Missouri State Board of Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri State Board of Education

File | St. Louis Public Radio

The superintendent of the Normandy school district says younger students there are making impressive gains, particularly in reading, because of learning strategies that influence them from the time they start school.

But older students still struggle, and their lack of progress concerned members of the state board of education who heard an update on the unaccredited district at their meeting Tuesday in Jefferson City.

Computer keyboard
frankieleon | Flickr

Missouri education officials have 3,600 reasons to postpone approving proposed new learning standards for students in the state.

That’s how many comments the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received on the proposed standards since work groups submitted the final version last year. About 600 of those comments came in the last month alone, after the state board of education heard the latest update on the process at its meeting in February.

State school board President Charlie Shields and education Commissioner Margie Vandeven listen to Tuesday's discussion.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

In the wake of progress made by schools in St. Louis and Riverview Gardens, state education officials want appointed boards to continue in both districts for another three years.

school buses
Flickr

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri state board of education unanimously approved on Tuesday a framework for an accelerated review of the accreditation status of the Riverview Gardens School District.

But a key question that hangs over the whole process remains unsettled: What happens to students who have transferred from the district under state law if its status is upgraded?

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon (center) talks with state board member John Martin (left) and deputy education commissioner Ron Lankford at the state school board meeting in October 2015.
File photo |Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 7:55 p.m. Monday with Adams not getting L.A. job: St. Louis schools will get another hearing by the state school board Tuesday on their request for an upgrade to full accreditation, while board members will also discuss a framework that could lift Riverview Gardens up to provisional accreditation.

Stephanie Zimmerman

Even as hundreds of students living in the Normandy school district continue transferring to nearby accredited schools, challenges to a court ruling in the longstanding case continue.

The next court date will be Feb. 9 in the Missouri Court of Appeals. At issue is whether the state board of education acted properly in classifying Normandy as accredited when the district became the Normandy Schools Collaborative at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

Three school districts that have been crowing about their latest state report card after years of struggle could find out soon whether they will be rewarded with an upgrade in their accreditation status.

For schools in Jennings and St. Louis, the change would be from provisional accreditation to full accreditation. For Riverview Gardens, which is now one of two unaccredited districts in Missouri, a move up to provisional accreditation could get the district out from under the financial burden of student transfers now in its third year.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon (center) talks with state board member John Martin (left) and deputy education commissioner Ron Lankford at the state school board meeting in October 2015.
File photo |Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY — The superintendents of schools in Riverview Gardens and Normandy earned praise Tuesday from members of the state board of education for their solid progress on the latest Missouri school report cards 

Now, board members say, the districts need to get more money to help the momentum continue.

Educator Brian Schultz of Independence testified about social studies standards before the state board of education.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY – Proposed school standards for Missouri are designed to make students more active learners, rather than just memorizing rote facts, writers of the standards told members of the state board of education Monday.

Angie Muse, Hazelwood school district
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

After lawmakers decreed that Missouri drop the Common Core school standards and instead come up with a more local version, task forces worked for more than a year to come up with a new blueprint for what the state’s students should know.

But to Angie Muse, an instructional coach in the Hazelwood school district, the revised standards don’t change much, at least for the English courses she has been involved with for 20 years.

Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson takes her turn as a crossing guard.
Jennings School District

The arcane world of school finance in Missouri can be harder to understand than the most obscure poem or the most difficult calculus problem. But clear away all of the acronyms and calculations and modifications, and it comes down to two simple questions:

Should the quality of children’s education depend on where they live? And how important is money to education anyway?

Peter Herschend
DESE website

JEFFERSON CITY -- When Peter Herschend joined the Missouri state Board of Education in 1991, schools in the state were rated in three ways – A, AA or AAA.

But the rankings weren’t based on detailed accounts of how well students were doing in the classroom. Instead, Herschend noted in a recent interview, the factors that went into the classification ranged from salary structure to secretarial personnel to how many fire escapes the buildings had.

Andrea Terhune
Normandy website

JEFFERSON CITY – One year after the Missouri state Board of Education dissolved the old Normandy School District and put an appointed board in place to run the new Normandy, state board members say a credibility gap still exists between Normandy residents and state education officials.

And that gap could grow, with the announcement Tuesday that the president of the appointed Joint Executive Governing Board, Andrea Terhune, is resigning for personal reasons. She is leaving the board as of July 6, education Commissioner Margie Vandeven told state board members.

Principal GeNita Williams presents certificates to eighth graders at Normandy Middle School
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The promotion ceremony for 205 eighth graders at Normandy Middle School featured the usual words of encouragement and advice, plus memories of the past three years and more than a few hoots and hollers from family supporters.

But first, they got an apology.

Mike Jones, vice president of the Missouri state board of education, told the students that he realized the efforts by education officials in Jefferson City to help Normandy haven’t always succeeded. The district remains unaccredited and is finishing up its first year being run by a state-appointed board.

Normandy N
File Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri’s education commissioner said she is optimistic that Normandy schools will have enough money to remain open for the coming school year, but the final recommendation will come from the district’s appointed governing board.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

Missouri state school officials called a public hearing Thursday night to hear opinions on how the Normandy school district could improve.

Instead, for more than an hour they heard 18 speakers criticize how the state has failed to support the district since appointing a board to run it last year and predict that the schools are doomed to close.

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
File | Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY -- Going along with a recent court decision, the Missouri state board of education voted Tuesday to classify the Normandy Schools Collaborative as unaccredited, but it also praised progress the troubled district has made toward greater academic achievement.

Even though the school transfer issue aroused passionate debate last year, the issue still isn't resolved.
File | Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

As Normandy schools begin searching for a new superintendent, residents say they want a strong, experienced leader who can steer the district through tough times and stand up to state education officials who are often seen as an enemy, not an ally.

To add to the district’s turmoil, the principals of Normandy Middle School and Washington elementary school have submitted their resignations, leaving two more key positions to be filled at a time when many qualified educators already have jobs lined up for the coming school year.

File | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri education officials are agreeing with a St. Louis County judge that the Normandy school district should be unaccredited, but that doesn’t mean they accept the judge’s ruling.

Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled in February that an earlier decision by the Missouri state board of education that classified Normandy as accredited was improperly arrived at and that Normandy – which had the worst scores in the state on last year’s annual evaluation – should be unaccredited.

Stephanie Zimmerman

(Updated 3:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19)

On Thursday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that it was changing the deadline for Normandy students to apply for transfer to April 1.

"In light of the court ruling on Normandy’s accreditation coming after the Feb. 1 deadline to transfer," DESE said in a statement, "the department is updating its student transfer guidelines.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri's top educator says the state may have to take emergency action in the wake of a circuit judge's ruling last week that declared the Normandy schools to be unaccredited.

In a meeting of the state board of education on Tuesday, Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the board will consider calling an emergency meeting in the next month if the circuit judge’s ruling forces them to make any decisions on the district and its future.

File | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 8:17 p.m. with reaction from Normandy and its interim superintendent)

In unusually strong language, a St. Louis County judge has ruled that Normandy schools are unaccredited and students who live in the district have a right to transfer to whatever area accredited school district they want to attend.

Charles Pearson, seated, talks with Superintendent Ty McNichols.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Normandy Schools Collaborative begins the process of finding a replacement for Superintendent Ty McNichols, its board is finalizing details of a severance package and educators are wondering who might be available to take his place.

Tiffany Anderson appears before the state board of education in Jefferson City Tuesday.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Updated at 11:33 a.m. with testimony at board meeting:

Riding the crest of improvement on the state’s annual evaluation, Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson sees full accreditation and further gains in the future for the north St. Louis County district.

And Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon, whose district is now the only one in Missouri that is unaccredited, says his staff have laid the foundation for classroom success.   

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.

St. Louis Public Schools

(Updated with interviews from all candidates.)

The Missouri state board of education has narrowed to five the field of candidates seeking to become the state’s next commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

After reviewing 12 applications in closed session Friday, the board announced Monday that it would interview:

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.

File | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Dale

JEFFERSON CITY -- Compared with the clamor and criticism that has accompanied the debate over Common Core State Standards in recent months and years, Monday’s hearing into the topic by the state board of education was positively tame.

Stephanie Zimmerman

As legal efforts continue to open the Francis Howell school district to students who want to transfer from Normandy, a new policy shift has increased the pool of students able to transfer to any local accredited district.

The move raises new concerns about the financial survival of Normandy, which was taken over by the state after transfer costs drove it to the brink of bankruptcy last school year.

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