Riverview Gardens School District

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.

File photo

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.

Flickr

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. 

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

State education officials were in north St. Louis County Monday evening, getting an update on steps the Riverview Gardens School District is taking toward ramping up classroom success.

The unaccredited district had a 16.8 percentage point improvement on its state report card for last year, but that was 4.6 percentage points shy of the provisionally accredited range.

To earn a step up in its accreditation status, Superintendent Scott Spurgeon laid out a series of goals for the district in areas that ranged from college and career readiness to reading assessments.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Bernice King began her second visit to Riverview Gardens High School by telling students about her own anger. Her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was gunned down in his prime. Her uncle, Alfred Daniel Williams King, died amid suspicious circumstances.

King told them about that anger boiling over. She told them about striking a friend in the head with a bottle after an argument. Anxiety filled King while waiting for her friend to wake up after being knocked unconscious.

King told students anger can consume them.

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

Take a look at a statewide map showing how districts performance has changed between the past two school years, as well as five takeaways from the report cards.

While St. Louis Public Schools and Riverview Gardens have made solid gains in their push toward accreditation, Normandy finds itself in a deeper hole, earning just 7.1 percent of the possible points in Missouri’s latest list of school report cards released Friday.

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:

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.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Five identical bills that would each revamp Missouri's student transfer law were examined Wednesday by a State Senate committee.

comedy_nose / Flickr

Twelve St. Louis area schools with low academic performance will receive a total of more than $6.2 million in federal money to kick start classroom improvement.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which is distributing more than $43 million nationally to seven states. 

DESE website

After four hearings in Normandy and Riverview Gardens, plus suggestions and plans and proposals from education groups and lawmakers from throughout Missouri, it’s time for state education officials to try to come up with a plan to help struggling school districts.

And Chris Nicastro, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, wants to make sure that whatever plan her department comes up with, that is the focus: helping underachieving students and schools succeed.

Cast a Line / Flickr

After traveling the state to get feedback from educators and community members, the Missouri House Interim Committee on Education has released its final report.

Among the recommendations is a tuition limit for what an unaccredited district pays when a student transfers to an accredited district in the same or adjoining county.

(Go here for an FAQ on student transfers)

(Courtesy of D.J. Wilson)

Cost is factor no matter what you are buying – a six-pack of beer, a pair of jeans, a house, or for a state government, a public education for school-age children.

 Much has been said about the cost of the region’s current inter-district student transfer program. Much of what has been said about that cost has been incomplete, or ill informed.  

The one price tag that’s been floated is $35 million. Let’s break that down. 

bsabarnowl / Flickr

Lawmakers from both the Missouri state Senate and House will meet on Tuesday to collect ideas on how to deal with the school transfer process.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Yesterday, we profiled the new superintendent at the Normandy schools.

Now, we introduce you to the man who finds himself in the same position at another struggling school district- Riverview Gardens. 

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