Education

Stephanie Zimmerman

To improve student achievement, the interim superintendent of the Normandy school district wants to move sixth graders to the elementary school, concentrate on “career exploration” at the smaller middle school and possibly reopen a closed school as a kindergarten center.

(via Flickr/lowjumpingfrog)

Voters in the Webster Groves School District said a resounding no Tuesday to two proposals — a bond issue and a tax increase — that will mean layoffs of teachers and cancellation of plans to expand and improve district facilities.

While those proposals were soundly defeated, voters in Rockwood and Ferguson-Florissant put past controversies behind them and gave solid majorities to bond issues designed to improve facilities in both of those districts.

Northwest Superintendent Paul Ziegler (left) and dentist Nathan Suter (right) stand in the dental clinic at Valley Middle School
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

This story is part five of Accounted For, an ongoing project of St. Louis Public Radio that explores the connection between chronic absenteeism -- defined as missing three and a half weeks or more of school -- and classroom success. One reason students miss school or do poorly in class is health.  For more on the academic effects of chronic absenteeism, watch the video at the bottom of the page.    

As the committee assigned to help figure out what's next for St. Louis Public Schools winds up its work, one of the main questions it is asking is: How should the city school board be chosen, by election or by appointment?

But based on the discussion the five members had on Monday afternoon, as important as how is the question of who.

Students aren't the only ones who get report cards -- school districts do, too. And the latest numbers for some troubled school districts in the St. Louis area aren't encouraging.

The two Missouri districts in the area that have only provisional accreditation, Jennings and Normandy, still are far short from making the grade, preliminary numbers released Monday show. And the two districts that have been taken over by the state -- St. Louis and Riverview Gardens -- aren't improving either.

After Cleveland Hammonds took charge of the St. Louis Public Schools on July 1, 1996, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was coming into the job as the 23rd superintendent of the largest public school system in Missouri with eyes wide open.

"I know there are great challenges -- I'm not that naive," he said.

Paideia Academy, which had planned to open its school year the day after Labor Day despite having lost its charter to operate, won't be opening after all.

Fred Robinson, president of the school's board, said Thursday that an effort to secure financing for the school had not worked out, so it would not be accepting students, at least for now. He said the decision was made earlier this week.

"The deal we were working on didn't work," Robinson said, declining to give further details. "The deal we were working on fell through."

Former state Sen. Betty Sims, R-Ladue, has been named by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to the state's Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Sims held the 24th District state Senate post from 1995-2003, when she had to step down because of term limits. She was succeeded by Democrat Joan Bray, who also is leaving after this year because of term limits. (The 24th District has the region's only competitive state Senate this fall, between Democrat Barbara Fraser and Republican John Lamping.)

St. Louis Public Schools have paid out as much as a teacher's salary for a full year to teachers who have yet to have their own class this fall, the district acknowledged Tuesday.

Because of unusual movement of teachers, as schools were forced to reconstitute their staffs as part of a turnaround effort, as many as 26 teachers were not assigned to classes that matched their certification, according to Sharonica Hardin, the school system's chief human resource officer.

The elected board of the St. Louis Public Schools wants to resume control of the district no later than July 1 of next year, ending what would be four years of state control of the city schools. It also is looking for new sources of funding and a cap on new charter schools until the district's enrollment stabilizes.

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