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Education

From kickboxing to teaching

Sep 22, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 22, 2010 - Earnest Hart Jr. knew he needed to go outside St. Louis to make his mark, but he also always planned to return.

The former World Kickboxing champion grew up in the Tiffany neighborhood of the city and attended Roosevelt High School. He started martial arts training as a young teen and won his first World Kickboxing title at age 21.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 15, 2010 - Sporting a Finnish accent, a shock of blond hair and a multi-colored lab coat open to reveal a loud T-shirt promoting a rockabilly band, Heko Montonen hardly seems a typical science teacher. As he energetically bounds back and forth in front of an auditorium packed with students, it becomes clear this is no ordinary science lesson.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 15, 2010 - As the committee assigned to help figure out what's next for St. Louis Public Schools winds up its work, one of the main questions it is asking is: How should the city school board be chosen, by election or by appointment?

But based on the discussion the five members had on Monday afternoon, as important as how is the question of who.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2010 - Students aren't the only ones who get report cards -- school districts do too. And the latest numbers for some troubled school districts in the St. Louis area aren't encouraging.

The two Missouri districts in the area that have only provisional accreditation, Jennings and Normandy, still are far short from making the grade, preliminary numbers released Monday show. And the two districts that have been taken over by the state -- St. Louis and Riverview Gardens -- aren't improving either.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 9, 2010 - After Cleveland Hammonds took charge of the St. Louis Public Schools on July 1, 1996, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was coming into the job as the 23rd superintendent of the largest public school system in Missouri with eyes wide open.

"I know there are great challenges -- I'm not that naive," he said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 2, 2010 - Paideia Academy, which had planned to open its school year the day after Labor Day despite having lost its charter to operate, won't be opening after all.

Fred Robinson, president of the school's board, said Thursday that an effort to secure financing for the school had not worked out, so it would not be accepting students, at least for now. He said the decision was made earlier this week.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 31, 2010 -St. Louis Public Schools have paid out as much as a teacher's salary for a full year to teachers who have yet to have their own class this fall, the district acknowledged Tuesday.

Because of unusual movement of teachers, as schools were forced to reconstitute their staffs as part of a turnaround effort, as many as 26 teachers were not assigned to classes that matched their certification, according to Sharonica Hardin, the school system's chief human resource officer.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 26, 2010 -The elected board of the St. Louis Public Schools wants to resume control of the district no later than July 1 of next year, ending what would be four years of state control of the city schools. It also is looking for new sources of funding and a cap on new charter schools until the district's enrollment stabilizes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 23, 2010 - What's the best relationship between teachers and students? Love? Admiration? Respect?

What would you do if your class were deeply involved in a creative project, like a movie or a newspaper or a play, and the principal came along and said you had to get back to basics because standardized test time was coming up?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 3, 2010 - Responding to the message that a $155 million bond issue for the St. Louis Public Schools would require no tax increase,  city voters gave the proposal an overwhelming victory Tuesday.

With 100 percent of the city’s precincts reporting, Proposition S, won with 76 percent of the vote, and school officials declared victory. It needed a four-sevenths majority for passage, or 57.1 percent.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 2, 2010 - If brightly colored T-shirts, inspirational slogans and sheer enthusiasm can turn a school district around, Riverview Gardens - make that the NEW Riverview Gardens - could be on its way back.

But as speakers conceded Monday morning during the opening convocation for the reconstituted district, the turnaround is going to take a lot more than school spirit.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 30, 2010 - DESE says that MAP scores are up, even though most local districts did not meet AYP targets, but Missouri's commissioner of education says rather than concentrating on what is mandated by NCLB, parents and others should concentrate on APR.

To translate for those of you who do not understand eduspeak:

The latest results on the Missouri Assessment Program show growth across the board, but the numbers were not high enough to meet the annual yearly progress mark set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 29, 2010 - When Chris Nicastro was named Missouri's commissioner of elementary and secondary education last year, the news was that she was the first woman and the first urban educator to hold that position.

No one knew that the better shorthand would be this: the commissioner who had to deal with the state's worst budget crisis in recent memory.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 28, 2010 - The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled that students in unaccredited school districts have the right to transfer to, and must be accepted by, an accredited school at the cost of the unaccredited district. The law upheld by the court also allows the transfer to be to a school "in another district of the same or an adjoining county." This ruling should serve as a wake-up call that serious statewide education reforms must be passed in the 2011 legislative session.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2010 - The measure on the Aug. 3 ballot for a $155 million bond issue for St. Louis Public Schools is officially called Proposition S, but for parent activist Curtis Royston III, the real name should be Proposition SOS.

"This is about Saving Our Schools," he told a campaign kickoff rally Tuesday at the school system's headquarters, 801 N. 11th St. downtown.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2010 - St. Louis school officials hope their track record in bringing air conditioning to city school buildings will result in a warm reception for next month's $155 million bond issue.

But lingering resentment over the fact that the schools are being run by a state-appointed board is prompting some to give the proposition the cold shoulder.

Diversity Arts Program opens students' eyes

Jul 19, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2010 - Feelings of anger, sadness and apathy washed over a diverse group of students and teachers in a Central High School classroom Tuesday morning. The students had been brought together to discuss the disappearance of fellow schoolmate Justin Baker, who recently revealed to his family and friends that he was gay. All that was left of Baker was a backpack with a letter.

"I can't take it anymore," the letter read. "I want to go where I am accepted."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 15, 2010 - The jobs of 3,200 teachers in Missouri who face possible layoffs could be saved if Congress approves $500 million to aid state education programs nationwide.

But a move toward getting that money by taking it out of the administration's Race to the Top educational reform program was criticized Thursday by Chris Nicastro, Missouri's commissioner of elementary and secondary education, as the wrong approach.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2010 - One day after a judge rejected its attempt to stay open, and with the opening of the school year little more than a month away, board members of Paideia Academy met Tuesday to decide their next move.

Results of the closed meeting were not immediately made public.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2010 - Fernando Cutz, Chase Sackett and Jamie James aren't from St. Louis.

But like thousands of other students from around the country and the world, the three came here to get their university education. At Washington University, where Cutz and Sackett graduated in May, and at St. Louis University, where James has one more semester, the three students from different states and different backgrounds found the same thing -- a bubble.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 30, 2010 - After working with Missouri's colleges and universities for more than 20 years, Robert Stein has a clear idea of what he wants his legacy to be: a continued focus on a public agenda for higher education.

As usual, Stein wants to be precise, so please take note of where the word "public" appears. The emphasis should not be on public higher education, the system of state-supported schools that serve thousands of Missouri students at campuses all over the state -- too many campuses, some say.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 21, 2010 - When Luis Zayas hears of a professor he thinks would be a good candidate to join him on the Washington University faculty, he begins planning his serenade.

Wipe those images of a strumming guitar and a fair maiden on a balcony out of your mind. This serenade is one of the many efforts the university is making to try to improve a less-than-satisfactory record of diversity on campus.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Assistant Principal Romona Miller and walking counselor Donald Smith are the two African-American authority figures at Kirkwood High School with the most contact with black students. Miller, the only black administrator at the high school, heads the Black Achievement and Culture Club, while Smith mentors a group of African-American boys called My Brothers' Keeper.

Both Miller and Smith have proud accomplishments. This spring, Miller led about 40 students on the annual college trip, this one focusing on traditionally black colleges in the South. Meanwhile, Smith's decision to mentor one student led to requests for help from others. Now more than 70 students, including many of the school's top athletes, are in the peer mentoring group that he has organized.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2010 - Assistant Principal Romona Miller and walking counselor Donald Smith are the two African-American authority figures at Kirkwood High School with the most contact with black students. Miller, the only black administrator at the high school, heads the Black Achievement and Culture Club, while Smith mentors a group of African-American boys called My Brothers' Keeper.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 14, 2010 - As the Riverview Gardens School District heads toward uncharted waters, teachers and other employees are becoming increasingly concerned that they may not have a seat on the boat.

On July 1, the north St. Louis County district will cease to exist, replaced by a new district taken over by the state and run by a three-member appointed special administrative board (SAB). All contracts established by the lapsed district will end -- no teachers, no administrators, no support personnel, no vendors.

Commentary: A lesson Teach for America didn't intend

Jun 9, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 9, 2010 - I was recently handed an extremely prestigious piece of paper. Now I will move back home, unemployed, and without any immediate promise of higher education.

“It’s a very hard time,” people tell me.  “I don’t envy your position,” they say hesitantly.  “Things were very different when I graduated.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 6, 2010 - If you talk to professionals on the front lines in the fight against hate, three things become clear: Success is vitally important, endlessly rewarding -- and largely impossible to measure.

"It's not like when you have a physical ailment and you can say, 'Do these exercises and over six weeks you'll see a 65 percent increase in your flexibility,'" said Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Missouri and Southern Illinois. "You can't do that with anti-bias work as cleanly."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 4, 2010 - Lots of folks dream of winning the lottery as their ticket to a better life. But most of them aren't thinking of the kind of victory that "The Lottery" portrays.

Madeleine Sackler's documentary follows four students who are among the thousands hoping to win one of the 475 spots at the Harlem Success Academy, a New York city charter school offering families an alternative to the less-than-stellar public schools in the area.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 27, 2010 - Declaring the Normandy schools to be "almost in critical condition," Superintendent Stanton Lawrence has released a blueprint designed to help the district avoid the fate that led to the end of neighboring Wellston schools and the takeover by the state of Riverview Gardens.

Among the steps announced at a news conference at the district's Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex Thursday morning are:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2010 - For legions of graduates this time of year, the timeless message is that commencement is not an end, it's a beginning.

For the 30 members of the 2010 graduating class of Melvin Ray Eskridge High School in Wellston, it was both.

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