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Education

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 28, 2009 - Senate Bill 291 started out as a modest plan to expand virtual schools across Missouri. Its sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-Kansas City, probably didn't expect his bill to become a magnet for a variety of proposals, some routine, others far-reaching. No fewer than two dozen changes were wrapped into SB 291 before lawmakers approved it.

"There was more education reform in that bill than I've seen in my previous eight years in the Legislature," says Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who previously served in the House before being elected to her first state Senate term last fall.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 28, 2009 - The St. Louis Special Administrative Board voted Thursday night to approve an operating budget of $289 million and trim spending by another $53 million to prevent starting the next school term in red ink. The board also approved a two-year contract that calls for 3 percent pay raises each year for members of teachers union Local 420.

Teach For America sees record numbers

May 28, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 28, 2009 - Teach For America, the national program that places college graduates in low-income schools for a two-year commitment, has announced that 4,100 teachers will be starting this fall in 34 regions across the country. That's the largest group in the organization's 20-year history.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 27, 2009 - St. Louis Public School teachers and paraprofessionals ratified a new contract during a standing room only meeting Wednesday night at Carpenters' Hall, 1401 Hampton Ave.

Union officials did not offer an immediate vote count, but they said 95 percent of the district's teachers and 95 percent of its paraprofessionals voted to approve the contract.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2009 - Six weeks into their summer vacation, about 90 fifth-graders in St. Louis will give up the fun and return to the classroom to become members of the inaugural class at a different kind of middle school, KIPP Inspire Academy.

The goal is to instill every middle schooler at KIPP with the mind-set and skills to attend the best public and private high schools and ultimately the best public and private colleges.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2009 - "G-He, G-Hi, G-Ho, Ho, Ho. Granite City Warriors Go, Go, Go!"

If these words stir memories of cool fall evenings under the bright lights of a high school stadium where you cheered wildly for the mighty Warriors, then you must be from Granite City.

Chess makes move at area grade schools

May 18, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 18, 2009 - “Remember, queens like to have their shoes match their dress!” says Matt Lodge, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis scholastic coordinator.

This past Friday, May 15, was the rest day before the final two rounds of the U.S. Chess Championship. In place of the professionals, the top ranked chess players from two St. Louis city schools are taking over the club to put their skills to the test against their peers in a two-round interschool tournament.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 14, 2009 - St. Louis School Superintendent Kelvin Adams delivered more bad news Thursday night by suggesting that the district could cut costs by reducing salaries, retirement contributions, health benefits and work days.

He didn’t suggest that the board pursue any of these options, but he put them on the table as potential ways the district could pare expenses.

U.S. Chess championship comes to St. Louis

May 8, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 8, 2009   This afternoon, the Central West End's Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis will open its doors to 24 of the top players in the country for round one of the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship. The title of champion and $200,000 in prize money are at stake.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2009 - A president who is comfortable using his Blackberry and other high-tech toys for communicating with the public raised the hopes of K-12 educators by promising that on his watch, more money for technology would flow to school districts.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 24, 2009 - The Obama administration geared up Friday for a big fight over its proposal to eliminate a federal loan program that is popular among many college officials, including some in Missouri.

The administration wants to eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan program under which commercial lenders provide federally backed loan funds to students. Replacing it would be an expanded direct government loan system.

New Roxana school board member is 19

Apr 24, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 24, 2009 - At an age when some college students are looking to distance themselves from their high schools and hometowns, Justin Sandbach, 19, is doing the exact opposite. Not only has he returned to Roxana, but he's on the school board.

Sandbach, a sophomore studying history and secondary education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, was elected to the board earlier this month. The election makes him one of the - if not the - youngest school board member in Illinois history.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 22, 2009 - Nerinx Hall High School in comfortable Webster Groves is miles away -- a world away -- from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But on Tuesday night, crises unfolding there came a little bit closer to home.

Inside a auditorium at Nerinx, three journalists told a hushed audience of mostly students about their work on women and children in crisis, all funded or commissioned by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The center's mission is to shed public light on events occurring under the radar of most media.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 19, 2009 - Most members of a panel discussion Saturday on improving urban education praised St. Louis public school officials for removing a deed restriction that had prevented the sale of vacant city school buildings to groups that wanted to open charter schools.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2009 - Dawn Gray, 19, estimates that she will owe about $30,000 in student loans by the time she completes her bachelor's degree in international relations at Webster University.

Gray, a junior from Belleville, says she is not overly concerned about her financial obligation at this time, but she will be "thoroughly in debt" when she graduates.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2009 - After months of devoting time to the controversies involved in closing some St. Louis public schools, Superintendent Kelvin Adams turned his attention today to less volatile but still far-reaching proposals to retrain teachers and improve student achievement.

Adams intends to present his ideas during tonight's meeting of the Special Administrative Board. The centerpiece proposal is to hire academic or teaching coaches, to be called teaching-learning specialists. At a cost of $10.4 million, this is the most expensive of the plans Adams is announcing tonight.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 14, 2009 - Rebecca Rogers, Chad Beffa and Emile R. Bradford-Taylor -- the three candidates who won seats on the St. Louis School Board last week -- have all heard the questions many times: Why bother? Why waste time running since control of city schools is in the hands of the Special Administrative Board?

The three-member SAB took control of the city schools in 2007 after the Missouri Board of Education stripped the district of its accreditation. The takeover is expected to last through 2011.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 13, 2009 - Peter Erskine may be one of the most recorded drummers in the past three-plus decades. Since he made his professional debut with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1972 at the age of 18, he's worked with a who's who of the jazz and pop world. He moved from Maynard Ferguson's band to become the drummer for the legendary jazz-fusion band Weather Report from 1978 to 1983.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 11, 2009 - Good Friday turned out to be good news for many public school districts across Missouri because it was the day the state announced that schools would get roughly $140 million in extra Title 1 money for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The bad news will come later for some cash-strapped districts as they slowly realize the stimulus program offers no chance of a quick fix for their budget problems.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 8, 2009 - On a Tuesday evening, Marcia Hayes-Harris stepped into the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library with four of her students and their babies.

For a moment, she looked around for the reason they'd all come. In the glass-walled room to the right, she expected to find it, but didn't.

Stay in teaching or get out after two years?

Apr 7, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 7, 2009 - Stay in teaching or get out after two years? Anyone who’s ever taken part in Teach For America, the program that places college grads in low-income schools, has wrestled with that question. 

But the question of the night Monday was this: Stay in St. Louis or get out after two years?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 2, 2009 - At one time in his career, Scott Spurgeon's field of dreams was baseball. He was so good at catching and hitting balls at Northwest Missouri State University that the Houston Astros drafted him as a first baseman.

An injury cut short that career. So nowadays he goes to bat for another cause: the 22,000 kids in the Rockwood School District. As the district's associate superintendent for curriculum, Spurgeon hopes to keep the district at the top of its academic game.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 31, 2009 - The federal Department of Education has given some Missouri school districts one more reason to be confused about how much stimulus money they will get. The confusion stems from a federal formula that seems to give the poorest districts less money than districts serving fewer poorer schools.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 26, 2009 - During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama heard teachers, unions, and school districts argue that limited federal funding is preventing them from helping at-risk students become proficient in reading and math. The president's education secretary, Arne Duncan, says the administration is testing that hypothesis by pouring an unprecedented amount of money into Title 1 and other education programs to help these students and to improve schools in general.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 26, 2009 - Thirty years ago, Keith Snyder quit high school, became a mover and began earning "more money than my dad made." But loading and unloading trucks turned out to be sporadic work, so Snyder became a journeyman laborer. Now that construction work is less available, he's working toward his GED and hopes to eventually train for a career in radiology.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 13, 2009 - One of the highest scoring public schools in Missouri is Academie Lafayette, a language immersion charter school in Kansas City. Not only does it outperform other charters and many regular public schools on state assessment exams, Lafayette stands out this year for being the first charter to become a Missouri Gold Star school. These are schools, 15 in all this year, that the state says are performing at a high academic level.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2009 - Let's do it right this time. Quit tweaking. Focus accountability. Put Illinois governors clearly in charge of education at the state level.

It will require a leap of faith and a constitutional amendment.

Posted 5:13 p.m. Thur., March 12 - This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2009 - Announcements of vacant St Louis Public School buildings for sale used to bring gleams of excitement to the eyes of St Louis developers.

I know. I'm one of them. Five years ago, I bought and redeveloped the Theresa School at Park and Theresa avenues into 35 rental lofts. I love that building. It's one of the first William B. Ittner-designed buildings. It is beautiful and architecturally significant.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2009 - City school officials voted unanimously on Thursday night to accept the superintendent's proposal to close 17 schools in order to help reduce a deficit and streamline school services.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, conducted without incident at Gateway School, as the Special Administrative Board worked through routine business before deciding the key issue of whether to accept Superintendent Kelvin Adams' school-closing recommendations.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2009 - When a community group held a Save Our Schools rally Saturday in response to Superintendent Kelvin Adams' proposal to close 17 schools, only about 100 people showed up.

Whether the size of the crowd represented growing public indifference to the school-closing issue or the quiet before the storm may be known on Thursday when the Special Administrative Board votes on Adams' proposals.

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