Education

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - As superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District since July 1, Scott Spurgeon has an array of facts and figures, plans and practices that he says can help the district regain accreditation.

But, he told a hearing called by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Wednesday night, he also has one solid indicator that things are looking up.

Art McCoy
File copy | Ferguson-Florissant website

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Missouri school officials say they are investigating "potential irregularities in mandatory reporting including district attendance" in the Ferguson-Florissant school district.

Information from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was released following word from the district's school board that it had “serious” new information about suspended Superintendent Art McCoy that it is referring to state education officials.

arty representation of jackson on currency
_J_D_R_ | Flickr

In Missouri, the average student loan debt for people between 25 and 34-years-old has increased by about 120 percent over the past eight years. In Illinois, that number has jumped more than 140 percent, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Nationally, student loan debt has topped the $1 trillion mark, surpassing credit card debt and auto loans.  

Courtesy of Beyond Housing

A recent decision by the Normandy School District will set the stage for the state and our region to address the financial aspect of the student transfer law.   Whether or not you agree with their decision, Normandy was not in any financial trouble before the transfer ruling and was in full compliance of state standards of fiscal soundness.  So how did we get here?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The crowd that jammed the gym at McCluer North High School Wednesday night was concerned with more than the return of Art McCoy as Ferguson-Florissant superintendent. They also cheered the prospect of the departure of the board members who placed McCoy on leave last week.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Board member Terry Artis voted "hell, no" as the Normandy school board voted to approve paying tuition for students who transferred out of the district. The 5-1 vote was made in front of a packed house of more than 80.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Two high-profile education stories will be in the spotlight Wednesday night.

In Normandy, the school board will once again decide whether to pay tuition bills to local districts that have accepted students who have transferred to attend nearby accredited schools.

Courtesy of Show Me Institute

Imagine going to a school where less than a quarter of students are reading on grade level and a third of your classmates will never make it to graduation. Many students in the St. Louis area do not have to imagine because that is their sad reality. Until recently, students in these failing schools have been trapped unless they could afford private school tuition or they could move to a different school district.

(via Flickr/frankjuarez)

A state audit released Tuesday finds that local governments and school districts in Missouri have cost themselves $43 million by not allowing competition for underwriting public bonds.

State Auditor Tom Schweich (R) cites the practice of negotiated bond sales, in which an underwriter is hired in advance and sometimes acts as a financial advisor to the local government that issues the bond.

Dianitia Butler has been in the Normandy School District her entire life.

The senior at Normandy High School is quick to tell you that it’s been a rough year, and she’s especially frustrated by staff reductions brought on by expenses associated with school transfer.

Despite the challenges, she’ll also tell you that school spirit is alive and well. 

“It’s definitely students coming together as one,” Butler said, who is also the student representative for the school board.   “Seeing that we’re all in this together.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Normandy school Superintendent Ty McNichols marshaled a detailed array of facts and figures Monday night to show state school officials how the district arrived at its unaccredited status and what it is doing to win its accreditation back.

Kelvin Adams St. Louis Public Schools superintendent
Dale Singer | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Filing into a second-grade classroom at Oak Hill Elementary School, Kelvin Adams and others settled into child-sized seats at the back of the room to watch students play a guessing game. They quickly became the object of the kids’ curiosity.

The students were asked: Which one of the visitors – including a reporter and several employees of the St. Louis Public Schools along with Adams – is the superintendent, aka the “big cheese”?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We are in St. Louis, Missouri today for a special broadcast from St. Louis Public Radio. We're going to be giving you a bit of St. Louis flavor. In a few minutes, we will talk about one of the city's biggest bragging rights. Hint, it has nothing to do with swinging a bat or throwing a ball.

comedy_nose / Flickr

While two Catholic grade schools will close in south St. Louis next fall, seven other parishes confirmed today that their schools will remain open.

All nine schools are members of the South City Collaboration, a coalition of parishes working together on challenges in their schools like declining enrollment, financial difficulties and the shifting population of south St. Louis. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Art McCoy, superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District since July 2011, has been placed on administrative leave with pay by the district’s board because of "differences in focus and philosophy.”

In a statement from the district Thursday afternoon, board president Paul T. Morris said the action is not an indication of any wrongdoing on McCoy’s part.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Frustrated with a lack of information about why Ferguson-Florissant school superintendent Art McCoy was placed on administrative leave, a coalition of education advocates called Friday for a fuller explanation or the resignation of board members who voted for the move.

Host Michel Martin continues the conversation surrounding Missouri's controversial school transfer policy with Don Marsh of St. Louis Public Radio; Ty McNichols, who leads the city's Normandy School District; and Eric Knost, Superintendent of Mehlville School District.

Cast a Line / Flickr

Many state officials have been receptive to a fresh proposal to overhaul the state’s school accreditation system, but the plan would take years to implement and won’t help the districts facing bankruptcy over student transfer and tuition costs.

Marshall Cohen, right, with a recent graduate
Provided by Mr. Cohen

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - For Marshall Cohen, the word dumbbell has two distinct meanings.

The exercise equipment played a big part in the success of Lift for Life gym, the weight-lifting mecca for inner-city kids that Cohen started 25 years ago to help provide hope for lives that often had little but despair. The gym spawned a charter school, Lift for Life Academy, one of the first in St. Louis.

Michel Martin
Doby Photography / NPR

When Michel Martin, host of NPR’s Tell Me More, brings her show to St. Louis Public Radio’s home of UMSL at Grand Center on November 8, 2013, it should come as no surprise that education will be a topic.

breahn / Flickr

Companies from across the St. Louis region are launching a new program on Monday that’s aimed at steering women toward careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, related fields.

The mentoring and job shadowing project is a partnership between the private all-girls Catholic high school Cor Jesu Academy and companies that include Ameren, Watlow and Barry-Wehmille Companies, Inc.

President of Cor Jesu Academy, Sister Barbara Thomas, said they’ve worked with each company so that a woman engineer is onsite to guide students.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - As lawmakers, educators and others prepare for what shapes up to be a lively discussion about changes in Missouri classrooms, St. Louis area superintendents say they would like to see more money directed to struggling schools so that students could learn where they live rather than having to travel elsewhere.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: After collecting opinions from a variety of campus groups, Saint Louis University has begun seeking a president who will be expected to “maintain SLU’s Jesuit core values and existing strengths, while building boldly and creatively on the university’s potential for future growth.”

Two members of the Normandy school board were absent for last week’s vote rejecting bills from districts that have accepted transferring students. But their presence may not have made any difference in the outcome.

What often is a routine part of a school board meeting attracted a lot more attention Thursday night when a motion to pay $1.3 million in bills submitted by receiving school districts for tuition and transportation in September came up for a vote.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Missouri’s budget priorities have long-term consequences and they are not good.

The recent snafu over the fiscal budget, the debt ceiling and the continued funding of Obamacare provides a teachable moment. Spending choices, whether at the federal or state level, have economic consequences.

(Courtesy Lisa Thompson/Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)

This fall more than 2,500 students climbed on board buses and into taxis leaving the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens Districts for accredited districts in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.

The migration began after a ruling this June by the Missouri Supreme Court, which upheld a controversial state law.

It just so happens that the two unaccredited districts are predominantly African-American, and the districts chosen to receive them are largely white.

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports that’s drawn some comparisons to an earlier time.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Despite a vote by the Normandy school board rejecting payment for tuition and transportation costs for students transferring elsewhere, Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro emphasized two points on Friday:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Leading the search for the new president of Saint Louis University, Jim Smith is focusing on lots of facets of the school’s operations – finances, academics, the climate on campus and the importance of its Jesuit mission.

But he isn’t too concerned about SLU’s drop in rankings by U.S. News & World Report – down to 101st in the most recent listing.

After all, Smith told the Beacon in an interview this week, “My company does those ratings.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: After agreeing to save money by laying off 103 teachers and staff members and offering early retirement incentives to 98 more, the Normandy school board took an unexpected stand Thursday night by voting against paying $1.3 million in tuition and transportation bills for transferring students for the month of September.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: More than 100 teachers and staff members in the Normandy School District may be laid off for the second semester and Bel-Nor Elementary School may be closed as the district works to close a multimillion-dollar hole in its budget.

At the first of two meetings held Wednesday, teachers were told this morning that 103 employees were likely to be laid off. Details of the plan are scheduled to be presented to the Normandy school board at its meeting Thursday night.

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