State rep. proposes local control for Normandy schools

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - The effort to save the failing Normandy School District took a turn in the Missouri legislature this week. Rep. Clem Smith tacked an amendment on to the bill designed to save unaccredited districts that calls for more local control.

Rep. Smith says the point of his proposal is simple: give Normandy's plan to save itself a chance to work, and give the superintendent whatever he needs to turn the district around.

"No matter what governing structure came into Normandy, it could be the SAB (State Appointed Board), or whatever DESE chose. I think there's like three options on the table...but whoever it would be, they would have to implement the plan that the community has come together with and get Normandy moving forward," he said.

His amendment to Senate Bill 493, best known for capping tuition unaccredited districts would pay receiving districts to accept their transfers, also would prevent DESE from lapsing Normandy and merging it with any other district. So why should anyone outside Normandy care?

"Almost every school district around this area has been impacted by the transfer. Positive or negative, I don't know, but it's been impacted. And that's why it's important to look at it," Smith said.

"There's nothing in that plan that I disagree with," adds Carole Bastile.

Bastile is the Dean of the School of Education at UMSL. She's also the chair of the transition task force tapped by DESE to make recommendations for the district's future. She says any merger is off the table right now.

"Right now that is not an option that we see as financially or morally viable. Things can always change, but we're just trying to do what's in the best interest of kids in all these communities," she said.

Regardless of what happens with Smith's amendment, Bastile says Normandy needs a change in classroom instruction, and to figure out how to capitalize on having support from UMSL and other organizations like Beyond Housing.

"What's important is that the school district have a governance structure that supports the superintendent and is aligned with what the superintendent and his staff need to do to get this thing turned around. And they have to have the political will and power to be able to do that," Bastile said.

SB 493 is currently on the way to a conference committee. Sources inside the legislature tell us it should be a done deal next week.


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