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   With state legislators still tussling over how much financial assistance to give the struggling Normandy School District, local leaders continue to weigh their options.  
   The second of seven transition community meetings was held Monday night.  The meetings are strategy sessions, aimed developing a plan to educate students if lawmakers don't approve enough funding to keep the district open past this spring.  
   A Missouri Supreme Court ruling last summer requires the unaccredited district to pay tuition and transportation costs for students who wish to transfer to better performing districts.  The cost is bankrupting the struggling district.
   Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols tells Fox 2 News the district has a plan to win back accreditation, but not knowing how much help they're going to get from the state makes it difficult to take the next steps. "I'm in a holding pattern because of the uncertainty about where we are," he said.  "Right now is prime time hiring for the organization.  We can't do that."
   Without state aid, Normandy officials have said the district will go bankrupt this month (April).
 
Published in Local News
   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Reining in a wide-open Missouri school transfer law could involve first directing students to better schools within the struggling school district if there is space.
   Missouri's current student transfer law requires districts without state accreditation to pay tuition and provide transportation for students to transfer to an accredited school in the same county or a bordering one.
   Lawmakers have proposed controlling out-of-district transfers by redirecting students first from struggling schools to high-performing ones in the same district. The current transfer option would remain for students attending unaccredited schools within unaccredited districts and who cannot move to a higher-performing school within their home school system.
   Missouri's three unaccredited districts are Kansas City, along with Normandy and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County. Transfers have occurred at both St. Louis County districts.
 
Published in Local News
   Missouri education officials want to intervene sooner in school district that are struggling to maintain accreditation.  That was the jist of the plan officials with the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined at a public meeting on the UMSL campus Tuesday night.  Education officials held the meeting to gather feedback on the proposed plan to improve performance in stuggling districts.  
   Most of the speakers expressed concerns that the plan doesn't do enough to help districts that are already failing and burdened with the cost of a state mandated transfer program, districts like Normandy.  
   Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro spoke with Fox 2 News.  She acknowledges that the problems in Normandy go beyond those addressed by DESE's proposal. "Unless something significant happens in the legislature to alter the course, it's pretty clear that the transfer program expenditures will cause the district to go bankrupt," Nicastro said.
   Many at last night's meeting also took the opportunity to criticize the transfer program and its affect on districts like Normandy.  That includes Maryville University Professor Emeritus Dan Rocchio. "We need to be changing the system within the district," Rocchio said, "as opposed to spending money to send kids outside the district."
   Public comments on DESE's proposed plan can be submitted online at www.dese.mo.gov/unaccredited-districts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate committee has advanced legislation on student transfers and unaccredited school districts, clearing the way for debate by the full chamber.
 
The Senate Education Committee endorsed the bill Thursday. Committee Chairman David Pearce, a Republican from Warrensburg, says the vote is a huge step.
 
Numerous bills have been filed this year to address struggling school districts and a state law requiring unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation costs for students who transfer to a nearby accredited school. The law has led to financial problems for unaccredited districts and concerns among accredited schools about the number of transfers they must accept.
 
Students have transferred during the current academic year out of St. Louis County's unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. The Kansas City district is also unaccredited.
 
Published in Local News

The day's winter storm is forcing the cancellation of a meeting on unaccredited districts.

 

The hearing has been rescheduled for Wednesday from 6:30 - 8 PM at the UMSL JcPenny Conference Center. The meeting is being held so that state education officails can gather data as they look to craft a plan to aid and support failing school districts.

 

The public is invited to attend the hearing, and make comments. Comments will be limited to three minutes, and you must sign-up to make any comments. You can register here.

Published in Local News
   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri education officials are planning a series of public hearings on ideas for helping unaccredited school districts boost student achievement.
   The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says it wants to hear what the public has to say about several plans it's received from education organizations as well as a study it commissioned.
   The department will use the feedback as it creates a statewide plan for supporting and possibly intervening in unaccredited schools. The agency plans to submit its recommendation to the State Board of Education next month.
   The first hearing takes place Wednesday in Kansas City. The second is Feb. 4 in St. Louis, and the last two are scheduled Feb. 6 in southeast and southwest Missouri.
   Comments can also be made online at:  http://dese.mo.gov/divimprove/sia/msip/unaccrediteddistricts.html
 
 
Published in Local News
   Normandy school officials, parents and students are waiting to see if Missouri legislators will provide the struggling district with the emergency funds it needs to make it through the school year.  Officials say without state aid, the district will be bankrupt by April after spending millions of dollars on tuition and busing for students who've transferred out of the unaccredited district.  
   So what will happen if lawmakers refuse the five-million dollar request and the district runs out of money before the school year ends?  
   Missouri Education Commissioner, Chris Nicastro tells Fox 2 News if that happens, the Normandy schools would most likely be closed. "In the short term at least, I think the only viable option would be for the state board to assign those kids to go to school elsewhere," she said.
   Nicastro says she'll be meeting with Normandy District officials on Wednesday to discuss the districts financial crisis.
 
Published in Local News
   A new requirement for students who want to transfer out of an unaccredited school district could catch families off guard.  The Riverview Gardens School District is now requiring families to attend an in-person interview by February 3rd if their student wants transfer away.  They must also fill out an "Intent to Return" form.
   Those who miss the interview deadline or fail to get the forms in won't be allowed to transfer -- even if they participated in the transfer program this year.  
   That's why the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM) is holding two meetings this month to help inform parents of the new requirements.
   "Unfortunately, this new requirement will serve as a barrier for students and parents who wish to transfer," said Kate Casas, state director, CEAM.  "A lot of parents aren't aware of this new step and will be in danger of missing this critical deadline, which will mean that their child won't be able to exercise their right to transfer, as guaranteed under the Outstanding Schools Act." 
   Town Hall meetings will be held January 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lewis and Clark Library and January 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Indian Trails Library. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP at 314-561-8646.
 
Published in Local News
   Missouri education officials are considering a plan that would eliminate the school transfer program by dissolving unaccredited districts like Normandy and Riverview Gardens.  The CEE-Trust proposal presented Monday, would hand control of individual schools to non-profit groups accountable to a state-run office. 
   State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro told Fox 2 News that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sought the proposal because the current transfer system isn't sustainable. "Ultimately, any district that ends up sending students to another, with the current tuition calculation, will end up going bankrupt," she said.  Officials with the unaccredited Normandy School District have said that without a cash infusion from the state, they will run out of money this spring. 
   Under the CEE-Trust plan, decisions about curriculum, staffing and budgets would be made at each school.  The state-run Office of Community Schools would handle systemic issues like busing and building maintenance.  
   Mark Jones of the Missouri NEA, a state teacher's union, expressed skepticism.  Jones told Fox 2 News that the proposal sounds like a clever marketing scheme. "This just simply looks like a rebranding of charter schools that have demonstrated a lack of accountability and a lack of oversight," Jones said.
   The proposal is one of several being considered by the state.  The board will gather public input in St. Louis on February 4, then try to make a decision at its meeting, February 18.
 
 
 
 
Published in Local News

   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.

Published in Local News
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