Education

St. Louis lawyer Marie Kenyon discusses her new role leading the Archdiocese of St. Louis' Peace and Justice Commission with 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on Jan. 12, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, St. Louis attorney Marie Kenyon was named the director of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ new Peace and Justice Commission.

The issues Kenyon expects to take on with that commission, including poverty, race and education, are the same issues she has dealt with as a lawyer.

President Barack Obama’s proposal to provide free community college tuition for some students who meet certain standards won praise from some educators, but skeptics wondered whether it was the best way for tax dollars to be spent on education.

Obama announced the proposal Friday during a visit to a community college in Knoxville, Tenn., a state with a plan that is similar to what the president is expected to announce in greater detail in his State of the Union address later this month.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

Now that adjunct instructors at Washington University have voted to join a union, they have to figure out exactly what improvements they want their new status to bring.

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board announced the election results. The proposal to join the Service Employees International Union won by a vote of 138-111. Afterward, the union’s Adjunct Action project sent out an email headed “Victory!”

Washington University's Brookings Hall
(via Flickr/Washington University/with permission)

Part-time faculty members at Washington University have voted to unionize in an effort to improve their salary, working conditions and stability of employment.

Ballots counted at the National Labor Relations Board Monday showed the proposal passed by a vote of 138-111, with 18 contested ballots that would not affect the outcome of the election. Just over 400 instructors at the university were eligible to vote, with a simple majority of those voting needed for passage.

Courtesy St. Louis Public Schools

Members of the Special Administrative Board (SAB) for St. Louis Public Schools — which has overseen the district since it lost state accreditation in 2007 — are meeting to develop a plan for returning authority over the district to the disempowered, elected board.  

The first meeting is being held this evening and will be a closed session to discuss legal and legislative issues related to transitioning authority.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

As part-time instructors at Washington University ponder whether to join a union, two major questions have arisen about the campaign.

St. Louis Public Schools

When the Missouri General Assembly convenes next month, education will take its usual place as the center of concern for many lawmakers. Here are some of the bills that have been pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.

Student transfers

Lowell Kruse
Department of Higher Education

Like a beginning freshman plotting out college courses so she can have a marketable degree four years down the road, the Missouri Department of Higher Education is embarking on a new planning process to make sure students leave campus with skills to help the state – and themselves -- move ahead.

But when the plan is finished, the final exam question will be this: Will its recommendations actually be used on the state’s campuses?

comedy nose | Flickr

By April 2013, the latest state data showed the number of homeless students in St. Louis Public Schools had doubled over the past three school years.

At the time, Deidre Thomas-Murray, the coordinator of students in transition, described what these numbers look like in practice.  

The Normandy Schools Collaborative has hired Diana Bourisaw, former superintendent for the St. Louis Public Schools and the Fox School district, for a six-month consulting contract to help improve the district’s lagging academic performance.

Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

(Updated at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 17, with news conference)

Margie Vandeven may be Missouri’s new commissioner for elementary and secondary education, but she’ll enter the job at the first of the year concentrating on some old problems.

One of them, she told reporters in a conference call Wednesday after her unanimous selection by the state board of education, is working for changes in Missouri’s student transfer law, to help protect the budgets of districts whose students are eligible to leave.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, spent Tuesday listening to St. Louis area students’ thoughts on race, equity and trust following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

It’s a day Duncan said he’ll never forget.

“The division between young people and the police is huge,” Duncan said. “The division along race in this community is huge. The division along educational opportunity being based on where you live, your zip code, is huge. The inequities are huge.”

Missouri Charter Public School Commission holds its organizational meeting on Dec. 16, 2014.  Alicia Herald (back row, right) was elected commission chair.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri's recently formed Charter Public School Commission is preparing to begin operations next year.

Mike Jones talks with education commissioner Chris Nicastro.
File photo: Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

When Chris Nicastro was chosen as Missouri’s education commissioner in 2009, her experience with school districts in north St. Louis County was cited as a big factor.

Now, as the Missouri state board of education prepares to interview five finalists to succeed Nicastro, they have a list of four white men who have been superintendents in Joplin, Branson, Springfield and Wentzville, plus a white woman who has been actively involved in north county as deputy commissioner but has never served as a superintendent.

As a deadline approaches for approval of the sale of Normandie Golf Course to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, those who are worried about the land disappearing as a place for duffers to enjoy hope the university will keep a pledge to save the course.

Millennium Student Center at UMSL
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

While the University of Missouri-St. Louis is experiencing a hiring freeze because of a projected lack of enrollment for the spring semester, it isn’t just sitting back and accepting the situation.

Chancellor Tom George said Thursday that about 600 students who were expected to enroll for next semester still had not signed up. The school is actively trying to figure out if they are just procrastinating or whether outside factors, such as the unsettled atmosphere in north St. Louis County following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, is prompting them to stay away.

File photo

Because of a projected drop in enrollment next semester after unrest in nearby Ferguson, the University of Missouri-St. Louis said Wednesday that it is instituting a hiring freeze, effective immediately.

In a message sent campus wide, Chancellor Tom George described “widespread anxiety about the region in general and north county in particular” that has had a consequence on area universities.

“Misplaced though it may be,” George added, “it is a perception affecting the community and UMSL.”

John C. Danforth
Washington University

American politics is not working very well today, but religion can play a role in helping to move it away from partisanship and back to a spirit of compromise.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Relatively speaking, not that many students take the Advanced Placement course in computer science.

Out of a little more than 2.3 million students for all subjects, fewer than 40,000 students took an exam for the course last year. While there was a slight uptick in the percentage of minority and female students, the data continue to show a jaw-dropping lack of racial and gender diversity.

Nationally, only 4 percent of all students who took the test were African American and just 20 percent were female.

File photo

Renewed efforts to change Missouri’s law on school transfers look pretty much the same as the bill vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Jay Nixon, but sponsors of the newly filed legislation say events in Ferguson have changed the atmosphere for the upcoming debate.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

The Missouri state board of education has a field of 14 candidates from which to choose the state’s new commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After the board’s open meeting in Branson Thursday, where it approved added responsibility for the appointed school board that is running the Normandy Schools Collaborative, board president Peter Herschend said in a telephone interview that the applications of the 14 people who want to succeed retiring Commissioner Chris Nicastro would be reviewed in a closed session on Friday.

John Walker / Flickr

A new effort is underway to fortify the high school to college pipeline for students in St. Louis Public Schools.  

The St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, the fundraising partner for the district, wants to raise $2 million to hire eight counselors over the next three years to focus on college readiness. These counselors would serve students at all 15 of the district’s high schools. The highly regarded Metro Academic and Classical High School already has a counselor specifically focused on college readiness.   

Stephanie Zimmerman

As the appointed board that runs the new Normandy Schools Collaborative is about to take on new responsibilities for personnel decisions and improved academic achievement, it is working with outside agencies to find substitute teachers and help its littlest residents on the road to learning.

Following acceptance by the Joint Executive Governing Board of a proposal that it be in charge of evaluating, hiring and disciplining personnel, the state board of education is expected to approve the new plan at its meeting Thursday in Branson.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
(via Flickr/Washington University/with permission)

Adjunct faculty members at Washington University will begin voting next week on whether to join a union, with the ballots to be counted after the first of the year.

Susan Stark
Washington University

If medical tests found that you had risk factors that could possibly lead to Alzheimer’s disease when you are in your mid-60s, would you want to know?

What if you were a freshman in college, just starting out on your path to adulthood? Would that change your answer?

That’s one of the questions that students in a new course at Washington University are pondering as they look into what their futures may hold — cue the Beatles music — when they’re 64.

Sam's Meat Market in Ferguson. November 21, 2014
Maria Altman / St. Louis Public Radio

As the wait goes on for an announcement by the Darren Wilson grand jury, people, businesses and organizations are taking steps to prepare for possible unrest. There are random anecdotes of parents preparing to bring their children home early from school, and businesses developing plans for locking down under duress.

But there are also more concrete plans in the works.

School closings

Harris-Stowe State University President Dwaun Warmack
Harris-Stowe State University

Dwaun Warmack took over as president of Harris-Stowe State University in July. A month later, Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, about 12 miles away.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

Adjunct instructors at Washington University could be voting by the end of this year whether to form a union now that the university and the Service Employees International Union have agreed on terms for an election to proceed.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
(via Flickr/Washington University/with permission)

Updated at 9:16 a.m. Friday with agreement between Washington U. and union, cancellation of NLRB hearing:

For many university instructors with a Ph.D. following their name, the letters might stand for Pretty Hefty Disillusionment.

They’re the ones who, after working for years to earn a doctorate in their field, sadly find that the higher education system has no job openings for them to teach students what they know.

File photo

After complaints from teachers and others about how the initial year of the Normandy Schools Collaborative has gone so far, the state board of education wants to give more authority to the local appointed board.

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