The Normandy School District will pay the tuition bills for students who've transferred away from the unaccredited district. The school board voted Wednesday night to reverse its October decision to withhold the funds.
Board members had objected to paying the nearly $1.4 million bill because the cash strapped district is already struggling to cover the cost of educating its remaining students. But withholding of the tuition had put the district at odds with state law, and in jeopardy of losing state funds.
Parents and teachers again asked the board to reconsider planned budget cuts that will result in teacher layoffs and one school closure.
Parents in the Normandy School District plan to hold a town hall meeting Monday to discuss the financial and academic problems in the struggling district.
Last week the school board voted to cut more than 100 jobs, including 70 teachers and close Bel Nor Elementary School in an effort to keep from going bankrupt over of the costs of the state-mandated transfer program. The unaccredited district must pay for more than 1,000 students to attend schools in other districts.
But the School board voted last week not to pay the tuition and transportation bills associated with those transfers.
The Normandy Schools Town Hall Organization will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Natural Bridge Branch of the St. Louis County Library.
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.