Education

Normandy website

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri State Board of Education surprised the Normandy School District Tuesday by voting to take over its finances in a bid to bolster chances that the district would get $5 million in emergency funds to help it finish the school year.

The state Board also directed the education commissioner to appoint a transition task force immediately to develop a plan for the operation of the Normandy Schools starting in July 2014, if the General Assembly fails to appropriate additional funds for the district, and if the district lapses.

KWMU Staff

Much like apple pie and motherhood, everybody wants better schools and higher student achievement. The only problem is that no one can quite agree what's the best way to get there.

Once a week, our team of education reporters would like to share stories that look at trends in education here and across the country. In particular, we want to focus on people, research and even gizmos that may help make kids learn better. This week, we've discovered some high-tech — and low-tech — solutions.

Mistrust of CEE-Trust

An archway entrance to Saint Louis University
chuteme | Flickr | Creative Commons

Updated at 3:23 p.m. Mon., Feb. 17, with announcement of new SIU president. Some of the jobs came open suddenly, one at the end of a long campus standoff and still others quietly at the end of long, productive tenures, but they all have resulted in room at the top of the ivory tower:

At least four local schools – Saint Louis University, Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis Community College and the Southern Illinois University system – have vacancies in the office of their top administrator or did until Monday, when SIU named a new president.

University of Missouri website

Updated 4:43 p.m., Fri., Feb. 14 with Wolfe announcing task force on sexual assault policies and mental health issues.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators has hired the St. Louis law firm of Dowd Bennett to investigate the handling of allegations of sexual assault of a former student at the Columbia campus who later committed suicide.

Missouri House website

Rep. Rick Stream, chairman of the Missouri House Budget Committee, filed two bills Thursday that could help the Normandy School District avert going bankrupt in April.

One bill, part of a supplemental appropriations request, would provide $5 million in emergency funds for Normandy to help the district finish out the year. The other would result in districts that have received tuition payments for students transferring from unaccredited Normandy paying back some of that money to the district.

If school is a preparation for life, then school should prepare students to succeed in life, not just in school. And in life sometimes you have to overcome failure in order to succeed.

Don Senti, executive director, EducationPlus
EducationPlus website

If Normandy School District goes bankrupt and its students are sent to other area schools, the effect would be dramatic both financially and educationally, according to a study released Tuesday by the group EducationPlus.

school buses
Flickr

JEFFERSON CITY -- From the start of Monday’s six-hour session considering a variety of ways to help struggling schools, the head of the Missouri board of education emphasized that the state is concerned about long-range, broad-based policy, not the operations of individual districts.

But as board members heard a number of presentations on suggested reforms, the talk returned time and again to the current transfers out of unaccredited school districts and the impact on the students who live there.

interlocking circle to Normand vision
From the Normandy Planning Document

Anyone who attended DESE’s Feb. 5 community forum may have noticed the same thing I noticed: The plan Normandy School District submitted to DESE on Tuesday, Feb. 4, was nowhere to be seen or heard.

DESE’s presentation was designed to inform citizens of the significant characteristics of each plan so the department could take public input into consideration before making a recommendation to the Missouri School Board. (A PDF of the DESE presentation is available online.)

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio/The Beacon

As Missouri education officials continue to gather public comment on what the state should do to help unaccredited school districts, one sentiment became clear Wednesday night:

The public needs to have a strong voice in whatever plans are adopted.

In the second of four hearings in the latest round of attempts by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to gauge public sentiment about a variety of plans put forth so far, about 200 people showed up at the J.C. Penney Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

(Courtesy: Southwestern Illinois College)

During the State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama called on community colleges to build stronger partnerships with local businesses.  And according to St. Louis-area community college leaders, many of those initiatives are already in place on their campuses.

Illinois Holds College Financial Aid Workshops

Feb 2, 2014
Illinois Student Assistance Commission

Illinois governor Pat Quinn has announced free workshops across the state for college students and their parents to get advice on acquiring financial aid. The workshops will be conducted throughout February, which is Financial Aid Awareness Month.

Experts with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission will help families understand and complete the commonly-used FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Aid.

UMSL website

Despite financial concerns that threatened to derail its approval, a $17 million building for the optometry program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis won passage Friday, but not without reservations over how it will be paid for.

From the report

 A report from a coalition of church groups in St. Louis says a plan commissioned by the Missouri state board of education to help struggling school districts could result in “an educational ghetto.”

Instead of the plan presented earlier this month by the outside consultant CEE-Trust, a group known as Metropolitan Congregations United for St. Louis wants to give more local control to school districts. It also wants to focus on school culture, curriculum and staffing and provide so-called wrap-around services for students who do not get proper support at home.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

A study released Thursday by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry states that Missouri is "falling behind" when it comes to providing digital learning for K-12 students. 

The chamber commissioned the study, which was conducted by the Colorado-based Evergreen Education Group.  Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan says although online learning options are available in the Show-Me State, most require tuition, while those that don’t are limited geographically.

Updated at 10:12 p.m. with investigator hired for Courey case:

Tuition for resident undergraduate students at the four campuses of the University of Missouri will remain flat for the coming school year after a unanimous vote by the Board of Curators Wednesday.

Meeting in Columbia, the curators went along unanimously with a recommendation by university President Tim Wolfe. He in turn was agreeing with a wish expressed by Gov. Jay Nixon last week in his State of the State address.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Gov. Jay Nixon came to Fort Zumwalt North High School Wednesday on his “Good Schools, Good Jobs” tour, and based on the questions he was asked in a class he visited, many of the students there could end up with jobs in journalism.

In the coming weeks the future of the Normandy School District and that of every other district in the state will determined by the elected leadership in Jefferson City.  Normandy, currently unaccredited, will run out of money at some point between April and the end of the school year.  This topic covers so many difficult areas to not only talk about but also find consensus: public education, race, poverty and power.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

Updated 7:41 a.m., Tues. Jan. 28, with details of contract vote.

The Normandy School District, which faces the possibility of being dissolved this spring, is paying a lobbyist $10,000 a month to help persuade lawmakers in Jefferson City to provide enough money to help the district survive until the end of the school year.

UM website

The president of the University of Missouri says he will go along with Gov. Jay Nixon’s request and recommend that tuition for the system’s four campuses not go up next year.

Tim Wolfe, who visited with junior and senior high school students in the Bayless School District in south St. Louis County Friday morning, said that the additional revenue proposed by Nixon in his State of the State address earlier this week should provide the four-campus system with the money it needs without raising tuition.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

Normandy School District.

Now is the time to change how these three words take on meaning in our collective awareness. As one of the instructional coaches brought in by the district’s new leaders last summer, I offer a couple of images to help outsiders — especially our state legislators and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — see us for real.

12 Years A Slave

Ferguson-Florissant website

Updated 3:30 p.m., Fri., Jan. 24 with news from press conference called by Grade A 4 Change.

Two of three incumbents on the Ferguson-Florissant school board who voted to put Superintendent Art McCoy on paid leave are running for re-election in April, but they will be facing challengers hand-picked because of their support for McCoy.

comedy_nose / Flickr

For CEE-Trust, a consultant hired by Missouri education officials to propose ways to reverse what it calls “disastrous” student performance in Kansas City, nothing less than sweeping change is required.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon)

Updated at 10:10 a.m. Jan. 23 to reflect the correct source of one of the three state intervention proposals.

Members of the Normandy school board are skeptical that any of the proposed new plans for state intervention in academically troubled districts will make a difference in their schools.

JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri has already adopted and begun to implement the Common Core State Standards,  but a group of diehard opponents urged the state board of education Tuesday to follow what they said is the lead of other states and reconsider.

(via Flickr/frankjuarez)

JEFFERSON CITY -- After hearing a one-hour presentation by CEE-Trust of its proposal on how to help struggling schools in Kansas City -- and possibly throughout Missouri -- members of the state board of education had an hour's worth of questions on their own.

Now, the process begins to combine the CEE-Trust report with other recommendations and suggestions from the public to determine the best way to proceed. 

comedy nose | Flickr

Updated at 1:34 p.m., Mon., Jan. 13 with news of  unexpectedly large turnout at Jefferson City meeting.

To reverse student performance in Kansas City that it calls  “disastrous,” a consultant hired by Missouri education officials is proposing a makeover that would direct more money to individual schools, recruit outside nonprofit groups to run them and address non-academic needs such as health care, nutrition and even laundry services to prepare students better to learn.

(via Flickr/KB35)

Even as lawmakers and others got ready to craft possible changes to the transfer law, EducationPlus released guidelines for the next round of student transfers beginning this coming August.

The first round was a rushed affair. The Missouri Supreme Court did not uphold the transfer law until June 11, though the suit involved had been winding its way through the courts for several years and had already been upheld by the high court once.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

As planning begins for school transfers in the St. Louis area in the academic year that starts in August, and Missouri lawmakers return to Jefferson City for the new legislative session, one issue will loom large for both groups:

What changes, if any, will come to the transfer law that has dominated so many headlines, discussions and school board meetings in recent months?

Illinois State Board of Education website

The state's takeover of the district aims to improve student achievement, finances and governance, but progress will be hard without more money from Springfield.

Christopher Koch knows what schools in East St. Louis need to succeed, and he has a pretty clear idea how to get the job done. He just hopes that the state of Illinois will provide the resources that the district needs.

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