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St. Louis Public Schools

A student at Ashland Elementary School in St. Louis does a mindfulness exercise. The school uses the practices to help its children regulate trauma caused by violence and poverty. Jan. 8, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The crackle of gunshots has become white noise for children living in parts of north St. Louis.

“I got used to it,” a fifth grade girl said, “because it happen a lot, so I’m just not scared of it no more.”

They know just what to do if they’re inside: 

“When I hear gunshots, I duck on the floor and get under my bed,” said a sixth grade boy.

Students arrive at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Middle School for a 7:10 a.m. class start time, one of 17 St. Louis Public Schools that start that early.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

School at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Middle School begins at 7:10 a.m.

If Lisa Manzo-Preston’s seventh grade daughter took the bus to the St. Louis public school, she’d have to be outside at 6:03 a.m. on the dot.

“That's impossible for us. That’s absolutely not something we're able to do because of her level of exhaustion and her inability to wake up in the morning,” she said. 

Trey Porter joined Tuesday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In the wake of St. Louis Public Schools’ termination last month of Trey Porter, Roosevelt High School’s football coach and athletic director, there were more questions than answers. There was also hope — on the part of Porter’s students, parents and others — that Porter might be reinstated, especially after an Oct. 21 student-led walkout in support of him.

But at the latest meeting of the school board, Porter was notified that the board is standing by the district’s decision.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Porter joined host Sarah Fenske to share his perspective on the events of recent days. Porter has said all along that the firing had to do with violating the district’s social media policies, and that his communication with players happened in the context of a strikingly violent summer for many youth in the city.

David Kvidahl joined Thursday's show to discuss the latest developments at Cardinal Ritter and Roosevelt high schools.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week was a busy one for David Kvidahl, who covers high school sports for STLhighschoolsports.com and STLtoday.com.

On Tuesday, he was calling Cardinal Ritter College Prep to let school officials know he planned to publish a story about a football player at the Catholic school taking the field while ineligible. The next day, he was reporting that St. Louis Public Schools had terminated Roosevelt High School athletic director and head football coach Trey Porter. Then, on Friday, Cardinal Ritter announced that its entire football staff had been “permanently released” by the school.

Kvidahl joined host Sarah Fenske on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air to go behind the headlines on the latest developments in both the Roosevelt and Cardinal Ritter stories.

To help students cope with environmental stressors, Emerson Academy offers therapy sessions, a specialized curriculum and a violence intervention program. Oct. 2, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Early this spring, Shamyia Ford Jennings, 17, walked with her cousin and a friend to a corner store in north St. Louis. Minutes later, she was in St. Louis Children’s Hospital with a bullet wound in left leg. Her friend had also been shot, in the foot. 

And a couple of summers ago, Devin Smith, 16, was playing basketball on the playground with family members when someone fired shots in his direction. His cousin was hit in the drive-by. 

Cards classmates of Jurnee Thompson made after she was shot and killed in the second week of school. Jurnee, 8, was in third grade. Aug. 30, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Eddie Hill IV never showed up for the fifth grade. The 10-year-old was shot and killed enjoying his summer vacation from his front porch in the Lewis Place neighborhood, which borders the Central West End. 

His death has upended the school year for his former classmates at Pamoja Preparatory Academy at Cole. 

Eddie is one of a dozen children who have died in violence so far this year, part of a dizzying streak of young children being killed by bullets not meant for them, while doing things a kid is supposed to be doing in the summer: playing in the yard, eating pizza and going to football games.

Bree Holmes addresses St. Louis school board members during a special meeting Thursday at Vashon High School.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Education took the brunt of the frustration about gun violence that has taken the lives of a dozen children in the city from residents, parents and school staff Thursday night.

The school board held a special meeting at its Vashon High School to listen to ideas for how to keep its students alive.

Board members and district leadership say they are equally vexed by the deadly past several months, during which six St. Louis Public Schools students have been shot and killed — four over their summer vacation and two in the early weeks of the school year. At least two more have been wounded by gunfire.

A student leaves Dunbar Elementary School in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood Jan. 9, 2019. The district has proposed closing the school after this year.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 9:30 p.m., June 19, with results of recall vote — The president of the union representing St. Louis’ traditional public school teachers survived a recall vote Wednesday night. But the effort to oust her has created a clear fissure in the union.

Sally Topping is only two years into her first term as president of American Federation of Teachers Local 420. An executive board that predates her failed to oust her on charges she’s misled members and lacked financial transparency. Topping calls the claims weak and exaggerated.

Second-graders at Bryan Hill Elementary School react to having their class announced over the intercom for having perfect attendance. The north St. Louis school has the second-best attendance in the district.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The cheers at the end of the day could be heard down the hall and around the corner, all the way in the office where Sarah Briscoe was making daily announcements.

The hollering was coming from a second-grade classroom where every student showed up for the school day. The daily ritual of announcing perfect-attendance classrooms is part of the school’s all-out focus on getting its students into desks every day.

Bryan Hill Elementary School in the far-north side College Hill neighborhood can boast an attendance rate 97.9%, a figure bested only by one of St. Louis Public Schools’ gifted-program magnet schools.

Iris Jackson became a teacher in St. Louis Public Schools through the St. Louis Teacher Residency Program. She was a long-time substitute and reading tutor before getting certified through the residency program.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The teaching corps of St. Louis Public Schools is becoming older and whiter. And that concerns Superintendent Kelvin Adams.

Adams has asked the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for more flexibility and pathways to getting quality educators into classrooms. It’s something state education officials said is worth serious consideration.

The Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

In a change that lawmakers acknowledged was a long time coming, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has voted to ban lobbyists from the floor of the chamber.

The ban was part of the board’s operating rules adopted Friday by a 22-2 vote, with one alderman voting present.

Meramec Elementary School Principal Jonathan Strong works with a preschool student on writing letters. Strong will have more flexibility next year to improve the St. Louis school.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools is granting more freedom to two neighborhood elementary schools in hopes the formula to improve their performance lies within.

Starting in August, staff at Meramec Elementary in Dutchtown and Ashland Elementary in Penrose will report to a different board and have more say over how they run their schools.

St. Louis Board of Education President Dorothy Rohde-Collins, center, smiles at school board member Natalie Vowell following a vote to reinstitute the board's control of St. Louis Public Schools. Board member Susan Jones is at left. April 16, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

State education leaders are returning governance of the St. Louis public school system back to an elected school board and ending 12 years of oversight.

The Missouri State Board of Education held its monthly meeting in downtown St. Louis Tuesday where it voted to end its control of St. Louis Public Schools July 1.

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis and St. Louis County residents on Tuesday rejected a Metropolitan Sewer District tax increase aimed at stopping erosion and flooding.

Voters also endorsed designating an attorney to represent the St. Louis County Council, while in Ferguson Fran Griffin defeated Michael Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, and incumbent Keith Kallstrom for a seat on the city council.

A child and an adult leave Farragut Elementary School in St. Louis's Greater Ville neighborhood in Jan. 9, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than a decade, the St. Louis Board of Education met every month in a school library, gym or cafeteria across the city with only the most diehard public-education watchers in attendance.

Despite keeping up appearances, actual control of the city’s public-school system had been forcibly handed over to another body more than a decade ago. The board has been disenfranchised since a 2007 state takeover of St. Louis Public Schools amid rising deficits, falling academic performance and revolving superintendents.

Five of the seven candidates for the St. Louis school board answered questions at a forum Wednesday evening, March 13, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Adam Layne began “noticing a theme” after a third consecutive question about affiliations with charter schools during last night’s St. Louis school board candidate forum.

Layne is running again for the school board after an unsuccessful run in November. But the former Teach For America corp member at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy is already on a board of the soon-to-open Kairos Academy charter school. Two other candidates had some ties to the independent public schools that educate about a third of St. Louis’ public school kids.

University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Education's James Shuls (at left), SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams (at center) and Missouri NEA Legislative Director Otto Fajen discussed challenges surrounding teacher compensation.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this week, the local union representing educators who serve in St. Louis Public Schools began arbitration relating to its claims about pay discrepancy within the district.

American Federation of Teachers Local 420 claims many of its members are being paid less than colleagues with the same credentials and are seeking $10 million worth of salary increases and back pay for nearly 1,000 teachers and support staff.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh led a conversation in light of that news, touching on challenges surrounding teacher compensation as well as other matters. Joining the discussion were SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams, Missouri NEA Legislative Director Otto Fajen and the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Education’s James Shuls

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The union representing St. Louis Public Schools educators says half its members are being underpaid in violation of its contract.

American Federation of Teachers Local 420 will take their grievance against the district to an arbitrator beginning Tuesday. It’s seeking more than $10 million worth of salary increases and back pay for nearly 1,000 teachers and support staff.

The Sumner High School football team huddles during the 2011 homecoming game against Vashon High School. The game attracts thousands of Sumner alumni to The Ville each fall.
File | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Tory Russell has been roaming the halls and cafeteria of Sumner High School in a maroon Bulldogs hoodie, a laptop open in his hands. He has one question for every boy he finds: “Wanna play football?”

Russell, an assistant coach, is fervently trying to save St. Louis’ winningest high-school football program by getting kids signed up to play. Right now, the Bulldogs football team doesn’t have enough players to take the field. That means there’s a good chance this storied football program has played its last game.

Children draw at City Garden Montessori school. The school plans to increase enrollment from 276 students to 2,500 over 10 years.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A sought-after and successful charter school has plans to grow significantly in St. Louis. City Garden Montessori expects to increase enrollment tenfold over the next decade, which would make it one of the largest charter school systems in the city.

The plan would expand City Garden's current school serving children in preschool through eighth grade and add three new locations. It will also start its own teacher-training program.

Missouri State Board of Education member Vic Lenz, board President Charlie Shields, and interim Education Commissioner Roger Dorson during the state school board's first meeting Thursday in six months.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri state school board sent strong signals to leadership of St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday it will end its 12-year oversight of the district this spring.

State Board of Education members had all good things to say at the board’s monthly meeting regarding the district's turnaround efforts from its time of infighting, constant leadership churn and a large fiscal deficit.

Samuel M. Kennard School was built in St. Louis' North Hampton neighborhood in 1928 and named for a former Confederate soldier and businessman. Parents of the gifted school now located in the building want the school's name changed.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A multi-year effort to shed a Confederate name from one of St. Louis’ top public elementary schools, Kennard Classical Junior Academy, is gaining momentum.

Both parents of Kennard students and alumni of St. Louis Public Schools’ gifted program are lobbying district administrators to pick a new namesake because the current one belongs to a former Confederate States Army soldier.

Iris Jackson works with first-graders at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in St. Louis on a reading comprehension assignment. Jackson is a resident teacher at the school.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of middle-aged adults is back in school this fall. This time, though, they’re at the front of the classroom learning how to be teachers.

St. Louis Teacher Residency, launched over the summer, is recruiting adults to change careers to work in education, hoping their life experience and maturity will lead to less burnout and longer tenures among urban educators.

Bill Haas speaks during a St. Louis Board of Education candidate forum Oct. 24, 2018. Haas said several fellow board members are "sheep" doing the teachers' union bidding and they shouldn't be given control of the district back.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis school board member Bill Haas doesn't think the board is ready to retake control of the district from the state.

Haas, who is seeking re-election to the board, said several members are "sheep," doing the teachers' union bidding.

Bill Haas, center, speaks during a candidate forum for the St. Louis Board of Education Oct. 24, 2018. Haas has served 16 years on the board. He's flanked by Adam Layne and Jared Opsal.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Elections for the St. Louis Board of Education have been largely meaningless over the last decade.

A special administrative board has run St. Louis Public Schools since 2007, leaving the seven-member elected board with almost no power.

That’s about to change.

Students walk down a hallway of Lift for Life Academy, which includes an old bank vault door Life Academy. The charter school opened in the former Manufacturer's Bank and Trust Company building in Kosciusko in 2000.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Elizabeth Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school closed in 2013, some of the alumnae and former staff wanted to keep the educational tradition alive with a charter school.

But that building wasn't available and no matter how hard they looked they just couldn't find the right space, said Jane Keuss, who wanted to co-found the planned Tessera Hall Academy.

Richard Gaines, center, of the Special Administrative Board, speaks during a joint meeting with the St. Louis Elected School Board Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
File | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

St. Louis Public Schools’ budgeting process is too insular for parents and teachers to understand and contribute to, a group of north St. Louis residents claim.

That group, under the banner Better Budgets, Better Schools, will launch a letter writing and advocacy campaign this weekend to call for more transparency in how SLPS spends its money.

Commentary: Local (Self) Control

Jul 29, 2018

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 4, 2011 - Last week, a St. Louis Public School principal was reported to have orchestrated systematic fraud in her attendance reporting, inflating the numbers to increase the money she'd get from the state in accordance with the federal mandate, No Child Left Behind.

Piles of concrete and brick line a fence separating the former Pruitt-Igoe housing development from the Gateway school complex. Parents and staff at the school say placing the rubble there stirred levels of dust high enough to sicken students and teachers
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Health problems at a north St. Louis school have gotten the attention of federal officials.

That’s after many parents and teachers blamed respiratory problems on dust from debris brought near their school from the site of the new headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

NGA Director Robert Cardillo and Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke Thursday and discussed the handling of the debris.

Cenya Davis puffs on her inhaler earlier this month. The 8-year-old student at Gateway Elementary School in St. Louis has been to the hospital three times for breathing trouble starting in December. She now regularly uses the inhaler.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from June 14; updated with audio from St. Louis on the Air June 15.

A school nurse told St. Louis health officials in February about students under the nurse’s care hospitalized by asthma attacks and teachers forced to stay home with respiratory illnesses, but neither the school district nor the health department warned those afflicted about a possible connection in their ailments.

It was not until a St. Louis Public Radio investigation published last month that some parents and staff of the Gateway school complex said they first learned the respiratory illnesses may have been caused by dirt and dust kicked up by nearby demolition work funded and overseen by the city.

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