School & District Management

St. Louis District Seen as Target of State Action

By Jeff Archer — January 09, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The St. Louis school district begins the new year facing likely state intervention, following a task force’s proposal for the locally elected school board to be stripped of its authority and for an appointed board to run the system on an interim basis.

Under the plan, which could be taken up by the Missouri state school board as early as this week, state and local leaders would jointly pick a three-person team to govern the 34,000-student system for at least six years.

A state-appointed advisory committee made the recommendation Dec. 15 after six months of study and hearings aimed at crafting a state response to the district’s long-standing financial, academic, and leadership problems.

William H. Danforth, a co-chairman of the panel, said the group concluded governance changes are needed in a system that has had six superintendents in four years and is experiencing continued infighting on its board.

“The purpose of the St. Louis public schools is to educate the children, but you can’t do a good job of that without managing well,” Mr. Danforth, who is a former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, said in an interview.

After researching mayoral control and state takeovers elsewhere, the panel opted against recommending either course. Instead, it proposed handing the reins to a three-person board named by the mayor of St. Louis, the president of the city’s board of aldermen, and the governor of Missouri.

The authors of the plan say the state already has the authority to take such action should it deny the St. Louis district accreditation, a status Missouri confers on school systems based on a series of indicators of their academic progress.

Litigation Expected

A Missouri Department of Education report earlier in December showed the St. Louis district failing to achieve enough of the performance targets needed for the designation, although the state board of education has not yet acted on the evaluation.

State Commissioner of Education D. Kent King appointed the Special Advisory Committee on St. Louis Public Schools last summer, after the city school board ousted Superintendent Creg E. Williams just 15 months after hiring him.

Since then, turmoil on the board has continued. The current superintendent, Diana Bourisaw, has fallen out of favor with board President Veronica O’Brien, who herself last fall said that state involvement was needed.

In a rancorous school board meeting last week, three of the board’s members, including Ms. O’Brien, voted against a motion to keep Ms. Bourisaw. Ms. O’Brien has said she backs the state advisory committee’s plan for a “transitional board.”

“I’m in favor of whatever needs to be done to make this system better,” she said in an interview, “even if that means turning over the reins to someone else.”

Others criticized the proposed change in governance. Arguing that voters should decide who runs the system, board member Peter Downs pointed out that residents of St. Louis are slated to weigh in on two of the seven school board members in an election in April. He also noted that the plan leaves the current board in place, albeit powerless. That, he said, is a recipe for a legal challenge of the new board.

Late last month, a newly elected state representative from St. Louis, Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat, called on the state school board asking for public hearings on the proposed change in governance before action is taken. Opponents to the intervention plan also held a rally in the city.

The advisory committee did recommend an exit strategy by proposing new legislation clarifying that the appointed board would run the district for six years, after which local voters would decide whether to turn the system back over to an elected one.

Jim Morris, the public information director for the Missouri Department of Education, said last week that although the state board’s regular meeting Jan. 11 “will provide time to review and discuss” the intervention plan, it was unclear if action will be taken.

Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, has said he supports the advisory committee’s plan. The governor appoints the state board.

“The bickering and infighting on the [St. Louis] board is embarrassing, and the children are being hurt,” said Brian Hauswirth, a spokesman for Mr. Blunt. “The governor is a big advocate of local control, but in this case, it’s a crisis.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2007 edition of Education Week as St. Louis District Seen as Target of State Action

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management What Schools Can Do to Tackle Climate Change (Hint: More Than You Think)
For starters, don't assume change is too difficult.
7 min read
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox hold a sign together and chant while participating in a "Global Climate Strike" at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Across the globe hundreds of thousands of young people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.
Haley Williams, left, and Amiya Cox participate in a Global Climate Strike at the Experiential School of Greensboro in Greensboro, N.C., in September 2019.
Khadejeh Nikouyeh/News & Record via AP
School & District Management 'It Has to Be a Priority': Why Schools Can't Ignore the Climate Crisis
Schools have a part to play in combatting climate change, but they don't always know how.
16 min read
Composite image of school building and climate change protestors.
F. Sheehan for Education Week/Getty
School & District Management Some Districts Return to Mask Mandates as COVID Cases Spike
Mask requirements remain the exception nationally and still sensitive in places that have reimposed them.
4 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Chalk drawings from last August remind students to wear masks as they arrive at school.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School & District Management Women Get Overlooked for the Superintendent's Job. How That Can Change
Three female superintendents spell out concrete solutions from their own experience.
4 min read
Susana Cordova, former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Susana Cordova is deputy superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week