St. Charles County officials, residents urge state takeover of troubled districts

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 16 at 1:19 PM

(KMOV.com) -- St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann is now asking the state to take control of the Normandy School District.

He says the only solution to the accreditation-based student transfer problem is fixing the district itself.

“This was supposed to be like the sequester in Washington,” Ehlmann said. “So bad, so extreme that everyone would make sure it wouldn’t happen, or get to this point.”

That was the idea more than ten years ago when Ehlmann was a state legislator and the now-controversial law was enacted.  

“Plenty of blame to go around but now we need to act quickly to actually do something about it and fix it,” he said.

After thousands of people showed up last week to voice concerns about the transfer, many questions remain unanswered for parents and taxpayers. .Like amy foerst.

“How is the level of education that we’ve worked so hard for and paid for going to possibly stay the same with this huge change?” asked resident Amy Foerst. “How could it?”

Foerst says Ehlmann’s request for a special board to oversee Normandy can only help the situation, even if it’s not directly affecting her children or grandchildren in Francis Howell.

Ehlmann says the problem has been lurking, unaddressed for years. Now, Governor Nixon has signed a bill into law that will take effect next month. The new law allows the state board of education to immediately take control of unaccredited districts instead of waiting two years to take over.

Unfortunately for Ehlmann and residents who share his view, though the new law takes effect August 28 and state officials might take advantage of their new power to quickly replace an elected school board with an appointed administrative board, there’s almost a 100 percent guarantee it won’t happen before the end of the year.

Despite the recent action by legislature, the underperformance in the Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts didn’t happen overnight.

Many are questioning how the state allowed the districts to decline to this point.

“The state has been as aggressive as we believe could have been in working toward improvement at that time,” said Deputy Commissioner of Education Margie Vendeven.

When asked how quickly residents could see action, Vandeven was vague.

“You’d have to define quickly,” she said. “We’d do it as quickly as we determine it’s the appropriate measure to take.”

The state plans to solicit input from experts on how to turn around low performing districts like Normandy and Riverview Gardens and won’t decide what to do until a January board meeting, if it does decide to intervene.

“We’re not convinced that’s the answer in every case,” she said. “We’ve had mixed results with the special administrative board and that’s certainly on the table as an intervention in these other districts but it’s not the silver bullet.”

 News 4 St. Charles County

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