Normandy Schools Superintendent Ty McNichols will outline proposed budget cuts at Thursday night's school board meeting. But Wednesday, district officials briefed employees about the plan as the struggling district tries to cover transfer costs for hundreds of students.
Teachers learned yesterday that 103 of the district's 650 employees will lose their jobs by the end of December. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that layoff notices will go out next month.
District officials say class sizes could go as high as 29 students and Bel-Nor Elementary School is expected to close.
The district is projecting a $6.8 million shortfall this school year because of the added cost of the state mandated school transfer program.
The Riverview Gardens School District will offset some of the $15 million they're spending on the school transfer program with a series of budget cuts, but no layoffs so far.
District officials outlined the cuts Tuesday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the district will save as much as $3 million by leaving teacher vacancies unfilled, slashing the professional development budget, modifying the busing contract and through other savings in technology and facilities costs.
Even with the budget cuts, the district will be more than $7 million in the red if transfer costs remain the same in the 2014-15 school year.
Teachers in the Normandy District have been told they won't avoid layoffs as that district deals with transfer costs. On Thursday, Superintendent Ty McNichols will present a staff reduction plan that could include a school closing. Normandy officials say they will run $6.8 million short before the end of this school year.
After the state Supreme Court upheld Missouri’s school transfer law, more than 2,000 students opted to transfer out of the unaccredited districts and attend better performing schools. Under the law, their home districts must cover costs.
Most of the students who were given the chance to transfer out of the struggling Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts are still attending their new schools.
Nearly 2300 transfer students were attending classes in 24 districts across the St. Louis metro area, according to numbers compiled by Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis last month.
About 500 students who could have transferred, opted to stay in their home districts. Don Senti, executive director of Cooperating School Districts told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that transportation is a problem. Senti says it's too difficult for some students to get to school in districts where transportation isn't provided.
Normandy officials say it's too soon to say whether the cost of hundreds of students transferring out of the unaccredited district will lead to major budget cuts.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Mick Willis, told board members Wednesday night that staffing levels, the number of buildings the district can operate and the number of services it can provide are largely driven by the number of students enrolled in the district.
"We have to pay a lot of attention to enrollment, what those numbers look like," Willis said. "And then where we should be relative to those enrollment numbers."
A final budget recommendation will be made to the board in June, after property tax revenues are determined.
Parents who attended Wednesday's board meeting were more concerned about the district's progress toward accreditation.
There are a lot of problems with Missouri's school transfer law, but no easy solutions. That's what state lawmakers heard from St. Louis area school administrators and state educators during five hours of hearings Tuesday.
The legislators are considering changes to the current law that allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer to better schools at the expense of their home district. Issues of cost were a repeated theme yesterday.
Three districts in the state are currently unaccredited: Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City. But with 11 other districts only having provisional accreditation and new state education standards, there is concern that the transfer situation could be much more widespread in the next few years.
The Superintendent of Normandy Schools unveiled his plan to take the district back to accreditation.
Ty McNichols held a forum Monday to correct any misinformation about the district and lay out the 100-day plan. McNichols' plan focuses on improving graduation rates and attendance. The largest immediate obstacle for the district a huge financial shortfall. Normandy has to cover the costs for 1,000 students who transferred. That equates to a $15 million bill. McNichols says nothing is off the table to balance the budget, including staffing cuts and class consolidations.
Parents are invited to a second forum, Tuesday night at 6 PM, at the Indian Trails Library.
The many issues surrounding education in Missouri has lawmakers taking a closer look at student transfers, teacher evaluations and school safety. An interim House committee on education is holding hearings on those and other topics this week in several communities. Meetings today in St. Charles and St. Louis will focus on student transfers out of unaccredited districts. This fall, students from the Riverview Gardens and Normandy districts became the first in Missouri to transfer to neighboring districts. Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Education has scheduled a hearing October 1 in Jefferson City focused solely on student transfers.
Normandy school officials are eyeing cuts to cover the $15 million in tuition costs for 1,600 students who transferred out of the unaccredited district. Superintendent Ty McNichols says he's begun identifying teachers and programs that will fall to the budget ax.
McNichols told a group of about 40 people gathered a a policy breakfast at the Show-Me Institute Tuesday that he's also working to bolster academics, attendance and the graduation rate in the failing district. But he says he doesn't expect to make big advances before the next transfer application deadline rolls around in February.
Normandy has just two months to pay the first of the tuition bills which arrived last week, or the Missouri education department will withhold funding.
The first tuition bill is in for Normandy students who transferred to Francis Howell.
Four hundred forty-nine transfer students began classes in Francis Howell schools on August 8th. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the total due now is just over $424,000. Francis Howell Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple told the paper the bill was sent Tuesday via email.
Normandy officials say the invoice must be processed and approved by the school board, which could take a month or more.
Missouri education officials have suggested unaccredited districts pay tuition bills within 10 days. State officials have also said they will withhold state aid distributions if an unaccredited district falls two months behind in paying transfer tuition.
Missouri school districts and parents are getting a more detailed picture school performance with the release of the state's new rating system today. The new system replaces the old 14 point scale with a percentage score based on test scores, attendance, graduation rates and other criteria.
The changes mean finer distinctions between high-performing districts.
It could also mean more districts lose accreditation, including two local districts that don't quite measure up under the new standards: University City and Ferguson-Florissant. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that state officials are not likely to use the scores to take away accreditation until at least 2015, when they have three years of data to consider.
The figures show just how far struggling school districts have to go to become fully accredited again. The unaccredited Normandy district earned just 11 percent. The unaccredited Riverview Gardens district faired a little better at just under 29 percent. And the provisionally accredited St. Louis Public Schools scored just below 25 percent. Districts need 50 percent for provisional accreditation and 70 percent or more to be fully accredited.