based institute works with 25,000 teachers and 630,000 students in this country and overseas to improve the teaching of math and science.
McCoy said in an interview that he will be traveling a lot in his new job but plans to remain living in the St. Louis area. A former math teacher himself, he says the institute’s focus is one that students and teachers from elementary school through college need to cope with Common Core instruction and the changing job market.
“I’ll be supporting districts in their Common Core implementation,” he said, “and also writing and publishing articles of a scholarly nature and a professional nature on all these solutions for the achievement gap in the mathematics area.”
But he won’t be forgetting the district he led from 2011 until he was placed on leave last November. The start of the school year in Ferguson-Florissant was delayed by more a week last month in the wake of unrest following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. To help feed and teach the students who were missing class, people worked to provide meals and learning materials. McCoy said he was actively involved in that effort, helping children and adults.
“I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in discussions about how to help provide education to students before school started or with the delay of school,” he said.
“I was also instrumental on the ground with providing resources to schools and others, serving as a board member of the Urban League. I’ve been very involved with Michael McMillan, the (Urban League) CEO and others, to provide voter registration, food, door-to-door visits, education support, even pre-school support and more.”
He praised groups like Teach For America that helped make sure that students weren’t missing out on instructional time, separate from whatever activities were conducted by the school district itself.
“That indicated they were stepping forward to serve the students,” he said. “You know, it’s all about service. And I love our children. I love our community, I love all children, and I think that we have to continue to provide the leadership that’s needed and step up.”
As chief academic officer and superintendent in residence, McCoy said he will serve as the MIND institute’s “thought leader,” working on strategies to increase student achievement in math and associated disciplines, the so-called STEM subjects of science, math, engineering and technology.
But, he said, his attention won’t be totally turned away from north St. Louis County.
“I will not be moving,” he said. “I’ll be working from St. Louis, because it’s important that we bring the best practices to St. Louis and help out all the students and school districts in need of innovation. Innovation is the main theme….
“It was important to me to stay rooted in the St. Louis area. I’m appreciative to MIND for allowing me the opportunity to stay in the heart of America and in my home, so I can still be very involved as part of the solution to education and even learning mathematics and STEM and job attainment and access right here.”
McCoy stressed that teamwork will be needed to raise academic achievement anywhere, including Ferguson-Florissant. That district’s latest report card from the state, released last week, showed a drop in its score, which had been just below the level for full accreditation in 2013. Of all the districts that accepted transfers from Normandy and Riverview Gardens, Ferguson-Florissant showed the largest gap between scores with transfer students and scores without.
The transfer situation and the unrest in Ferguson have brought the area to what McCoy called “a pivotal moment, in which we can show and be a part of some unified, sustained and systemic leadership….
“I do envision there being an increase in voice, an increase in political and economic and educational engagement. That’s the only way that we’re going to power our own and our community’s social systems to be better than they were yesterday.”
After McCoy was placed on administrative leave, he was a candidate for the presidency of Harris-Stowe State University but did not get that job.
African-American residents of Ferguson-Florissant, upset that they did not have a representative on the district’s school board that placed McCoy on leave, fielded a slate of three candidates in the March election. The two incumbents who ran for re-election won their seats but one of the African-American candidates won.
Last month, voters in the district approved a 50-cent tax increase, one year after a 75-cent increase was rejected.