St. Louis Public Schools | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools

The downtown headquarters building for the St. Louis Public Schools
File photo | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ Metro Academic and Classical High School is again among the nation’s 500 best in making its students ready for college.

U.S. News and World Report issued its annual rankings Tuesday, looking at more than 22,000 public high schools in the country, based on math and reading test scores, graduation rates and college preparedness.

Mallinckrodt Academy for Gifted Instruction on Hampton Ave. in south St. Louis fished tranistioning into a gifted elementary in the 2015-2016 school year.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As St. Louis Public Schools prepares to add a first grade gifted classroom in north St. Louis in the fall, the overwhelming majority of students eligible for gifted instruction in the district continue to be white.

According to a program update presented to the district’s state-appointed board in March, 81 white students tested this school year qualify compared to 29 black students, 9 Hispanic students and 24 Asian students.

St. Louis Public Schools elected board president Susan Jones speaks during a meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of St. Louis’ elected school board waited until after this month’s election to start clamoring to resume talks over regaining control of the city’s public schools. They’ll have to wait a bit longer, though, the state says.

Elected board President Susan Jones said the election of two new members is a proof enough that its reputation of dysfunction and mismanagement, which led to losing control a decade ago, is a thing of the past.

Cedric Deshay and Jeavon Gill walk into the mayor's office to receive their high school diplomas on April 13, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Just four months after the launch of a new, 24-hour high school for students in danger of dropping out, two young men from St. Louis received their diplomas Thursday.

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board hasn’t had direct control of the district for a decade. Regaining that control from the state may hinge on the April 4 election, when voters will choose from among seven candidates for three open seats.

Board member Bill Monroe is seeking a second term. But the president of the SLPS board and some state-level education officials see his continued presence as a possible disruption in getting back local control.

St. Louis Public Schools curriculum instructor Sylvester McClain talks to Workforce High School student Cedric Deshay on Thursday, March 2, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Cedric Deshay has seen a lot in his 17 years. His dad died when he was a baby, followed by his mom when he was 13. Gun violence plagues his northeast St. Louis neighborhood; a recent killing was three houses down.

"I was falling behind in classes, falling asleep in class and stuff because of what was going on at home,” he explained. It was to the point that when his senior year began in August, Cedric was at risk of dropping out.

Officer Nate McCraw enjoying a chess game with public school students.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The current climate of community and police relations in our country has forced law enforcement agencies to examine what tactics work well and what areas pose challenges. Officers work extremely hard day in and day out to keep the citizens of our community safe. However, the focus on building relationships while performing their jobs should also be a priority and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is committed to finding opportunities to build better community relationships, especially with youth. Now, they are doing so through chess.

Darnetta Clinkscale, left, joins Rick Sullivan and Richard Gaines (right) on the SAB board for her first meeting Sept. 26, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Even though the St. Louis public school system is now fully accredited, the city school district continues to be run by a state-appointed board.

Conversations with state board of education members indicate that it could remain that way for a while.

Eric Mitchell picks up his daugther Keyannah and son Kobe after school on Jan. 11, 2017. Both children are in fourth grade at Preclarus Mastery Academy.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As the St. Louis public school district emerges from the long shadow cast by 16 years of failing to measure up to state standards, it joins the ranks of Missouri's accredited school districts with another distinction: a better performance record than about half of the charter schools in the district’s footprint.

Moments after the state board of education voted to reclassify the district as fully accredited last week, the board got word that another St. Louis charter school, Preclarus Mastery Academy, will likely close this year due to poor performance.

Now that St. Louis Public Schools have regained accreditation, could the city’s educational landscape shift in response? Might parents start preferring the district's schools over charters and other alternatives?

It will take years to measure enrollment trends, but parents and educators have decided views on what direction they want to see trends take.

Students at St. Louis Public Schools' Mason Elementary met Gov. Jay Nixon when he toured their school Jan. 5, 2017  in recognition of the district's pending accreditation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on Tuesday, January 10: The State Board of Education officially granted St. Louis Public Schools full accreditation, a key milestone for a district that's improved after years of struggle.

The state board gave unanimous approval to upgrade St. Louis Public Schools’ status from provisionally accredited to fully accredited. Officials with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education cited the district's rising test scores, improved attendance rates and fiscal stability as the reasons for recommending the change.

Langston Middle School in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood is one of two schools the district is closing at the end of 2016-2017 school year.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

When two public schools in northwest St. Louis release their students for summer break in June, they’ll be closing their doors for good.

St. Louis Public School’s Special Administrative Board unanimously voted Tuesday to close Cote Brilliante Elementary in the Ville neighborhood and Langston Middle School in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood.

Cote Brilliante Elementary in the Ville neighborhood is one of two schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams recommended close at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The parents, students and staff of at least two St. Louis city schools may soon find out whether this will be the last year their school will be open.

St. Louis Public School’s Special Administrative Board is meeting Tuesday evening to take action on school closures.

Tax credits | Flickr

St. Louis is backing charter school parents in a legal dispute over how money from a 1999 city sales tax is distributed.

St. Louis officials  argue that the money from the sales tax was designed to help all students attending public schools in the city, not just those in district schools.

The St. Louis Public Schools and the NAACP, which filed the lawsuit, say the money should go only to the school district, not to charters, and they want to recover more than $50 million that has gone to the charters since 2006.

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 9, 2016 with the results of the most recent tests — St. Louis Public Schools officials are still working on replacing water pipes, fountains and sinks that tested positive for lead.

Most of the nearly 90 sources have passed most-recent testing, but three fountains and nine sinks have been abandoned. Another eight fountains failed the most recent lead tests, and officials are waiting for results on four other fountains.

LeDiva Pierce with her daughters Alfreida (left) and Unique. Pierce is one of two charter school parents seeking to intervene as plaintiffs in St. Louis Public School's dispute with the state over funding.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Two parents of children in charter schools in St. Louis are taking their fight to be involved in a school-funding lawsuit to a federal appeals court.

Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge rejected attempts by Ken Ross Jr. and LeDiva Pierce to intervene in a motion brought by the St. Louis Public Schools and the NAACP. The court actions seeks to stop money from a 1999 sales tax from going to charter schools and want the charters to pay back $50 million in tax proceeds they have received over the past 10 years.

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams watches as early results come in showing strong support for a proposition to increase school funding in April 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools is recommending that at least two schools in north St. Louis close at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

After having meetings at 10 schools that have low enrollment and shaky academic performance, Kelvin Adams told the district’s appointed board Monday night that Cote Brilliante Elementary, 2616 Cora Ave., in the Ville neighborhood, and Langston Middle School, 5511 Wabada Ave., in the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood don’t have the area population and development they need to stay open.

school buses
Flickr

After area school superintendents voted Friday to phase out the current race-based student transfer program – and possibly replace it with a new one down the road – those who have been part of the program so far cited a lot of reasons it should continue.

Harlan Hodge, a city resident who graduated in 1992 from Parkway North High School, put his experience this way:

“The kids at our school, the teachers lovingly embraced us the same way they have everywhere else. It really became about excellence. I’m as committed to Parkway as I was 25 years ago when I started. I believe in the school district. I believe in teachers. I believe in our education. It was a great experience.”

KB35 | Flickr

If the voluntary student transfer program that has served more than 70,000 St. Louis area students over more than 30 years is going to continue beyond 2036, it probably will be based on a factor other than race.

At a meeting Friday, the board that oversees the program is expected to approve a final five-year extension that would begin phasing out the transfers in the 2023-24 school year. Students who begin kindergarten that year could remain through high school graduation.

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.

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

While state education officials try to work around obstacles that have blocked efforts to move control of the St. Louis Public Schools back to an elected board, talks on the issue have been suspended until January at the earliest.

And with school board elections set for April, the balloting could take on additional significance.

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

This a preview of an upcoming episode of St. Louis Public Radio’s We Live Here, a podcast that explores race, class, power and poverty in the St. Louis region and beyond. Listen to the full version here

Black students in Missouri and the rest of the country are far more likely to receive out of school suspensions. And this school year St. Louis Public Schools became one of the few districts in the nation to ban out-of-school suspensions for its youngest students. 

Officials say the move has pushed them to rethink student discipline. 

Darnetta Clinkscale, left, joins Rick Sullivan and Richard Gaines (right) on the SAB board for her first meeting Sept. 26, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

​Updated 9 p.m. Sept. 26 with comment from Clinkscale  Darnetta Clinkscale, a former member of the elected board for the St. Louis Public Schools, is now a member of the three-member appointed board that has run the district since 2007.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay on Monday named Clinkscale to the post on the Special Administrative Board. She replaces Melanie Adams,  who resigned because she has accepted a job in St. Paul, Minn. 

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 14 with comments from Bill Monroe — The vice-president of the Missouri Board of Education warned the elected board of St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday night that if the elected board can’t work together then talks to transition district authority back could be put on hold until after the April election.

“We went around the room (during the state board meeting) and it was pretty clear that if we can’t have a working together meeting to make things happen, then we’re wasting our time,” state board vice president Vic Lenz told the elected board during their regularly scheduled board meeting.

The downtown headquarters building for the St. Louis Public Schools
File photo | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The state board of education will discuss the stalled transition talks for the St. Louis Public Schools at its meeting Tuesday and could decide whether the on-again, off-again talks will resume or will be off for quite a while.

“We’re not going to continue to try to hold meetings as they were planned if, every time, we have to suspend the meeting or call it off,” said Vic Lenz of south St. Louis County, one of two state board members who has been involved in the discussion of when and whether an elected board will resume control over the city schools. “We’re not going to waste people’s time like that.”

Madison Jones sits with her grandmother, elected school board member Donna Jones, before Monday night's meeting. Madison's mother, Susan Jones, is president of the board.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9:30 p.m. Monday: After the most recent meeting broke up after just five minutes, talks about when, how and whether the elected board might regain power over the St. Louis Public Schools are on hold until state officials discuss how they might proceed.

Based on discussions at the elected board’s meeting Monday night, infighting may not be ending any time soon.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, left, speaks with Attorney General Chris Koster earlier this month at the Missouri State Fair. Nixon criticized Koster for a statement the Democratic gubernatorial nominee made about school funding.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is taking major issue with a statement issued on Friday by Attorney General Chris Koster about public school funding.

What prompted the governor's response is a statement that Koster’s office released reacting to reports about lead in drinking water at St. Louis Public Schools. In that statement, Koster said the “drinking-water contamination reported this week in St. Louis schools is an unintended — but significant — consequence of the repeated refusal to invest in education and infrastructure.”

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated after board meeting with test results — St. Louis Public Schools has found elevated lead levels in 88 district water fountains and sinks, with almost a dozen water sources testing at 10 to 20 times the level requiring correction.

A water fountain at Fanning Middle School in the Tower Grove South neighborhood had the highest lead concentration at 280 parts per billion.

Melanie Adams
Missouri History Museum

Updated at 4:45 p.m. with comments from Adams: Melanie Adams, one of the three original members of the Special Administrative Board that has run the St. Louis Public Schools since 2007, is leaving her job at the Missouri History Museum and her spot on the SAB.

Her successor on the board will be named by Mayor Francis Slay; his spokeswoman, Maggie Crane, said the search process is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.

Biology teacher LaJuana Stidmon examins at microscope she received as a gift at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy in St. Louis earlier this month on Aug. 11, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Comparatively low pay. Long hours. High — and often changing — expectations. A sometimes reluctant audience. Two months of vacation isn’t a big enough perk to lure anyone into the teaching profession for long. So what inspires St. Louis teachers to return each year?

With most St. Louis area schools now back in session, St. Louis Public Radio asked local teachers what keeps them coming back, what are their biggest challenges and what advice they have for parents.

The downtown headquarters building for the St. Louis Public Schools
File photo | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 8:50 p.m. Aug. 16, with results of an attempted meeting - A meeting to discuss moving the St. Louis Public Schools back under the control of an elected board was adjourned just five minutes after it started Tuesday evening because one member of the elected board who was not supposed to be there refused to leave.

The dispute could scuttle any effort to have the elected board replace the appointed Special Administrative Board that has run the district since 2007.

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