DESE outlines proposals to fix failing districts

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - Missouri's top education officials spent the day in North County, outlining proposed plans to fix unaccredited school districts, including Riverview Gardens and Normandy.

During the meetings, Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro and her team detailed six plans -- including one from each of the state's three unaccredited districts: Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City.

Both meetings today were standing-room only.

Pieces of the plans include accreditation by school in what would be called "academically-stressed" districts. With this proposal, unaccredited schools within those districts would be placed under state control, and the accredited ones would remain under local control.

"Several of the plans recommend some kind of statewide structure," Nicastro said. "And clearly the state board of education and the department have a responsibility to address this issue in a statewide way. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to look exactly the same in Riverview as it does in Normandy, that it does in Kansas City or somewhere else."

"Children in Missouri are not mandated to come to school until age seven. Far too late," said Riverview Gardens Special Administrative Board Chair Dr. Lynn Beckwith. "Universal preschool, putting your money early, three and four years old rather than putting it late, remedial, to me is the answer."

DESE officials say Normandy is an urgent matter of top priority because of the possibility that the district could run out of money by April. Even though Governor Jay Nixon included emergency money for Normandy in his budget during his State of the State address, a big question today was what happens if the legislature says no and the district goes bankrupt.

"Personally I do not feel that those who are making decisions are making the decisions in the best interest of the district," says Normandy School Board Member Henry Watts.

The proposed plansin full detail are available online, and DESE wants you to check them out and give your feedback. You can follow that link here.

We've also included more form district leaders and Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro for you to hear full interviews.


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