Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board of education has continued to hold elections and conduct meetings, even though it’s had no authority over the district for a decade.

The task belongs to a Special Administrative Board, or SAB, which is appointed. As the district moves back to improved academic performance, the three-person SAB has said its time of rule is nearing an end. The governor of Missouri, the mayor of St. Louis and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen each get to select one of the board members. 

Missouri Dept. of Agriculture

Chris Chinn’s first year on the job has not been boring.

Her tenure as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture began with flooding in the spring that’s now causing delays in crop harvests. Along the way, Chinn’s office had to deal with contamination in southeastern Missouri that triggered a temporary ban of the herbicide Dicamba. It's an issue that caught the attention of the Missouri General Assembly and farmers across the state.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin caught up with Chinn to talk about those challenges and her department’s major priorities.

Protesters walk down Olive Street in downtown St. Louis after the People's Town Hall event. Sept. 28, 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Ann Tisdale’s 20s lined up with the peak of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the struggle for black empowerment.

Tisdale didn’t participate. She said she was scared of getting hurt, but she followed the movement closely — reading “everything there was to read.”

“You could say physically, I’m a coward, but I know what’s going on,” she said.

LaShell Eikerenkoetter addresses police officers after protesters saw them use a Taser on a demonstrator.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The search for a new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department — underway since Sam Dotson retired in April — is into its sixth month.  Applications were due on Thursday, and a new chief should be in place by January.

The final steps of the process are taking place with the department under a bright spotlight from protesters demanding more police accountability, and the scrutiny could impact the way the rest of the search plays out.

Movie poster image. Melissa Leo and Margaret Qualley star in "Novitiate," set to open in Los Angeles and New York Friday, Oct. 27.
Provided | Sony Pictures

Contemporary classical music fans all over the country have enjoyed original compositions by St. Louis' own Chris Stark. But he may have found his biggest audience, ever, in a new group: moviegoers.

Stark, a composer and a professor of composition at Washington University, recently finished scoring his first film, a Sony Pictures release, “Novitiate.” It’s the story of a woman who joins a convent.  Margaret Qualley plays the aspiring nun and Melissa Leo, the mother superior, in the film directed by Maggie Betts.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast episode, Willis Ryder Arnold and Nancy Fowler talk with Stark about his work for a major motion picture.

LaShell Eikerenkoetter and Rev. Darryl Gray have each been arrested during the Stockley protests.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Rev. Darryl Gray marched alongside iconic civil rights figures, including Ralph Abernathy, who succeeded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Missouri candidates for statewide and legislative offices are having to learn the ropes of Amendment 2, which imposes campaign-donation restrictions.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Just over a year away from what could be a crucial 2018 election, Missouri candidates are grappling with the new restrictions to campaign donations mandated by the voter-approved measure known as Amendment 2.

Close to 70 percent of Missouri voters approved the constitutional amendment in 2016, putting an end to the state’s 10-year status as one of only a handful of states without donation limits. But flaws in the new system are prompting the General Assembly and political activists to seek more changes.  

Special education teacher Tiffany Andrews teaches a fourth grader about possessive nouns on Oct. 17, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a limited pool of people certified to teach special education in the St. Louis metro area, putting districts from St. Charles County to the Metro East in intense competition for qualified candidates.

Even more well-off schools feel the impact of the shortage, but schools with higher needs and less money often have the most trouble filling positions.

An illustration of prescription drugs.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Though Republicans in Congress have not passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has used a series of executive orders and directives in an attempt to peel back parts of the law.

Last week, the administration announced it would stop paying cost-sharing reductions to insurance companies for individual plans purchased through Healthcare.gov, sparking fears of insurance rate hikes just before enrollment season.  

Official estimates show that losing cost-sharing payments could push some premiums up by 20 percent in states like Missouri. In the meantime, open enrollment for individual plans opens Nov. 1.  

A student works on an assignment in an introductory English language course at the International Institute of St. Louis. About 1,100 immigrants and refugees take English courses at the institute.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Maryam Bakhtari trained to be a doctor in Afghanistan. She never thought there would be a time when she couldn't practice gynecology. But as a new immigrant to the United States, her chosen field is beyond her. These days, she's focusing on a different kind of learning.

Bakhtari takes English classes at the International Institute of St. Louis. She’s among the approximate 1,100 adults who take the classes every year. The International Institute has the largest English for Speakers of Other Languages program in the St. Louis region. 

St. Louis County police officer Ben Granda trains in a simulator at the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. The simualator, a gift from the Burges Family Foundation, helps officers practice the tactics that can keep them safe.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Use-of-force policies for both the St. Louis Metropolitan Police and St. Louis County Police departments say officers can shoot someone to “protect themselves or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.”

Protesters who have been marching throughout greater St. Louis, demanding greater police accountability for more than a month, say those policies give officers too much leeway. They want more limits on when officers can draw and fire their weapons. But an expert on deadly force says the solution isn’t more restrictions — it’s better training.

Andrew Oberle, a chimp attack survivor who helped create a holistic trauma program at Saint Louis University, shared his story at a live taping of The Story Collider in October 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

In June 2012, Andrew Oberle, an aspiring primate researcher, was brutally attacked by two chimpanzees at a zoo in South Africa. The animals tore his flesh from head to toe and he nearly died.

But after 26 surgeries and extensive therapies at Saint Louis University Hospital, Oberle recovered. His ability to overcome his traumatic experiences led him to want to help others in who've experienced extreme physical injuries. Today, Oberle serves as the director of development for the Oberle Institute, a trauma care program at Saint Louis University that is supported by foudations. He helps raise funds for the institute and also serves as a patient advocate. 

Signs held by demonstrators at a Sept. 6 rally in support of the DACA program outside the St. Louis office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. The photo was taken by Eddie Albarran who spoke at the rally. He is studying photography.
Provided | Eddie Albarran

Eddie Albarran recalls being nervous — but also very determined — as he waited to address about 60 people gathered outside the St. Louis office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill last month.

Albarran, who grew up in St. Louis, was about to acknowledge publicly a fact of his life that he usually keeps to himself: He is one of nearly 700,000 young immigrants who have temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama administration created the DACA policy in 2012 for  children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

The Rev. Starsky Wilson former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

After the demonstrations that followed a Ferguson police officer’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the 16-member Ferguson Commission came up with a list of recommendations to address policing and the region’s disparities in jobs, education and policing. But many African-Americans say elected leaders have yet to adopt those proposals —and that has helped fuel a new wave of protests.

In the three weeks that followed a judge’s decision to acquit former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, people have again taken to the streets. The Rev. Starsky Wilson and others say the latest protests — including Tuesday night’s shutdown of Interstate 64 — are acts of social disruption aimed at compelling regional leaders to act.

The Dinosaurs album cover features all four bandmates shot in black and white in a line.
Provided by Big Muddy Records

Four decades ago, a young Bob Reuter walked into the T&D Lounge, a south St. Louis dive bar, just as the country band on stage announced the end of its run at the club. Reuter, then in his mid-20s, walked up to the bar and talked the bar manager into offering him the performance slot. But there was just one problem. He didn’t have a band.

So Reuter reached out to three friends and formed the Dinosaurs, which he claimed was the city’s first punk band. It wasn’t, but over the next three months, the band played a weekly four-hour gig at the bar, combining covers with original tunes that sounded too punk for  rock ‘n’ roll and too rock for punk.

Big Muddy Records has refocused attention on the late guitar player, singer and DJ with its release of the band’s first self-titled album. That early music established the brash Reuter as an enduring force in St. Louis’ underground music scene.

Lewis Claybon has been standing on a corner along Tower Grove Avenue in St. Louis for "a long, long time. About 14, 15 years," he said, waving to passers-by.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

It would be just another stop sign in St. Louis if there wasn’t this man on the corner of Tower Grove and Vista avenues, his hands in the air, waving and hollering greetings at every passing car, cyclist and pedestrian.

For brief moments, commuters slow down and the daily grind eases. Everyone waves back.

September 22, 2017 photo. Some Oktoberfest revelers in St. Charles' Frontier Park weren't happy to see protesters in a Sept. 22 demonstration.
Ryan Delaney| St. Louis Public Radio

People protesting daily against what they see as systemic police violence against African-Americans aren’t the only St. Louis-area residents who say they want to be heard.

Many white residents don’t support the protests. They can’t understand why demonstrators are pinning their protests to the not-guilty verdict for Jason Stockley, a white, former St. Louis police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011. Smith was 24.

Students get ready for a violin class taught by Philip Tinge at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis is one of hundreds of private schools in Illinois that could see a financial boost from the state’s new tax credit scholarship program.

More than 90 percent of the families who send their children to the school fall below the federal poverty line of $24,600 for a family of four. That gives them top priority to receive a scholarship.

Although children from low-income families get priority,  if Illinois follows the pattern of other states with similar programs, most of the tax credit scholarships will go to middle-class families.

Inmates at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis look out during a protest on July 22, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jail inmates at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton stay for an average of 59 days before their cases are tried or dismissed. But 10 miles away, at the Medium Security Institution in the city of St. Louis, the typical prisoner waits for eight months.

The St. Louis jail, which does not have air conditioning in the men’s dorms, drew protests this summer after inmates cried for help during a heat wave. The city installed temporary cooling units at the facility, also known as the Workhouse, and extreme temperatures have since subsided. Inmates and their families say more must be done to improve conditions in the aging facility. But city officials say there isn’t much more they can do.

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

Sikeston, Missouri — In front of several greenhouse scaffolds, Steve Hamra gestured to a metal cart containing trays of seedlings for bell peppers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. About 150 miles south of St. Louis on a 10-acre site, Hamra is growing produce hydroponically, or in water instead of soil, for about 400 schools, in Missouri and other states.

September 12, 2017 photo. Shakespeare in the Streets' "Blow, Winds," inspired by "King Lear," is staged on the steps of the St. Louis Public Library, Central Library, downtown.
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

More than 1 million of us call the St. Louis area home.  But depending on whether you live in Affton, Ladue, Wellston or any other of the 90 municipalities — and where you went to high school — the experience varies widely.

A new play puts a Shakespearean spin on living in St. Louis. “Blow, Winds,” inspired by “King Lear,” is this year’s production of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ Shakespeare in the Streets.

This pink poster with a photo and scribbled rememberances was hung on the door to the apartment building where Kenneth "Kiwi" Herring was shot during police investigation of reported stabbing.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the sun set over the Transgender Memorial Garden in the Tower Grove neighborhood late last month, members of St. Louis’ transgender community, supporters and advocates expressed frustration, sadness and a strong will to resist as they gathered to mourn the death of Kenneth “Kiwi” Herring, a black transgender woman.

Children run past a box of welcome packets at new parent orientation at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy on Aug. 10, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Catholic education is a tradition almost as old as St. Louis itself. Saint Louis University was founded by Jesuit priests in 1818, and is gearing up for its 200th anniversary.

Yet from kindergarten to college, Catholic education in the area is undergoing a shift due to declining enrollment and cultural evolutions.

Internet service at Glenwood R-8 School in West Plains is "very good, very reliable," Superintendent Wayne Stewart said. It's not the same when his students go home.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There are evenings where Brittney Berry’s five children fight over the internet connection at her rural south-central Missouri home. If one tries to research a homework assignment while another sibling streams a video, someone’s getting kicked offline.

“It’s super crappy,” Berry said.

It’s a scenario that plays out in the homes of families throughout the vast Glenwood R-8 School District in Howell County near West Plains, as well as other rural parts of Missouri. There, families have few options for home internet access — none high-speed or cheap.

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk once worked as a park ranger at The Arch. The lack of represenation of York in the Museum of Westward Expansion helped inspire his current performance.
File photo | Provided | Bobby Norfolk

Who were the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the Western United States? The obvious answer is Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. But many likely don't know that an enslaved African played a crucial third role.

Lewis and Clark are famous for undertaking the “Corps of Discovery” in the early 1800s. But another man, York, typically only receives a footnote in history books.

St. Louis storyteller Bobby Norfolk wants the change that. In our latest Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast, we talk with Norfolk, whose Sept. 15 storytelling event at The Link Auditorium in the Central West End focuses on York’s experience, which included adventure, hardship and terrible mistreatment.

Mazy Gilleylen bounces on a trampoline outside her home in Overland. Summer 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mazy Gilleylen of Overland is looking forward to her 12th birthday in September. But she’s dreading what comes next.

Approaching puberty is alarming for transgender kids like Mazy. To them, the changes can feel like like a betrayal of who they really are. Doctors can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to prevent unwanted prevent breast growth or a deepening voice. But the cost is out of reach for many families.

Saint Louis University Robert Pasken and his graduate student Melissa Mainhart perform a test run of a weather balloon that they plan to launch during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Historically, total solar eclipses have been used to make important scientific discoveries. One in 1919 validated Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Another in 1868 led to the discovery of helium, the second most common element on the planet.

Third-grader Donoven Cruz tries out his eclipse glasses with classmates while looking up at a projector light at Gotsch Intermediate School in Affton. Aug. 17, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

One of the first science lessons of the year for thousands of students in Illinois and Missouri won’t happen in the classroom, but high above it.

Teachers are using Monday’s solar eclipse as an opportunity to inspire a new generation of stargazers, stockpiling special viewing glasses and planning activities and eclipse-specific lessons.

Of course, there’s the other side of the moon: Dozens of schools in the St. Louis area are closing, mostly for safety reasons.

July 27 photo: Mark Kelley helps cast members of "In the Heights" stage a fight while Christina Rios looks on from behind him.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

This has been a super-crazy week for St. Louis theater professional and mom Christina Rios.

One of her three younger children started kindergarten. Her teenager entered her junior year of high school. And her theater company R-S Theatrics geared up to open its largest-ever production: “In the Heights.”

A total solar eclipse in 2006.
Franz Kerschbaum

Like any other day, the sun will rise on Monday. But close to noon in Missouri, the moon will start to cover the sun.

“You’re going to start to see little bits of the sun start to disappear, like someone slowly taking little bites out of a cookie,” said Anna Green, planetarium manager at the Saint Louis Science Center.

The sky will start to go dark quickly, like someone dimming the lights in a room. The air will also become colder, said Angela Speck, astrophysicist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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