Riverview Gardens School District | St. Louis Public Radio

Riverview Gardens School District

Ngone Seck hugs a friend after receiving her diploma at Riverview Gardens High School's graduation ceremony. May 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Just a few years ago, Ngone Seck arrived in Florissant from Italy and began the seventh grade.

From the start, she was behind her peers. She struggled to adapt to her new country, had trouble learning English, and, at first, did poorly in school.

Today, the Italian immigrant of West African heritage began her first day of college, on a full scholarship. Her journey is paved with the sacrifices of her working-class family, the comfort of her music and the support of good teachers.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Normandy and Riverview Gardens  received high enough state academic performance scores to get the north St. Louis County-based school districts in better standing with state education leaders.

Two districts in the region — St. Louis City and Ferguson-Florissant — saw their annual performance scores dip below the threshold the state considers to be fully accredited. Pattonville and Orchard Farms both received perfect scores.

No district in the state earned marks that would be considered failing in the Annual Performance Report, or APR, published Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. APR is a key indicator on how well schools are educating students.

Students listen to a book reading during a giveaway event at Koch Elementary School in Riverview Gardens School District on March 2, 2017.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Riverview Gardens School District is falsely boosting its attendance numbers under an orchestrated effort to regain full state accreditation, two district principals allege in federal lawsuits.

The principals, Danielle DeLoatch and Amanda Bell-Greenough, filed the suits on Tuesday against the north St. Louis County district, alleging that they faced disciplinary action and retaliation for objecting to changing attendance records.

Riverview Gardens, which is trying to return to good standing with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, denies the allegations.

Riverview Gardens school transfer program dwindles

Sep 25, 2017
Second-grade students at Koch Elementary School in the Riverview Gardens school district listen to a book reading Thursday.
File photo | Ryan Delaney / St. Louis Public Radio

A new, voluntary version of the Riverview Gardens’ school transfer program is serving just a fraction of the students enrolled the year before.

Although Riverview is no longer legally obligated to pay for students to attend other school districts, it made arrangements with several schools to let students remain where they are for up to four years.

But with fewer districts participating on the receiving end and no bus transportation, the new program is serving a quarter of the students who were enrolled last school year.

Julie Dubray, co-author of the children's book "Goodnight St. Louis," reads to students at Koch Elementary Schools on March 2, 2017.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Second-graders at a predominantly low-income north St. Louis County school district went home with new books Thursday as part of a national reading day.

Two St. Louis children’s authors spent part of the afternoon at Koch Elementary School in the Riverview Gardens district, which is struggling with reading proficiency. Just 17 percent of third-graders at Koch Elementary School were considered to be at state standards for reading in 2015, though the district has improved enough regain provisional accreditation.

Riverview Gardens High band director Harvey Lockhart leads a class through practice. (Jan. 17, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Music is vitally important to Riverview Gardens High School band director Harvey Lockhart. But his students' well-being ranks even higher.

During the past five years, Lockhart has made musicians out of dozens of students, changing the way they see themselves and their futures.

For his efforts, The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis will honor Lockhart Monday night as art educator of the year, in a ceremony at the Chase Park Plaza.

Shammara Smith's son, Ahmon, is a sophomore at Oakville High. Her daughter, Ahmiya, is in fifth grade at Blaze Elementary in the Mehlville school district.
Provided by Shammara Smith

With the Riverview Gardens School District regaining provisional accreditation in January, parents who transferred their children to other districts under the state’s student transfer law are considering their options.

Even though the change means Riverview no longer has to pay for transfers, the district has made arrangements allowing all 436 transfer students to at least finish out the school year.

But because Riverview will stop providing transportation in June, Shammara Smith doesn’t know if she’ll be able to keep her son, who’s a sophomore in high school, and her daughter, who’s in fifth grade, enrolled in Mehlville.

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 5:30 p.m. with comments from superintendent — After almost a decade without accreditation from the state of Missouri, the Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County will be reclassified as provisionally accredited effective Jan. 4.

The state board of education voted Friday for the classification upgrade to take effect on the first day of Riverview Gardens’ second semester on the recommendation of the Missouri Department of Education.

Riverview was last provisionally accredited in 2007.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon said he is optimistic the district will return to provisional accreditation, following a recommendation from the state department of elementary and secondary education board on Nov. 23, 2016.
Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

Riverview Gardens School District should regain provisional accreditation, according to a recommendation from officials with Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

The department released its endorsement Wednesday to upgrade the district that has been unaccredited since 2007. The state board of education will make its final decision based on the recommendation at its Dec. 2 meeting.

District administrators called it "a day of celebration."

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon discusses the district's progress at a state hearing May 5, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

More than 400 Riverview Gardens students enrolled in other area school districts under Missouri’s transfer law may be able to stay in their current schools until they reach a natural stopping point even if Riverview regains provisional accreditation in December.

As long as Riverview Gardens remains unaccredited, it is required to pay the districts receiving its students tuition equal to the amount of money the receiving district spends per student — in some cases as much as $21,000.

But if the state board of education upgrades Riverview’s accreditation status, as the district hopes, Riverview will no longer be legally obligated to pay.

Ashley Mosely waves to the principal of Koch Elementary, thanking him for his hands-on approach at her sons' school during a public hearing on unaccredited Riverview Gardens Nov. 14, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

If the parents and staff of Riverview Gardens were making the decision, the school district would soon no longer be unaccredited.

Parents, students, teachers and principals praised the district’s improvement by the dozens Monday night at a public hearing state officials held at Westview Middle School.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon talks to students at Moline elementary school in Riverview Gardens Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 7 at 3:55 with Nixon comments: No Missouri school districts scored in the unaccredited range on this year’s annual report cards, but that doesn’t mean that the state’s two unaccredited districts – Normandy and Riverview Gardens – are automatically headed for an upgrade.

And among charters in St. Louis, one – Preclarus Mastery Academy – scored in the unaccredited range for the third straight year. Two others that scored in the same territory, with less than half of the possible points – Jamaa Learning Center and Better Learning Communities Academy – closed at the end of the last school year.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Three more Missouri school districts scored in the provisional accreditation range and one additional charter school scored in the unaccredited range in this year’s preliminary data compared with last year, the state school board was told Tuesday.

As with last year, just one district scored in the unaccredited range, with less than 50 percent of the points possible. But because the annual performance reports (APR) for individual districts will not be available until Nov. 7, no districts were identified by name.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon said he is optimistic the district will return to provisional accreditation, following a recommendation from the state department of elementary and secondary education board on Nov. 23, 2016.
Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 30 with information on charters and standout districts — Superintendents of Missouri’s only two unaccredited school districts say the latest standardized test scores show their students are improving.

But state school officials caution that because the tests taken in the spring were from a different source from those taken the year before, year-to-year comparisons aren’t really valid, so there is no good way to truly gauge how much progress students have made.

Still, the superintendents in Normandy and Riverview Gardens are pleased.

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

Members of the Missouri state school board praised progress made by Riverview Gardens in recent years Tuesday but postponed any vote that could upgrade its status from unaccredited.

Because the board put off until at least this fall any consideration of making the district provisionally accredited, students living in Riverview Gardens will remain eligible to transfer to nearby accredited schools in the coming school year.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon discusses the district's progress at a state hearing May 5, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Riverview Gardens has made solid gains over the past two years, but Missouri education officials will not recommend that the state board upgrade the district from unaccredited to provisionally accredited for the coming school year.

A better level of accreditation would mean that students who live in the district could no longer transfer to schools in other districts, as they have since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state’s transfer law in 2013.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon said he is optimistic the district will return to provisional accreditation, following a recommendation from the state department of elementary and secondary education board on Nov. 23, 2016.
Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

Summer school starts Monday for two of the three school districts in the region working to regain full accreditation from the state: provisionally accredited St. Louis Public Schools and unaccredited Riverview Gardens.

Normandy is finishing up its extended school year and starts summer school June 13.

Riverview Gardens students entertain before Thursday night's state hearing, May 5, 2016
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

When he opened Thursday night’s state hearing on the status of the unaccredited Riverview Gardens schools, assistant education commissioner Chris Neale spelled out the two big decisions the district faces.

First, the state school board will decide, as early as next month, whether the district’s progress merits an upgrade to provisional accreditation.

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

After more than two years of sometimes contentious debate by lawmakers and educators, new Missouri learning standards won unanimous approval Tuesday from the state board of education.

Meeting in Jefferson City, board members stressed that the new standards — which replace Common Core standards — spell out what Missouri students should know in English, math, social studies and science at various grade levels. But local districts retain the authority and the responsibility to determine how those subjects will be taught.

Co-anchors Karen Lomax and Amorion Bland discuss their delivery while recording an episode of Koch TV.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Fifth-grader Saniya Bryant sits at a desk at Koch Elementary, meticulously studying a set of questions. Behind her, a lime green cloth hangs from the ceiling. Across from her, a fourth-grader swivels a video camera in her direction.

“Quiet on set.”

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