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Commentary: When Is Normandy’s Plan Not A Plan? When Nobody Knows It’s There

interlocking circle to Normand vision
From the Normandy Planning Document

Anyone who attended DESE’s Feb. 5 community forum may have noticed the same thing I noticed: The plan Normandy School District submitted to DESE on Tuesday, Feb. 4, was nowhere to be seen or heard.

DESE’s presentation was designed to inform citizens of the significant characteristics of each plan so the department could take public input into consideration before making a recommendation to the Missouri School Board. (A PDF of the DESE presentation is available online.)

The slide on page 12 of this presentation says that one of DESE’s aims was to “Focus on best concepts from each plan.” It did not.

Normandy’s 8-page executive summary and our promising, ambitious 47-page plan itself — both of which I have had a chance to review since they’ve been publicly posted — were simply not meaningfully represented. Certainly there was no focus on the best concepts from our plan. Indeed, nobody sitting in that auditorium would have had any idea that our plan even existed.

What is on DESE’s website, in a column as if it is a plan for reformation, is nothing but the superintendent’s plan from last fall for drastically paring down our expenditures: selling off buildings, refiguring busing and laying off teachers and staff. Normandy’s plan and Executive Summary are listed down below, in a separate and unequal section from all the rest of the plans. This section is called: “Additional comments, written testimony and other submissions.”

It also can be found by those who click the box labeled "Send us your feedback on plans for unaccedited districts" on DESE's home page.

I invite anyone with a role to play in this historic moment to read carefully the Normandy School District Reformation Plan. (A direct link to the plan is here.)

Our plan is local, hopeful and excellent. The vision is clear. The radical break from past policies is clear. The intention is clear. Have a look at page 31, a summary of the transformation in school practices and culture that students, teachers, and administrators are already enacting. Have a look at page 34, the plan’s closing remarks, entitled “Missouri’s Opportunity.”

This plan is our plan.

Last July, Superintendent Ty McNichols made his vision clear to district leadership and faculty. The executive summary and the full plan represent our district's collective effort to put his vision into words. The writing process entailed collaboration among district leadership, administrators and teachers, and incorporates the perspectives of our trusted community partners -- including leadership from Beyond Housing and the University of Missouri St. Louis. The Normandy plan was researched and written by Normandy administrators, faculty and staff.

It can be hard to interpret the true meaning of these DESE gatherings. State officials are polite and gracious. It seems like they want to help. It seems like they are soliciting input from the community in good faith. They seem to have no hard feelings. They thank us for coming. They say drive home safely.

And yet speaker after speaker got up to those two microphones and spoke with insightful, critical force that drove to the marrow of what’s going on around here. People who clearly and honestly recognize a terrible problem in their own community want to take charge of making things right. The right people are in place with the right allies around them to make this happen.

The people of Normandy, DESE, our state representatives, our other elected officials, the Missouri School Board and our fellow citizens deserve more time to read and understand what their choices really are.

I urge DESE to grant all the people of Missouri fair access to the Normandy School District Reformation Plan -- and sufficient time to respond with feedback -- before the department rushes to the Missouri School Board with a done deal.

Note: Inda Schaenen writes and teaches in St. Louis. She is an instructional coach in Normandy School District.

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