St. Louis Public Schools
4:20 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Recommendation: Appointed Board Should Keep Running St. Louis Schools

Credit alkruse24 / Flickr

Will be updated following state Board of Education meeting on Tues., April 15.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is recommending that the Missouri state Board of Education extend the authority of the Special Administrative Board (SAB) for the St. Louis Public Schools. The SAB's authority expires in June.

Citing the need for stable leadership, DESE would like the SAB to continue managing the district through June 2016.  David Jackson, president of the elected but disempowered board, disagreed with that assessment.  

“Regardless of what board comes in, the superintendent is well respected in the community,” Jackson said.  “That’s the only leadership at this time that I think matters.”

Jackson said transitioning back to the elected board would add a layer of accountability for residents.   

The state-appointed SAB has overseen the district since it lost its state accreditation in 2007.  Three years later, the board voted to extend the SAB’s authority and in 2012 the district’s status was upgraded to provisional accreditation. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay believes keeping the SAB in place is in the best interest of students, according to his spokesperson.   

Unlike the SAB that runs the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County, the Board of Education has no say in whether the three current members will remain in place. That authority is split three ways between the governor, the mayor and the president of the Board of Aldermen. 

As the state board considers its future, the three-member SAB is deciding whether to sign off on Superintendent Kelvin Adams’ blueprint for building up academic achievement and meeting new standards established under the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP5).  

The “St. Louis Public Schools Transformation Plan” would construct a four-tiered system to home in on schools that struggle the most academically and give varying levels of flexibility to those schools with the greatest academic success. It also funnels $6.4 million and added resources toward 18 schools with chronically low academic performance.   

If academic progress isn’t made during the coming school year, the plan includes a provision to allow the district to hire a nonprofit operator to run one of the low performing schools.  An outside operator would have control over staffing and curriculum, and the idea has drawn strong criticism from members of the disempowered elected school board as well as the teachers' union.    

At community forums and at last week’s SAB meeting, Jackson and other elected board members said they support much of the plan but are critical of bringing in outside groups to run schools.     

“The elected board cannot and will not support any outsourcing of management of its schools to any outside entity or nonprofit,” Jackson said at a community forum on March 27.

Adams has said that he wants to keep all options on the table when it comes to bolstering academic performance, and that the intent is not to hand over control of a school indefinitely. 

“We’re not talking about it happening forever,” Adams said after presenting the plan to the SAB on March 13.  “We’re talking about for a limited amount of time, a focused, limited amount of time.  It might be three years, it might be five years, but the intent is that it remains a district school and all of the resources are district resources.” 

The SAB was expected to vote on the plan during its meeting last week.  That vote has been delayed, and the earliest the plan could receive approval from the SAB is during its meeting on May 1.