Riverview Gardens School District

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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.
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.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In August, 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden was fatally shot in north St. Louis County while doing homework in her mother’s bedroom. She was a student at Koch Elementary, part of the Riverview Gardens School District, where school administrators have been working to bring hope to the students coping with the loss of their classmate.

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After two successes in the General Assembly and two vetoes by Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri lawmakers will consider once more what changes can be made to the state’s student transfer law.

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, who has been active on the issue as head of the the Senate Education Committee, has pre-filed one of three bills dealing with the transfers. St. Louis area Democrats – Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City and Sen. Scott Sifton of Affton – have filed the others.

Riverview Gardens students sing before a public hearing on the district in December 2015.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

A mandatory state hearing on the status of the Riverview Gardens school district Thursday night turned into a cheerleading session on the progress the unaccredited district has shown over the past two years.

But the question of whether it will win the upgrade it has asked for, to provisional accreditation, remains unsettled.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Accreditation, school transfers and issues of race and discrimination on college campuses have all been big stories in education in 2015. On Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s education reporter, Dale Singer, joined host Don Marsh in discussing some of the biggest developments of the year.

Jennings Schools
Dale SInger | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:50 p.m.: JEFFERSON CITY – The Jennings School District’s steady improvement in recent years was rewarded Tuesday when the state board of education granted it full accreditation. But requests for upgrades by the St. Louis Public Schools and Riverview Gardens were put on hold.

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.

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Every school day, bright yellow buses transport thousands of students to class – some traveling across long distances to districts far from their homes,  most others staying within a district’s boundaries, whether it is compact like Ladue or sprawling like Parkway or Rockwood.

And that doesn’t count homeless students or others whose route is so specialized that their transportation is by taxi, just one or two at a time.

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.
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.

Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

For three of the St. Louis area's low-performing school districts, this year's Annual Performance Review showed marked improvement. But the success has not been even across the board.

While St. Louis Public Schools' score takes it out of the provisionally accredited zone and Riverview Gardens' improvements could be the first step toward regaining its accredited status, Normandy School District is still below the margin. The key to these districts' successes isn't universal.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

Struggling school districts in the St. Louis area got some welcome good news with this year’s annual report card from the state.

Riverview Gardens, Jennings and St. Louis Public Schools all posted scores that would put them into the fully accredited range, with more than 70 percent of the 140 points possible on the Annual Performance Report (APR).

Gov. Jay Nixon, center, listens to an update on efforts to help Riverview Gardens and Normandy at EducationPlus. He is flanked by Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon, right, and Nixon education adviser Mike Nietzel, left.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Jay Nixon says the regional effort by St. Louis area school districts to help Normandy and Riverview Gardens could not only lead to their regaining accreditation but could also strengthen public education in general.

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Updated at 4:10 p.m. with Nixon news conference:

Gov. Jay Nixon said Friday he is vetoing this year’s attempt at a school transfer bill because it doesn’t solve the problems of unaccredited Missouri school districts and it creates new difficulties for public education.

Gov. Jay Nixon announces a plan to help Normandy and Riverview Gardens schools. Behind him, at Bel-Nor school, are from left Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson, Webster Groves Superintendent Sarah Riss and Missouri education Commissioner Margie Vande
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says school districts that have received transfer students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens will begin an unprecedented effort to help those schools in a variety of ways, from lowering the tuition they charge for transfers to providing training, tutors and other assistance.

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

High school students with Metropolitan Congregations United are calling for a reduction in out-of-school suspensions in area schools. They presented data and recommendations for change Saturday to a group of about 40 educators and community members.

The group, called Students 4 Change, highlighted  a recent UCLA report, which found that Missouri suspends more African-American grade school students than any other state in the country.  Three St. Louis area schools in particular were singled out in the report: Normandy, Riverview Gardens and St. Louis Public Schools.

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Missouri suspends African-American grade school students at a higher rate than any other state in the country.  This was a key finding in a national report issued last week by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA.  But troubled districts have been making some progress.

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.   

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

This story is the third part of A Teachable Moment, a three-part series that profiles how issues raised by events in Ferguson are being discussed in classrooms across the St. Louis region. 

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch has said that a grand jury could decide next month if Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will face charges for fatally shooting Michael Brown. From elected officials to teachers to parents, many have expressed considerable concern about what the reaction to the grand jury's decision will be.

Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

When Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson was a kid, he and some of his buddies got into some mischief.

They were throwing snowballs at passing cars and then ran off to hide. Then, the police officer who patrolled Johnson’s neighborhood caught them.

“So, we put the snowballs behind our backs,” Johnson recalled.    

“Were you guys the ones throwing snowballs?” Johnson said the officer asked.

“We all said ‘no,’ even though we had the snowballs behind our backs,” Johnson said. 

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