School Transfers

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Moving on fast parallel tracks, with the assistance from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office that has absent in the past, the Missouri House and Senate have advanced legislation designed to change provisions of the state’s student transfer law.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Two bills to address Missouri's student transfer law won approval late Tuesday — one in each chamber of the legislature. Both would require accreditation of individual schools rather than whole districts and would set new transfer guidelines to prevent overcrowding.

Stephanie Zimmerman

(Updated 3:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19)

On Thursday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that it was changing the deadline for Normandy students to apply for transfer to April 1.

"In light of the court ruling on Normandy’s accreditation coming after the Feb. 1 deadline to transfer," DESE said in a statement, "the department is updating its student transfer guidelines.

Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri's top educator says the state may have to take emergency action in the wake of a circuit judge's ruling last week that declared the Normandy schools to be unaccredited.

In a meeting of the state board of education on Tuesday, Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the board will consider calling an emergency meeting in the next month if the circuit judge’s ruling forces them to make any decisions on the district and its future.

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(Updated at 8:17 p.m. with reaction from Normandy and its interim superintendent)

In unusually strong language, a St. Louis County judge has ruled that Normandy schools are unaccredited and students who live in the district have a right to transfer to whatever area accredited school district they want to attend.

Courtesy Normandy School District

(Updated at 9:32 p.m. with Pearson quotes, resignation statement from McNichols)

Normandy school superintendent Ty McNichols resigned from his post Thursday night after the state-appointed board that runs the district made plans to begin a search for someone to serve in his job.

Charles Pearson, a retired educator who had been serving as chairman of the five-member Joint Executive Governing Board, will take over as interim superintendent. He resigned from the board and was replaced as board president by Andrea Terhune.

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks during last year's State of the State address. The governor's speech comes amid heightened scrutiny of his actions during the Ferguson unrest and unprecedented GOP majorities in the Missouri General Assembly.
Tim Bommel, House Communications

When Gov. Jay Nixon steps in front of the lectern for his seventh State of the State speech, he’ll be speaking arguably at the lowest point of his power over the Missouri General Assembly. 

Any bit of his agenda that arouses even a hint of controversy can be slapped away by the huge Republican majorities in the House and Senate. And even some Democrats are upset over the way he handled the unrest in Ferguson. He has, in essence, entered the twilight of his governorship.

St. Louis Public Schools

When the Missouri General Assembly convenes next month, education will take its usual place as the center of concern for many lawmakers. Here are some of the bills that have been pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.

Student transfers

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Renewed efforts to change Missouri’s law on school transfers look pretty much the same as the bill vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Jay Nixon, but sponsors of the newly filed legislation say events in Ferguson have changed the atmosphere for the upcoming debate.

Normandy superintendent Ty McNichols
Dale Singer/St. Louis Public Radio

The detailed form used by Normandy school administrators when they visit a classroom to observe district teachers starts out by saying: “It was a joy to be in your room today.”

How widespread that joy will be as the school year progresses is hard to judge.

One month after classes started, the state-appointed board running what is now the Normandy Schools Collaborative has adopted an ambitious agenda from Missouri education officials that calls for steep, steady improvement by students in the next three years.

Stephanie Zimmerman

As legal efforts continue to open the Francis Howell school district to students who want to transfer from Normandy, a new policy shift has increased the pool of students able to transfer to any local accredited district.

The move raises new concerns about the financial survival of Normandy, which was taken over by the state after transfer costs drove it to the brink of bankruptcy last school year.

Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio

In what’s becoming something of a post-veto session tradition, Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Chris McDaniel, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum to discuss the impact of the General Assembly's annual event.

  The St. Charles Republican leads the 23-member Republican caucus in the Missouri Senate. And this past week, his chamber participated in votes to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes of 10 standalone bills and 47 line-item vetoes of spending items in the current budget.

Francis Howell website

The superintendent of the Francis Howell school district says that if court rulings continue to favor transfers from the new Normandy Schools Collaborative, as many as 350 students could end up returning to Francis Howell.

Last year, Howell ended the year with 430 students who had transferred under the law that says students living in an unaccredited school district can transfer to nearby accredited districts. Normandy had designated Francis Howell as the district to which it would pay tuition, so most students who left Normandy transferred there.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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Missouri education officials now say they will pay whatever tuition a receiving district charges for transfer students from Normandy, rather than a lower amount imposed earlier, raising new concerns about the state-run district's ability to survive financially.

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

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.

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In a closed session Wednesday evening, the Ferguson-Florissant School Board voted to accept students from the new, state run Normandy Schools Collaborative (NSC).  The board had previously voted not to accept students from NSC, which began operations in July.

In order to return to the district, students must have submitted an “Intent to Return” form by Feb. 1 and already have completed the registration and enrollment requirements.          

Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

After a hearing in St. Louis County Circuit Court Wednesday, Judge Michael Burton cleared the way for 13 more students to transfer out of the Normandy school district.

Burton had ruled last week that the Missouri state school board had acted improperly when it made changes that exempted students who live in Normandy from the benefits of Missouri’s school transfer law. As a result, he said, Normandy’s status should remain as unaccredited, and students should have the right to transfer to nearby accredited schools.

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A lawyer who won the right for five students who live in Normandy to transfer again to an accredited school went to court Tuesday to force the Francis Howell school district to accept all Normandy transfers who want to return.

It also asks that two students who attended Ferguson-Florissant last year be allowed to return.

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A St. Louis County Circuit judge ruled Friday that students from three families living in the Normandy school district have the right to transfer to nearby accredited districts.

Those districts – Pattonville, Ritenour and Ferguson-Florissant – had denied the students access in the new school year, even though they had transferred to schools in those districts in the last school year. But the families argued successfully that the state had improperly given the new Normandy Schools Collaborative a status that freed it from the requirements of the Missouri transfer law.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
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As a St. Louis County circuit judge weighs whether four families who live in Normandy have the right to send their children to nearby accredited districts in the upcoming school year, Missouri education officials are trying to clarify action they took recently that is central to the case.

Stephanie Zimmerman

The end of summer is coming for most area students, if it hasn’t already arrived, but the uncertainty over transfers out of Normandy remains.

The attorney for parents suing to allow their students to transfer out of Normandy accused state education officials Wednesday of using “linguistical magic” to change the rules by saying that the new Normandy district is accredited and Missouri’s transfer statute does not apply.

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(Updated 1:29 p.m., Fri., July 18)

Even though the University City School Board has voted to change course and accept students who are qualified to transfer from Normandy, uncertainty surrounding the transfers remains.

Stephanie Zimmerman

Several parents of students who live in the Normandy school district filed suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court Monday, challenging the state’s move to limit the number of students who may transfer out of Normandy to accredited school districts.

Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio

The Ritenour school district has become the latest to decide it will not allow students who live in Normandy to transfer there in the coming school year.

The decision, announced Thursday night after a Ritenour board meeting, means that 78 students who had applied to transfer from Normandy will not be able to attend an accredited district when classes resume next month.

In a statement released late Thursday night, the board said:
 

(Flickr/Cast a Line)

Updated at 5:07 p.m., Fri., June 27.    

The University City School District’s board voted Thursday evening no longer to accept transfer students from Normandy.

The 80 students who were signed up to return to the district but can no longer continue in the transfer program join the 350 students who, a week ago, were told they could no longer go to school in Francis Howell.

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.

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.

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?

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

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.

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