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St. Louis Public Schools superintendent announces plans to retire

Dr. Kelvin Adams, St. Louis Public Schools superintendent
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kelvin Adams, St. Louis Public Schools superintendent, outside Herzog Elementary School on July 11.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. Aug. 9

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams has announced he will retire in December.

Adams led the district for 14 years, making him one of the longest-serving superintendents in the district’s history. During that time, he oversaw the return to a locally elected board after years of state control due to loss of accreditation. Adams also ushered through the passage of two bond measures, one in 2010 and one just last week.

Adams told St. Louis Public Radio he is most proud of his work to give the district stability that he hopes will last beyond his tenure.

“That's really what this is all about, setting the system up such that it can continue no matter who's sitting at the table,” Adams said.

Between 2003 and 2008, the district had six superintendents in six years. Since 1839, more than half of the district’s superintendents have been in place for two years or less. In 2007, after years of poor academic results and mismanagement, St. Louis Public Schools lost state accreditation.

Adams was hired to lead the district in September 2008. Four years later, Missouri made the district provisionally accredited, and in 2017, the district became fully accredited. Two years after that, the district returned to a locally elected board.

School board member Alisha Sonnier said Adams deserves thanks for “being a stable hand in the district.”

“He should get his flowers, he should get his gratitude, he should get his honor for the great service that he's done to the community and, honestly, to our region for the past 14 years,” Sonnier said.

While Adams said he has a lot to be proud of, he wishes he could have done more to improve academic outcomes during his tenure.

“I regret that we were not able to move the needle more on the academic side,” Adams said. “I make no excuses about that. But there's some real challenges around supporting kids in this community in terms of the social systems that need to be there to support them.”

Adams said the loss of population in the city was a key challenge for the school district in his time, leading to the district’s decision to close about 20 schools. He also said violence was a constant tragedy, as about 180 students died during his tenure, the majority related to violence.

“Violence in this city is real,” Adams said. “It impacts us in a very real way and the communities that we support.”

A nationwide search for a new superintendent will begin in the next few weeks.

“I'm hopeful that there are people internally, I hope there are people locally, but I also hope that this attracts national interest,” school board President Matt Davis said, “because this is a very important job as a superintendent.”

It is possible the district will hire an interim leader after Adams leaves in December, Davis added.

Adams plans to stay in St. Louis, and although he is retiring from St. Louis Public Schools, he said that word doesn’t quite fit.

“I don't see myself retiring, quite frankly,” Adams said. “I'm going to take some time, obviously, to pause and take a break. But I can easily see myself back doing some work again to support this community.”

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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