Maplewood Richmond Heights School District | St. Louis Public Radio

Maplewood Richmond Heights School District

Katey Finnegan demonstrates how to use the chill zone, a space where students can take time to regroup while at the Maplewood Richmond Heights district's Student Success Center.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area school districts are in the midst of a discipline revolution. After the Ferguson Commission in 2015 recommended banning suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade, schools began looking at how to address the root causes of difficult behavior.

Twenty-one districts pledged to at least attempt to reduce suspensions, and two have followed through, but officials say it can be tough to do without substantially investing time and money.

The holiday season is a time when families gather, usually for food and fun.  But in an age of video games, cell phone chats and abbreviated texts, sometimes, thoughtful conversations with elders are missed.

This year, St. Louis Public Radio, in partnership with StoryCorps, invited students from Maplewood Richmond Heights High School to spend some time asking questions of an important person in their lives. And then to just let the other person talk. 

Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson agreed to a list of principles to reduce suspensions on Saturday, May 23, 2015.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 14 9:45 a.m. with results of the assembly — By the 2018-2019 school year at least four school districts in the St. Louis area could have policies banning out of school suspensions for their youngest students.

At a regional assembly on suspensions Sunday evening, the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District pledged to ban out of school suspensions for pre-K through 3rd grade next school year. Ladue and Normandy committed to doing the same the following year. St. Louis Public Schools enacted their own ban this school year.

teaching
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

After 25 years as a gym teacher, Annalee Zweig knows a lot of different exercises. But she had never encountered the hoops she had to jump through to get jobs as a substitute teacher.

Zweig subs in Parkway, where she taught at four elementary schools before retiring five years ago. This past year, Parkway — along with Normandy and Maplewood Richmond Heights — contracted with a division of Kelly Services, the temporary help company, to recruit, place and employ substitute teachers.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Kaiya Timmermeier is standing under a big oak tree in the parking lot of Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. She is more than a little freaked out at the moment.

“It’s so scary,” she said in shaky voice. “OK, now what?”

Robert Dillon, director of innovation for the Affton School District
courtesy photo

Racial disparities are a huge topic in education. And Missouri schools — specifically those in the St. Louis area — have been singled out as having some of the nation’s highest rates of suspensions that are disproportionately allocated to African Americans. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you stories of people directly participating in that system. This week, we spoke to educators, who shared their own journeys of grappling with issues of race, poverty and discipline in local schools. 

Parents cheer during a football game against Christian Brothers College High School at St. Louis University High on Friday. At left, Verlion Evans cheers for her nephew, Andrew Clair.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When she was a student at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School back in the 70s, Betty Pearson would ring a cowbell every time the Blue Devils made a touchdown. Her high school sweetheart — now her husband — played football, and their oldest son later followed in his footsteps. So when the school board announced they were ending the district's high school football program due to a lack of interest, Pearson was pretty shocked.

“I was first sad! I was like, 'Oh wow.' You know?” Pearson said.

From left, SheRon Chaney helps her daughters Anandra and BrenNae with homework at their dining room table.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

This week lawmakers put a bill on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk that’s supposed to fix the state’s student transfer law that doesn't include a hard cap on how much receiving districts can charge.

A lack of a tuition cap has rekindled concerns that the cost of student transfers will bankrupt the Normandy school district. And for the Chaney family, who St. Louis Public Radio profiled back in May of last year, it’s just the latest twist in what’s been a roller coaster ride.

(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.

voting booth for paper ballot
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Two St. Louis County school districts are asking voters to put recent controversies behind them and approve bond issues next month to help bring facilities up to date.

In Rockwood, where two bond issues have failed in recent years, $68.95 million in bonds would pay for improved technology and increased security along with better athletic facilities. In Ferguson-Florissant, a $31 million bond issue would fund capital improvements and repairs, safety and security measures and updated technology.