The state-appointed Special Administrative Board (SAB) for St. Louis Public Schools will maintain oversight of the provisionally accredited district through June 2016.
The state Board of Education unanimously approved the extension during its meeting today in Jefferson City. The SAB had been set to expire in June of this year.
Education Commission Chris Nicastro said even though the district has had some academic ups and downs under the SAB’s tenure, keeping it in place would allow officials to gauge whether school improvement efforts are taking root.
“We’re still watching and waiting to see what a definitive trend in performance might be,” Nicastro said during the board meeting. “At this point, our feeling is that allowing the transitional district to continue provides some stability going forward that would allow that trend to assert itself if in fact it’s going to.”
The state-appointed SAB has overseen the district since it lost its state accreditation in 2007. In 2010, the state board extended the SAB’s authority for three years. This time around the extension is for two years. After the meeting, Nicastro said the move leaves the door open to returning oversight back to the elected board eventually.
“Every time we need to think about whether or not the transitional district should be extended, we have to look at, if it is not, then what do we do and how do we get there?” Nicastro said.
Nicastro has said repeatedly that she would like to get three years of data collected under the latest version of the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP5), which were put in place last school year, before considering a change in the district’s status. The district scored in the unaccredited range based on data collected during the 2012-13 school year.
Nicastro pointed to the “growth model” under the current state standards as providing a means for state officials to assess whether the district is on the right track.
“Prior to (MSIP5) there was no opportunity for a district to get credit, if you will, from moving kids from point A to point B,” Nicastro said.
David Jackson, president of the elected but disempowered board, said he welcomed discussion about the possibility of reinstating the elected board’s authority.
“It’s something that we’ve been stressing for the last four years,” Jackson said. “There’s nothing in the state law that gives the governance back to the elected board. DESE has not responded as to how that would happen. This is the first time I’ve heard the state board inquire about it.”
Jackson said the elected board continues to meet on a monthly basis and that he has regular contact with Superintendent Kelvin Adams.
While Jackson was disappointed by another extension of the SAB’s authority, the mayor’s office welcomed it.
“We’re really appreciative of the state Board of Education renewing the SAB,” said Robbyn Wahby, who focuses on education policy for Mayor Francis Slay. “St. Louis Public Schools is heading in the right direction. This is important to continue on that forward movement and we thank them for that vote of confidence.”
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.