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St. Louis Public Schools

Students walk down a hallway of Lift for Life Academy, which includes an old bank vault door Life Academy. The charter school opened in the former Manufacturer's Bank and Trust Company building in Kosciusko in 2000.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Elizabeth Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school closed in 2013, some of the alumnae and former staff wanted to keep the educational tradition alive with a charter school.

But that building wasn't available and no matter how hard they looked they just couldn't find the right space, said Jane Keuss, who wanted to co-found the planned Tessera Hall Academy.

Richard Gaines, center, of the Special Administrative Board, speaks during  a joint meeting with the St. Louis Elected School Board Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
File | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

St. Louis Public Schools’ budgeting process is too insular for parents and teachers to understand and contribute to, a group of north St. Louis residents claim.

That group, under the banner Better Budgets, Better Schools, will launch a letter writing and advocacy campaign this weekend to call for more transparency in how SLPS spends its money.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 4, 2011 - Last week, a St. Louis Public School principal was reported to have orchestrated systematic fraud in her attendance reporting, inflating the numbers to increase the money she'd get from the state in accordance with the federal mandate, No Child Left Behind.

Piles of concrete and brick line a fence separating the former Pruitt-Igoe housing development from the Gateway school complex. Parents and staff at the school say placing the rubble there stirred levels of dust high enough to sicken students and teachers
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Health problems at a north St. Louis school have gotten the attention of federal officials.

That’s after many parents and teachers blamed respiratory problems on dust from debris brought near their school from the site of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

NGA Director Robert Cardillo and Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke Thursday and discussed the handling of the debris.

Cenya Davis puffs on her inhaler earlier this month. The 8-year-old student at Gateway Elementary School in St. Louis has been to the hospital three times for breathing trouble starting in December. She now regularly uses the inhaler.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from 06/14/18; updated with audio from St. Louis on the Air segment on 06/15/18.

A school nurse told St. Louis health officials in February about students under the nurse’s care hospitalized by asthma attacks and teachers forced to stay home with respiratory illnesses, but neither the school district nor the health department warned those afflicted about a possible connection in their ailments.

It was not until a St. Louis Public Radio investigation published last month that some parents and staff of the Gateway school complex said they first learned the respiratory illnesses may have been caused by dirt and dust kicked up by nearby demolition work funded and overseen by the city.

Parents and staff blame illnesses inside the Gateway school complex on debris brought over from the site of the planned National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters. The piles tower over a fence next to the school. May 6, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Isaiah Carson was happy and healthy on an early April afternoon as he worked on spelling with his dad at the family’s kitchen table.

That wasn’t the case a few months earlier when he started having trouble breathing. He was wheezing and had a shallow cough.

Isaiah, who’s 5, would lie in bed with his parents at night, unable to sleep. His father, Michael Carson, felt helpless. “He scared me to death,” Carson said.

Arthur Ross is a freshman at Innovative Concept Academy and one of the finalists of the Mentors in Motion songwriting competition. Here he records the hook to a new song.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Music comes naturally for Arthur Ross. He’s been immersed in hip-hop since he was a child. Now he’s hoping one of his songs might help with his college goals.

“I hope this rapping takes me to the BET stage. If it doesn’t take me that far, I hope it can give my family a better life,” Ross said.

Richard Gaines, center, of the Special Administrative Board, speaks during  a joint meeting with the St. Louis Elected School Board Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
File | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The first joint meeting between St. Louis’ two school boards could be seen as the starting gun many in the community have wanted to hear for a decade. For others, it’s a reminder of a troubled past for the school system. But a return of St. Louis Public Schools to elected control likely won’t be a sprint, but rather a slow walk to June 2019.

The seven-member Board of Education flanked a three-person Special Administrative Board, or SAB, during a special meeting Tuesday night at SLPS’s headquarters to begin the process of transitioning back to democratic control.

Samuel Williams helps his two children onto the Jefferson Elementary School morning shuttle bus Friday, March 2, 2018. Williams said since it started in January, the shuttle provides safety and a routine for getting to school.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Most students at Jefferson Elementary live within a mile of the school, meaning they’re within walking distance under St. Louis Public Schools’ transportation policy.

Yet Jefferson’s principal, Kristen Taylor, said kids in the near north side Carr Square neighborhood were often late or didn’t show up at all. Attendance for the school’s roughly 225 students at the end of the first semester was nearly 20 percent below the state’s desired 90-percent level for schools.

SLPS science teachers Ninfa Matiase, LaJuana Stidmon and Jeremy Resmann practice an experiment Aug. 3, 2016 during training provided by the National Math and Science Initiative.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Within five years of being in a St. Louis Public Schools classroom, nearly half of teachers leave the district.

Now SLPS is considering adopting the St. Louis Teacher Residency Program in an effort to retain new teachers. Recruits would spend a full school year embedded in a classroom shadowing an experienced teacher while also earning their teaching certificate.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

State authority of the St. Louis Public School district has accomplished its job and it’s time for a return to local control, according to the district’s appointed board. But it’s not clear when that could happen.

In a unanimous vote Thursday evening, the three-person Special Administrative Board approved a motion to return authority of the district to the St. Louis Board of Education, which is elected but powerless, after a decade of state control.

Addie Bond, a St. Louis parent, Special Administrative Board member Richard Gaines and legal counsel Jonathan Dalton listen to a presentation during a governance task force meeting Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A task force on the future governance of St. Louis’ public schools says control of the district should eventually return to local, democratic oversight, but members struggled to agree on much else.

In a meeting that began at noon and lasted well into Wednesday evening, a committee assigned with determining St. Louis Public Schools’ future recommended the restoration of an elected school board, but with the caveat that in seven years voters would get to choose whether to keep that elected board.

Ray Cummings, second from left, a St. Louis Public Schools teacher and member of the governance task force, asks a question during a meeting Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A task force assigned with recommending how St. Louis Public Schools should be governed heard a consistent message from city residents during a series of public meetings: Return control of the district back to an elected board of education.

At three meetings over the past 10 days, St. Louis residents repeatedly said that the appointed, three-person Special Administrative Board, or SAB, has achieved its objective during a decade of running SLPS — and contended that a democratically elected board should control the district again.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board of education has continued to hold elections and conduct meetings, even though it’s had no authority over the district for a decade.

The task belongs to a Special Administrative Board, or SAB, which is appointed. As the district moves back to improved academic performance, the three-person SAB has said its time of rule is nearing an end. The governor of Missouri, the mayor of St. Louis and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen each get to select one of the board members. 

Former President Bill Clinton exercises with fourth grader Jasmine Balven during a visit to Gateway Elementary School in St. Louis Nov. 1, 2017. Clinton visited the school to witness healthy food and exercise initiatives.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Former President Bill Clinton briefly exercised with elementary school students and kicked the tires of a retrofitted bus that delivers fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods during a Wednesday visit to St. Louis.

St. Louis is the third and final leg on a national tour of initiatives the 71-year-old’s foundation is supporting.

Kindergartener Maram Alhamadah sings an alphabet song at Nahed Chapman New American Academy, one of two programs dedicated to English-language learners at St. Louis Public Schools.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will make it easier for three Missouri districts to meet new federal accountability metrics for students learning English.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3:20 p.m. Aug. 15 with details from the State Board of Education meeting — Missouri’s board of education will stay out of the process to return decision-making control to St. Louis Public Schools after a decade, at least for now.

The decision came Tuesday at the Missouri State Board of Education meeting.

Though ending state oversight of SLPS is up to the board, it has no obligation to be involved in the transition process.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:45 p.m. August 2 to correct the percentage of KIPP St. Louis' budget that goes toward marketing in 7th paragraph Photos of smiling children in school uniforms grace the sides of buses, large billboards and flyers in mailboxes throughout the St. Louis area. Those images — and the selling points written underneath them — are meant for parents trying to figure out which school to send their kids.

With the dozens of charter schools and St. Louis Public Schools vying for students (and the state tax dollars that follow), the institutions have to act more like businesses, marketing themselves — sometimes heavily.

Katey Finnegan demonstrates how to use the chill zone, a space where students can take time to regroup while at the Maplewood Richmond Heights district's Student Success Center.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area school districts are in the midst of a discipline revolution. After the Ferguson Commission in 2015 recommended banning suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade, schools began looking at how to address the root causes of difficult behavior.

Twenty-one districts pledged to at least attempt to reduce suspensions, and two have followed through, but officials say it can be tough to do without substantially investing time and money.

Shelia Price marches against violence with her grandchildren Saturday, March 19, 2016 in north St. Louis. Her son died from a gun shot 20 years ago.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said earlier this week that he’ll provide more trauma counseling services to St. Louis’ public schools as part of a broader plan to reduce violent crime in the city.

It’s a strategy the school district says it had no part in crafting.

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