School Transfers | St. Louis Public Radio

School Transfers

Normandy marching band performs during the VP Parade in Forest Park Saturday, July 4, 2015.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Last Tuesday was supposed to be a monumental day for Normandy’s public school district. It was kicking off 2018 with a distinction it had not enjoyed in almost five years: It was no longer unaccredited in the eyes of the state school board.

Instead, school was canceled because of below-zero morning temperatures. Leadership at Normandy Schools Collaborative, as the district has been known since a reconfiguration in 2014, still took a few minutes to acknowledge the milestone.

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.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Not since Matt Blunt was governor of Missouri nearly a decade ago did the Republican Party control both the executive branch and both houses of the legislature. Even then, there were enough Democrats in both the House and Senate to block any veto override attempts, rare as they were then.

That will differ once Eric Greitens takes the oath of office and has the benefit of veto-proof GOP majorities in both chambers.

KB35 | Flickr

With a new Missouri governor ready to take over, lawmakers are trying once again to solve an old problem: how students in unaccredited school districts can get the education they deserve.

Since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in 2013, students in unaccredited districts have had the right to enroll in nearby accredited districts, at the cost of millions of dollars to their home districts that had to pay tuition and in some cases transportation as well.

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.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The start of December is the start of Missouri lawmakers pre-filing legislation for the 2017 legislative session.

One that has been controversial for some time is the effort to limit the power of labor unions by turning Missouri into a so-called right-to-work state. The effort in the House is being led by Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.

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.

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.

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

A Missouri appeals court has ruled that the the Missouri State Board of Education acted outside of its authority when it  changed the accreditation status of the new Normandy Schools Collaborative.

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.

Normandy N
File Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

The long-running legal fight over the Missouri law that allows students in under-performing districts to attend school elsewhere heads back to court on Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals will review how the Missouri State Board of Education handled a classification gray area: How do you accredit a brand new legal entity? And did the state board have the authority to do what it did?

Sen. David Pearce
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies use the magic of radio to welcome state Sen. David Pearce to the podcast for the first time.

The Warrensburg Republican has entered his final year in the Missouri Senate, as term limits will prevent him from running for re-election.

Contrary to social media speculation, Gov. Jay Nixon didn’t use his final State of the State speech to endorse Bernie Sanders, do a backflip or find the Afikoman.

Compared to those death-defying feats (especially seeking out the hard-to-find Afikoman), the Democratic governor’s address was fairly tame. He stuck to themes embedded within his other seven State of the State addresses, such as a desire to expand Medicaid, freeze college tuition and boost K-12 education spending.

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.

The students will participate in after-school, mentor and summer programs to help them learn skills that could help them in and outside of school, such as conflict management.
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.

File | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

The words to the Normandy High School fight song take on a different meaning in a new film by Terry Artis.

A 1982 graduate of the school and a former member of the school board of the unaccredited north St. Louis County district, Artis wrote, produced and directed “The Dismantling of the Normandy School District.”

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