St. Louis loses accreditation
When St. Louis Public Schools teachers return to the classroom in the fall, they'll be doing so in an unaccredited district.
The Missouri State Board of Education today voted to revoke the St. Louis City school district's provisional accreditation 5-1, with the Rev. Stan Archie dissenting. Archie, of Kansas City, said he hesitated to support the move because there is no management plan for the transitional board. The revocation will become effective June 15.
"I would like to see us have the management principles in place before we move forward with a decision," Archie said.
Board President Peter Herschend said the state does not have the authority to mandate a strategy for the transitional board to undertake.
"We don't have that authority under the law as an option to work with today," Herschend, of Branson, said. "Do I like that? No."
St. Louis is the state's largest school district, but has been plagued with financial problems and administrative instability for years. Supporters of the takeover felt it was necessary to rid the district of its problems. Opponents have said spring elections could change the makeup of the city's school board and that Superintendent Diana Bourisaw needs more time in her position to turn things around.
In February, the State Board voted to approve a transitional board for the St. Louis Public Schools, but the body's role hinged on today's decision. If the board revoked accreditation, the transitional board would become the district's governing body.
A special advisory committee in December recommended that a transitional board remain in place for six years, after which a local election would determine whether the board would continue.
Today's state board meeting, held in the Truman State Office Building in Jefferson City, was crowded with teachers, parents and students from St. Louis. Opponents of the takeover held yellow placards reading "No Takeover." During a presentation from DESE staff, several rows of audience members stood up and began chanting "No Takeover."
When Herschend called for a 20-minute recess, the students crowded the floor of the meeting auditorium and pushed closer to the board members. Police took one student into custody, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The meeting resumed at 10:45 while most of the crowd remained outside of the auditorium.
Before today's decision, the St. Louis City school district held provisional accreditation.
A report by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff found that the district met only four of the 14 performance standards that contribute toward determining accreditation. Districts must meet at least six of the standards to obtain provisional accreditation and nine standards for full accreditation.
St. Louis met the standards in MAP results for grades three through five in math and communication arts, advanced courses, and career educational placement, according to the staff presentation.
The lack of accreditation means that St. Louis students can attend school in neighboring districts, if the neighboring districts will accept them. The unaccredited district must pay transportation and tuition costs for students who transfer to another district.
Unaccredited districts may designate one neighboring district to receive transferring students and pay their transportation costs. If that happens, students transferring to other districts would still have to pay for transportation, but would have their tuition paid for by the unaccredited district.
In past years, the state has stripped accreditation from Wellston in St. Louis County, and Wyaconda C-1 in Clark County.
The board also nominated Richard T. Sullivan Jr., to head the transitional school board. If confirmed by the Senate Education Committee, Sullivan will serve as Gov. Matt Blunt's appointee to the board.
Sullivan is the chairman of McBride & Son Management Co., a construction firm based in St. Louis. Sullivan, 54, holds a bachelor's degree from Rockhurst University. He also serves on the boards of directors for Lindenwood University, the Regional Commerce and Growth Association and Habitat for Humanity.
He is also the founder of the Read, Write and Run program, which promotes reading and wellness. He is a past member of the board of trustees and executive committee at Villa Duchesne/Oak Hill School and a past president and past board of governors' member of Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.
The mayor of St. Louis and the president of the city's Board of Aldermen will each appoint one member to the three-person transitional board.
For more information on unaccredited school districts, visit dese.mo.gov/divimprove/sia/msip/unaccredited.html.
For previous MSTA coverage, click here.
To read the advisory committee report visitwww.slps-committee.org/.