Normandy School District

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

With some anger, some defiance and some celebration, the elected board of the Normandy school district held its final meeting Thursday night.

On Tuesday, the district will be replaced by the Normandy Schools Collaborative, to be run by a board whose members have not yet all been appointed. Ty McNichols is set to remain as superintendent, but he and other administrators will be working without contracts.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A top aide to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley unleashed scathing criticism Tuesday at his boss’ Democratic rival for county executive. 

It was part of yet another highly charged county council meeting filled with arguments, insults, recriminations and heated confrontations.

/ File photo

As promised, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed on Tuesday the wide-ranging school transfer bill passed by lawmakers this year, saying it violates basic principles of public education and does nothing to help students trapped in unaccredited schools.

At the offices of Education Plus in west St. Louis County, the governor listed three main reasons for his action.

Steve Stenger
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The turmoil in the Normandy School District is spilling over into the race for St. Louis County executive. 

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Anxiety crept through SheRon Chaney when she heard that the Francis Howell School District would no longer accept about 350 transfer students from Normandy who were signed up to continue in the program. 

“Last year we were hopeful, this year we’re fearful,” she said. 

Chaney transferred her middle school aged daughter BrenNae to Maplewood Richmond Heights last year.  And even though Francis Howell’s decision —  made during a closed session of its school board — doesn’t affect her directly, it has Chaney and hundreds of other parents holding their breath.  

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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The Francis Howell School District announced today it will no longer accept transfer students from Normandy.  The district was expecting roughly 350 students who transferred last fall to continue during the coming school year. Last summer, the soon-to-be-dissolved Normandy School District selected Francis Howell as its transportation option for students. 

Because the Normandy Schools Collaborative will have no accreditation status, the Francis Howell district said it is no longer legally obligated to accept transfer students.

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JEFFERSON CITY — More than 130 students whose families moved into the Normandy School District last summer to be able take advantage of the school transfer program will be shut out of the program this coming school year under a policy adopted by the state board of education Monday.

Courtesy Normandy School District

While the Missouri board of education wrestles with big questions concerning  Normandy schools – who will run them, how will the curriculum change, how can student achievement be raised – parents in the district have much more personal concerns:

Will their children still be able to transfer to nearby accredited districts in the coming school year?

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The Normandy School District filed a motion Friday seeking to block the state’s takeover of the district as of June 30 and its replacement by a new Normandy Schools Collaborative run by a state-appointed board.

(via Flickr/KB35)

What progress can this country point to since the 1954 decision in Brown v Board of Education? It gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement, and that, ironically, has had greater success in parts of society such as housing integration and voting rights than it has in education. Today we still have separate and unequal schools -- not by legal mandate but by other de facto conditions in our neighborhoods. The trials and tribulations in the Normandy schools this past year have helped illuminate the stark contrasts in our public education system.

school buses
Flickr

One year ago Wednesday, the Missouri Supreme Court threw the lives of thousands of students, teachers, parents and school administrators into a turmoil that shows no signs of stopping.

By unanimously overturning a lower court ruling and allowing students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited schools, the court enforced a 20-year-old law in a way that no one had foreseen would ever happen.

As a result:

Don't use this one Brittany Packnett
Teach for America

Let’s say you’ve been a teacher in the Normandy school district for a while and are wondering what’s going to happen to your job when the new state-run Normandy Schools Collaborative takes over on July 1.

If you’re still interested in teaching in the district, here is what Superintendent Ty McNichols had to say in a letter sent out to staff member last week:

Chris Nicastro
DESE website

Missouri education officials are going to recommend that under the new Normandy school entity, which takes effect July 1, students who have transferred from that district to nearby accredited districts would still be able to do so, but tuition rates would be capped at about $7,200. No new transfers would be allowed.

Under the state plan, the transportation situation for transfer students would stay the same.

Parth Shah | St. Louis Public Radio

Just in time for summer vacation, Girls Inc. of St. Louis unveiled its updated north St. Louis County facility today. The goal is expanding education opportunities for poor girls.

The organization, which serves girls ages 5 to 17, provides both summer and after-school classes in subjects ranging from art to economic literacy. The upgraded 44,000-square-foot facility in Northwoods can serve up to 400 girls.

Carole Basile, the dean of the college of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said the programs provided help students stay sharp. 

UMSL website

Lynn Beckwith remembers very well what happened on May 20, 2010, and how it set into motion a scramble to get the Riverview Gardens schools ready for the coming year.

That was the day Beckwith was named to head the three-member special administrative board that is running the unaccredited north St. Louis County school district.

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Updated 2:23 p.m. Friday with DESE response on payment of tuition

Members of the elected Normandy school board may soon be out of a job, but they made clear Thursday night they don’t plan to go quietly.

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The Normandy School District is undergoing a series of changes that have broad implications for education throughout the St. Louis region.

Thursday on St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh led a wide-ranging discussion about what those changes mean for the future of education in St. Louis. The conversation began with St. Louis Public Radio education reporters Dale Singer and Tim Lloyd.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Wendy McGregor had all the glow of a mother watching her oldest daughter earn a high school diploma.   

“I am the mother of Tasha McGregor,” she said.  “Yes, Yes, Yes! We did it!”

Despite an unclear future, the tone at what is likely to be the unaccredited Normandy School District’s final graduation under its current structure was one of pride and perseverance.

“Right now we’re just trying to focus on them,” McGregor said.  “Even though it could be Normandy something else, we’re all still Normandy strong.”  

(via Flickr/comedy_nose)

Missouri education officials, who control the finances of the Normandy school district, say they won’t pay the costs of a lawsuit that asks the courts to take another look at the student transfer case.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, wants a reconsideration of two issues the Missouri Supreme Court rejected in its unanimous decision last year that set in motion the student transfers: unfunded mandates and the impossibility to comply with the transfer law.

/ Tim Lloyd, St. Louis Public Radio

 It’s just after 7 a.m., and SheRon Chaney already has her family packed into an SUV and ready for school.

“On a good day like today, I’m hoping it only takes about 35 minutes,” she said.

Leave just a touch later and they could be stuck in traffic for more than an hour. It’s a quirk of St. Louis' commuter culture that Chaney picked up when she decided to transfer her seventh-grade daughter, BrenNae, out of the Normandy School District in favor of Maplewood Richmond Heights.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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One day after the Missouri Board of Education voted to replace the Normandy school district with a new, state-controlled entity, Normandy filed suit challenging the law that lets students transfer from unaccredited districts.

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(Updated at 4:54 p.m., Tues., May 20)

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Missouri Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to replace the Normandy School District with a new entity with the same boundaries but run by an appointed board, effective July 1.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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A task force set up to make recommendations for the future of the unaccredited Normandy School District says a new structure with a new name, within the current boundaries of the district, should be set up. It would report directly to the state board of education.

The Normandy School District was classified as unaccredited as of Jan. 1, 2013.

Over the years, Beyond Housing’s Chris Krehmeyer has appeared on St. Louis on the Air to discuss issues ranging from poverty to home ownership to health and the economy. Most recently, he came to the studio to discuss Beyond Housing’s work with the Normandy School District, a project called the 24:1 Initiative.

Carole Basile
UMSL

A task force charged with making recommendations for the future of the Normandy School District finished meeting Monday and plans to send its report to state education officials later this week.

Carole Basile, dean of the school of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said she plans to take the discussions from the task force over the past several weeks and draw up a list of recommendations that she will submit to Chris Nicastro, Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Even though they’ve been talking all semester, high school junior Meagan Nalepa and senior Shakiyla Hughes have finally sat at the same lunch table.

Nalepa goes to Parkway North High School, Hughes attends Normandy High School, and both have been participating in a series of video conferences on education policy between students from the two schools. For the first time, they met face to face at Normandy High School on Tuesday.

Commentary: Normandy Superintendent Urges Legislature To Act

May 3, 2014
Ty McNichols
Normandy School District

As superintendent of the Normandy School District, I urge our legislators and governor to reform the school transfer law before the end of this year’s session. Getting this done now is critical for our district and for metropolitan districts throughout the state.

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The task force considering the future of the Normandy School District began getting more specific about options Tuesday, including what kind of board should govern the district and whether it should be elected or appointed.

After meeting for more than an hour in closed session with Mark Van Zandt, the general counsel for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the panel began talking about various scenarios:

Normandy website

Depending on how tuition calculations for transfer students are figured for the coming school year, the Normandy School District — if it still exists — could end the upcoming school year with a deficit of as much as $11.7 million, district officials said Tuesday.

Addressing the latest meeting of a task force formed to determine options for Normandy’s future, Mick Willis, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations, presented four scenarios for the 2014-15 school year.

(via Flickr/lowjumpingfrog)

Updated at 8:30 a.m., Wed., April 9.

School board elections brought little change to Normandy and Ferguson-Florissant. In Normandy, three incumbents were facing four challengers for spots on the seven-person board. The winners were current board members Jeanette Pulliam with 19.07 percent and William Humphrey with 16 percent of the vote. A challenger, Gwendolyn Buggs, earned a seat on the board with a little more than 15 percent of the vote.

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