Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Statement of the St Louis Elected Board of Education regarding Slay's appointment of Darnetta Clinkscale to the 'Special Administrative Board' via St Louis Schools Watch

St. Louis Schools Watch
November 14, 2016


Adopted:  11/8/2016

The St. Louis Board of Education, in its auditing and reporting powers, finds it necessary to report to the Community regarding the recent appointment of Darnetta Clinkscale to the Special Administrative Board by Mayor Francis Slay.
Darnetta Clinkscale is not new to governance in SLPS.  She was elected to the St. Louis Board of Education in 2003, when the infamous “Slay Slate” was elected in a one-time chance to have four of the seven board members elected simultaneously.  Mayor Slay, Civic Progress, and the Black Leadership Roundtable handpicked the four people they wanted to put in charge of SLPS, and handily won the election.  Ms. Clinkscale was subsequently elected President of that Board.
At the first meeting of the Board Ms. Clinkscale led, public comment was eliminated from the agenda.
When Clinkscale took office, there was a budget shortfall of $55 million.  Her Board’s response was to spend $5 million to bring in a consultant, Bill Roberti, to “fix” the budget problem.
During the tenure of Clinkscale and her colleagues on the Board, public opinion of the Board of Education hit bottom.  Long time employees watched as the district fell down around them based on the decisions Clinkscale and her colleagues made.   Under her tenure, the district rolled through five superintendents in three years.
In 2003, when Clinkscale took office, the district was within 2 points of full accreditation.  In 2006, when voters finally got a chance to replace her and one of her colleagues at the ballot box, the district had lost 30 accreditation points.  By 2007, when the final two of her slate were also ousted by the voters in protest at the decimation of SLPS, the damage had been done, and the district lost accreditation.
While it is clear that Clinkscale is a favorite of the Mayor, it is also abundantly clear that the people of the City of St. Louis do not want her in a position of governance over their schools.  For Mayor Slay to appoint her to this position shows nothing but disdain for the citizens of this city and, more importantly, a complete lack of regard for the educational opportunities of the children of SLPS.  As the voice of the electorate, the Board of Education condemns the appointment of Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB, and will closely watch her choices and votes during what is, hopefully, her short time in a governance position over SLPS.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SLPS Board Member playing into the hands of the state, to justify continued state control -- Susan Turk, St Louis Schools Watch

St. Louis Schools Watch
October 24, 2016

By Susan Turk

Board of Education Member Bill had a brain storm last week and asked me to publish a request before  this month’s state board of education meeting, which he erroneously thought was last Thursday.  It is tomorrow.

During their September 13, 2016 meeting, that state board of education discussed agenda item L “Update on Transition from Appointed to Locally-Elected Board of Education.”
Missouri statutes permit the appointment of a Special Administrative Board (SAB) or an alternative governing structure for a school district that has been classified as unaccredited and has had its corporate organization lapsed by the State Board of Education. However, the laws do not address the criteria to be met which would indicate the appropriate time to begin a transition back to a locally-elected board of education.
Potential criteria were discussed at the May meeting.
The May discussion focused primarily on how specific criteria could be applied in the St. Louis Public School (SLPS) district. During this discussion, the board recommended that the first step in the process should be to determine how a seamless transition could occur, but the board understands that the “how” is essentially in the hands of the local community. So Mike Jones and Vic Lenz were selected to represent the state board of education at a joint meeting with a member of the SLPS SAB and up to three members of the SLPS elected board to discuss a transition from the SLPS SAB to the SLPS elected board of education. An update will be presented regarding the status of the process and potential next steps.
PRESENTER: Margie Vandeven, Commissioner of Education, will open the discussion of this agenda item. Board members Mike Jones and Vic Lenz will provide an update.”

The update reported about the one meeting in July which occurred and how SLPS Board of Education Member Bill Monroe interfered with the process by attending the second meeting in August, which led to its being cancelled before it was convened. The outcome of their September discussion was for Commissioner Vandeven to explore options and return to the state board at their October meeting with recommendations for how to proceed.

SLPS Board President Susan Jones reported at the SLPS Board of Education’s October 11 meeting that that transition committee meetings would be postponed until further notice.  Board Member Bill Monroe asked her how she came by the information.  Jones responded that it was during a phone call with State Board Member Victor Lenz.  Dr. Lenz, who was sitting in the audience interjected that the decision would not be official until the state board’s October 25 meeting, but that that was the gist of a conversation he had had with Commissioner Vandeven.  Monroe then asserted that Board President Jones had misrepresented or misunderstood the state board’s position on transition, because it had not yet been voted on, and insisted that this was reason for there to always be a minimum of two elected board members participating on phone calls.

Jones did not misunderstand or misrepresent the state board’s intention.  Monroe was just displaying his usual disrespectful behavior.

Meanwhile, there is no agenda item on the October 25th state board meeting agenda referencing the transition.  So, in all probability,  it will not be discussed tomorrow.  It looks like the state board has decided to punt for another month.

Board Member Haas’ ask is that the community contact state board members and DESE Commissioner Vandeven to advocate for not discontinuing the transition committee talks.

In effect, what is happening was explained informally by Dr. Lenz. The state board wants to see the SLPS board acting responsibly.  To the state board, that means acting in a unified manner and with decorum.  Lenz explained during a discussion preceding the meeting that it is okay for board members to disagree with each other over issues during discussion.  But that once the board has voted on an issue and made a decision, that all board members must accept that decision and support it. If any board members reject the outcome of a vote and publicly take actions averse to that decision it reflects badly on the board as a whole.  It makes the board as a whole look dysfunctional.  The state board does not want to return power to a dysfunctional board. That state board will hold the entire SLPS board of education responsible for Board Member Monroe’s repeated refusal to respect board decisions and the outcome of board votes.

That is untenable. The state board is holding the SLPS board to an unachievable standard and using that as an excuse to not return our elected board of education to authority over the district.

So we have two problems here.  One is an obstructive board member, Monroe who plays into the hands of the state board. Problem two is the state board which is in no hurry to return the SLPS to democratic governance despite the SAB’s complete lack of success improving the academic outcomes for our students after nearly 10 years in power.

Hass’ letter follows.

“Here’s what’s going on with the transition back to governance of the St. Louis Elected Board in my opinion:
1.       Under political pressure, the State Board of Education asked DESE to come up with a plan for transition back from the SAB to the Elected Board.
2.       So Margie Vandeven established a transition committee with two state board members, Mike Jones and Victor Lenz, Rick Sullivan, and three members of the Elected Board, and a representative of DESE.  (Area Supervisor Maureen Clancy May)
3.       The state board in complicity with DESE required the first several meetings to be closed to the public while the transition process is established. The elected board didn’t agree with the necessity of this but had no choice really but to go along. My view is that Mike Jones didn’t want his views quoted in public about the transition.
4.       Elected Board member Bill Monroe showed up at the second meeting, so rather than conduct the meeting in public, or remove Mr. Monroe, Susan Jones canceled our participation and so the meeting was never called to order. I had offered to leave so that it could still be closed but the offer was not accepted.
5.       I think Bill Monroe Is wrong in his opinion that holding the meetings in closed session violates the Sunshine Law, but he refuses not to attend, so the State Board upon the recommendation of Commissioner Vandeven will recommend Thursday (October 25) that the transition process be terminated or suspended until further notice.
6.       This is not necessary and is only being done because Vandeven and the St. Louis representatives of the State Board, Jones and Lenz, are in no hurry to return governance to an elected board because it might make them look bad if we don’t do well. Test scores are in the toilet after 9+ years, 36% of the district not reading at grade level advanced or proficient. (only 36% is reading at the proficient or advanced level) We/they already look bad.
7.       Alternatives to suspension of transition talks exist:
a.       Open the meetings; no real harm would be done.
b.      Not tell Monroe where the meetings are.
c.       Remove him if he shows up.
8.       Vandeven is going to recommend against those options and the state board is going to vote to go along on Thursday (October 25).
9.       So we need to put pressure on the state board to follow their stated intention for a transition process! If you agree, please email the state board members at the email addresses below and tell them not to suspend the transition process but rather just open the meetings! Tell them not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is even support among elected board members for options b and c, but a) would be best. Please tell them to accept one or more of the options to suspending the transition process!!! Victor Lenz even suggested that they just wait until they see if Bill Monroe might be defeated at the next election. That’s the worst idea in education history since Brown v Bd. Of Education! You can’t make transition dependent on who may or may not be elected in any given election! That’s ridiculous.

vicshar@swbell.net for Dr. Lenz


Joe Driskill
Charlie Shields
Russell C. Still
John A. Martin
O. Victor Lenz, Ph.D.
Michael Jones

Sincerely, Bill Haas”

Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com
Please feel free to forward the SLS Watch to anyone you think will benefit from reading the publication.
November 8, Tuesday, Board of Education meeting, regular monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Long Middle School,  6028 Morganford Rd., 63116
November 17, Thursday, SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

If you want to even start understanding how the mayor, the St. Louis elite - including the cabal of Archibald and company – and Missouri politicians have run SLPS further into the ground...

More background on the mayor's appointment to the Special Administrative Board (SAB), via Susan Turk.  For yesterday's news, and more insights, see yesterday's post.

St. Louis Schools Watch
The Hypocrisy Continues
By Susan Turk
St. Louis—September 28, 2016--As expected, Mayor Slay made his appointment to replace Melanie Adams on the SAB just before yesterday’s meeting. And the nominee is none other than former elected Board Of Education Member and Board President Darnetta Clinkscale.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Ms. Clinkscale was one of the four members of the slate that Mayor Slay and Civic Progress supported in 2003 to reform the SLPS. And reform they did. 
When the Post-Dispatch lists reasons for the 2007 state takeover of the SLPS, the Clinkscale led board was responsible for them; revolving door superintendents and academic decline for instance.
During the 2003 school board election campaign one of the mayor’s two education liaisons, Rev. Earl Nance, Jr. quietly informed Supt. Cleveland Hammonds that he would be fired by the board once they won election. Dr. Hammonds resigned a month after the 2003 school board election to avoid being fired by them. They replaced Dr. Hammonds with turn around expert Bill Roberti, who was not qualified to serve as superintendent and whom they had to get a waiver from DESE, which DESE cooperatively granted, to legally install him. Roberti was given a one year contract.  

During the 2003-2004 school year they went about pretending to perform a national search for a permanent superintendent. It was an utter failure and waste of valuable time. They faked a search because they had a candidate in mind for the job. They wanted to hire Dr. Rudy Crew and they erroneously believed he would take the job. So they pretended to do a search and did not develop a serious list of alternative candidates if he should not take the job offer. Their sham search netted fewer than 10 applicants. Dr. Crew declined and took over the Miami public schools instead.  
Then they were forced to do a serious national search. So when Roberti’s contract ended in June, 2004 they instated an in-house interim, Floyd Crews. Dr. Crews left after 4 and a half months because the board was micromanaging and would not allow him to make key decisions. He believed in individualized instruction. 

Soon after putting him in place as superintendent, they also hired Dr. Lynn Spampinato as chief academic officer. She favored a regimented one size fits all approach to curriculum. Spampinato over ruled a district committee comprised of parents, administrators and teachers which had been convened to review reading curricula and implemented a controversial curriculum called Open Court. She required that it be used in all elementary schools, even magnet schools where it conflicted with magnet curriculum, and that every child be engaged in reading everyday at the same time for the same amount of time throughout the district. Regardless of whether students absorbed the material, teachers were not allowed to change the pace of the curriculum. MAP language arts scores plummeted. But long before that year’s tests were even given, Dr. Crews lost the will to continue in the job.  
Clinkscale and company (Bob Archibald, Ron Jackson and Vince Schoemehl) replaced Dr. Crews with another in-house interim, Dr. Pamela Randall Hughes. During her 5 1/2 months they undertook a serious national search and hired Dr. Creg Williams who took over in May 2005. Dr. Williams had never served as a superintendent before and was overwhelmed by the job. He resigned in July 2006 and was replaced by Dr. Diana Bourisaw.
Many of the Clinkscale led board’s initiatives involved outsourcing services. This did not always save the SLPS money. The SAB actually reversed many of the policies and practices implemented by Clinkscale’s board. Richard Gaines has been quite vocal about the practicality of returning services in house.
That Mayor Slay would appoint Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB is a display of the poorest of judgment on his part. But where the SLPS is concerned, the mayor has never displayed good judgment.
This appointment is perhaps the single best argument for ending the SAB’s tenure running the SLPS. DESE is holding area meetings this month to gather information for policy recommendations for the coming year. The St. Louis area meeting is tonight, September 28, in the Pattonville H.S. cafeteria at 6 p.m., 2497 Creve Coeur Mill Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. If you cannot make the meeting, please contact DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven or state board of education members. They must be reminded that Darnetta Clinkscale is responsible for the failures that were attributed to the elected board which motivated the state board to replace the elected board with the SAB in the first place. Mayor Slay may cynically believe no one will remember or be concerned. Such recent history should not be swept under anyone’s rug.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Updates on the politics of public school takeover in St Louis, corporate school reform, etc...

From BG:
While the world watches the Trump and Hillary show, the powers that be in St. Louis, (mostly of the white 'democrats' and black political machine leaders who act like neoliberal republicans, as well as all the real corporate republicans who back them) continue to double down on their attempt to do away with robust, democratically controlled public schools.  

First, this morning I read that Washington University might give a free ride to KIPP alums who meet "academic standards."  That headline doesn't really sound right, to start with (translation: "if we decide you are good enough, then maybe we'll let some of you poor POCs in, since you are among those who have seen their public schools gutted and thus turned to the least bad option, a KIPP school named 'wisdom' or 'victory' or 'aspire', names, as it were, that are themselves quite patronizing forms of suggesting that white people are giving POCs an opportunity to attain one of these possibilities,  but if you aren't up to snuff it's your fault, not the fault of a system that failed you, but I dither)....

...but if we're (Wash U.) going to do that why not give a free ride to all SLPS grads who "meet academic standards?"  Probably because big KIPP booster Maxine 'Build A Bear' Clark is on the Board of Trustees and WUSTL is desperate to justify its sponsorship of KIPP, which, all in all, isn't really doing much better than SLPS.  And, the KIPPists and their pro-charter crowd are also doing their best to show that public schools don't work.  (So why help public schools in St. Louis, since the name of the game now is 'competition' and 'choice'?) KIPP was trying to colonize Normandy when Mike Brown was killed, and I'm pretty sure they still are, hence the gutting of that district as well...  Anyway, let's offer a spot to a KIPP alum to try to show how great it is! Stay tuned.  

Meanwhile, read below by Susan Turk, on Melanie Adams' departure from the SAB. Susan's cogent and insightful (and deeply committed) comments came just prior to Slay's naming of Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB.  Here's the Clinkscale story. (For those of short memory, Clinkscale – detractors call her 'Colonel Klink' – was one of Slay's candidates when the 'Slayte' ran to take over the board back in 2003.  When they couldn't get their way by democratic means, Slay and friends backed the state takeover vetted by the Danforth-Freeman commission and corporate elites.  Being African-American, it is clear, does not put you on the side of robust, democratically controlled and well-funded public schools.  There is a political machine at work, and then there are the other possibilities.  For the moment, the machine is winning.

As per Susan's comments below, I'm not sure why the Post-Dispatch is so pro-elite and pro-corporate on this school issue, I guess they just don't get it, or they get it very well as part of the corporate 'liberal' and managerial class.  

Common Sense Publishing 
St. Louis Schools Watch
Oh, the Hypocrisy!
By Susan Turk

As I am sure most of you are aware, SLPS SAB VP Melanie Adams has resigned from the SAB. She has taken a job in Minnesota. Long live Melanie!
And now we await the announcement of her replacement. According PD Education Reporter Elisa Crouch’s August 22 article, Mayor Slay’s Director of Strategic Policy Initiatives Carl Filler reported that the mayor, “has several candidates in mind to succeed her.” That should make it easy for him to announce her replacement before tomorrow’s (Monday, September 26, SAB meeting.) Adams submitted her resignation to the mayor on August 22, more than a month ago now.
Meanwhile, Adams was celebrated for her 9 years of service on the SAB at their August 25, 2016 meeting. By way of honoring her, some very interesting things were said. SAB President Rick Sullivan remarked that although they had seen issues differently at times, they had always come to agreement. SAB Member Richard Gaines mentioned that they had had “disagreements’ and “differences” and that “her positions on issues has been the toughest, her third has been the hardest”.
Given that the SAB rarely discusses anything during their public meetings, these remarks were revelatory. You must understand that because there are only 3 of them, SAB members cannot communicate with each other about district business outside of public meetings. Two of them talking face to face, by phone or via email would constitute a quorum and require notice of a public meeting 24 hours in advance and then provision made for the public to be present.
That has not happened.
So, how and when were these differences and disagreements communicated?
Well, there is the possibility that discussions occurred during executive session, which are by law allowed to occur behind closed doors. But executive sessions are supposed to be limited to discussion of legal, personnel and real estate matters. Were any other matters discussed during executive session, which would violate the Sunshine Law?
Then there was Blake Youde. Youde has since moved on to greener pastures. During the first 2 years of the SAB’s tenure he held the annually renewable contract position of board liaison and was paid $60,000. His responsibilities were to act as an interlocutor for the SAB. According to Macmillan’s Dictionary, an interlocutor is “someone who takes part in talks as a representative of another person or organization”. If they wanted to communicate between public meetings, one of them would communicate to Youde, who would then communicate to the other SAB members. By this means they could communicate in private without public scrutiny or knowledge.
By July, 2009, Youde was determined to be of such value to the SLPS, that his responsibilities were embellished. He was promoted to be the deputy superintendent of the newly formed Office of Institutional Advancement at a salary of $135,000, a more than doubling of what he had been earning after a mere 2 years of service. He must have been doing a very good job. Youde left the district a few years ago and was replaced as deputy superintendent of institutional advancement by Rachel Seward. Whether she inherited his responsibilities as interlocutor for the SAB is not known. But I assure you someone did.
This is important because what has long been suspected has now been verified. By hook or by crook, the SAB does communicate out of the public eye and ear. And like any normal deliberative body, they have disagreements, but for some reason, they do not want the public to know what those disagreements are.
Whatever has transpired over the past 9 years has been well hidden. Fast forward to the present.
In a September 6 PD article Elisa Crouch, wrote, “Members of the SAB say their differences in philosophy and approach to overseeing city schools have been stark at times. However, they have taken deliberate steps to avoid the distractions that dominated the final years of the elected board’s power — which are still remembered for infighting and dysfunction.”
And, “They rarely discuss their differences publicly. Contracts and policy changes are almost always approved unanimously with little, if any, public discourse.” The tone of Crouch’s article is appreciative. That the SAB has kept conflict out of the public eye is seen as a positive.
As has been the continuous meme for the past 9 years, what the SAB does is fine and dandy.
However, earlier this year the state board of education began to engage the SAB and the elected board of education in a transition process to return the elected board to power. It was proceeding smoothly until August 16, when elected board Member Bill Monroe barged into the transition committee’s second meeting, creating a quorum and forcing the meeting to abruptly end.
The PD, in an August 22 editorial, took the meeting participants to task for rendering the spirit, if not the letter, of the Sunshine Law “in tatters”. The editorial board wrote, “An ample bag of tricks is available to those public officials intent on circumventing Missouri’s Sunshine Law and hiding their actions from public view.…the meeting was orchestrated specifically to keep the public from observing.”
They continued, “One trick to avoid Sunshine Law compliance is the “walking quorum,” where officials meet, talk by phone or exchange emails in groups too small to constitute a quorum. They agree on important matters. Then one participant holds a similar discussion with other individuals in the group to relay the results of the earlier meeting. The chain continues until a majority of elected officials have discussed and reached a consensus without ever having formally met in public.”
Their description of a walking quorum almost exactly mirrors how the SAB has operated during their 9 years at the helm of the SLPS, only using an interlocutor in place of a member to pass messages along.
And the editorial board concludes, “it’s a bogus way to conduct the public’s business,” and, “that end does not justify the means.”
In conclusion, if the SAB wants to operate sub rosa, in secret, that’s okay. If any other body tries to operate that way, not so much.
Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com

Slay appoints Darnetta Clinkscale to Special Administrative Board

Slay appoints Darnetta Clinkscale to Special Administrative Board

WashU offers up to a free ride to KIPP alumni who meet academic standards

WashU offers up to a free ride to KIPP alumni who meet academic standards

Well then I guess we should also offer free ride to all SLPS graduates who meet 'academic standards' too.  Why just KIPP?

Seems a bit wrong to me.  Maybe it's because KIPP boosters are on the WUSTL board of trustees.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Great analysis of the current moment in SLPS governance: Via Susan Turk/St Louis Schools Watch

St. Louis Schools Watch
Friday, May 13th Deadline
By Susan Turk
May 9, 2016—St. Louis--This coming Friday the 13th marks two significant events for the SLPS, the closing of the 2016 session of the Missouri legislature and the last day to provide comments to DESE on their transition plan for the SLPS to be returned to governance by the elected board of education.

At the April 20th state board of education meeting they did discuss the when and the how of transition.

DESE suggested transition criteria, the how, that basically meets MSIP standards except regarding financial stability. They suggested increasing the financial stability requirement to holding at least a 10% positive fund balance in reserve to be transitioned back to governance by the elected board.  This is a higher standard than the 3% requirement to not be financially distressed which keeps a district accredited. The SLPS currently has between 6% and 7% in reserve.  If annual enrollment and revenue continues to drop, it is conceivable that what they have would constitute 10% in a few years. But given that the SAB appears to realize they have hit a plateau in terms of what they can cut from the budget and are now looking to increase revenue through ballot initiatives and law suits, it may be difficult for them to meet the 10% requirement.

Other requirements are somewhat nebulous.

They unfortunately give the state board reason to keep the SAB in power if they fail to meet the standards.  They want to see effective teaching and learning demonstrated by sustainable improved academics. They want to see a climate and culture focused on student learning, including a safe environment in schools and family and community involvement in the learning process.
In discussion, board members stressed that they didn't think 100% of the criteria had to be met so that financial roadblock might not be considered important to them but they seem to be stuck on 3 years of good Annual Progress Reports as evidence a district is improving continually.

But the ability of the EB to run the district responsibly was a concern, that there be agreement between the SAB and the EB for a transition to occur which might involve a hybrid board for a time seemed to be important to them.

They said the criteria will be posted on www.dese.mo.gov and the public will be able to provide feedback as well until May 13.  So if you have not visited the site and provided your input yet, please do before Friday.

Apparently, MRS 162.083, which I mentioned in the last Watch, does not apply to SLPS, only to the rest of the state. As so often happens, despite the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the US constitution, laws that apply to rest of the state do not apply to a city that is not in a county.  Only MRS 162.1100 applies to SLPS. It allows that the state board to terminate the SAB at any time and return power to the EB with 30 days notice. That idea was not favored. They want a smooth transition and possibly shared responsibility beforehand. But the statutes do not provide that for St. Louis, only the rest of the state.

State Board Member Mike Jones suggested that there be negotiations between the EB, SAB and state board to work out the terms for a transition. He appears to be in no hurry to see the SLPs democratically governed. The state board decided to submit the criteria to the EB and the SAB for feedback and discuss the feedback at their next meeting, May 17th. The elected board has been working on a response which they will discuss at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday ,May 10th at Busch Middle School, 5910 Clifton Avenue, at 7 p.m.

DESE has issued the following news release:
State Board Hears Conditions for Transition from an Appointed Board to an Elected Board

Today the State Board of Education heard proposed criteria that would indicate when a school district under the governance of an appointed or Special Administrative Board is ready to return to an elected board. The Board directed Department staff at its February meeting to develop these conditions.“What we’re trying to build is something that will serve the kids in these districts,” said State Board member Vic Lenz. “What do we need to make these school districts function in the very best possible way?”The Missouri School Improvement Program resource, process and performance standards and indicators were used to identify criteria that would need to be met to make the transition to local control. The conditions would be viewed cumulatively rather than as a checklist. There are five key categories:•Leadership – The district demonstrates compliance with laws and regulations, retention of effective building and district leaders, and development and implementation of a comprehensive school improvement plan.•Finance – The district demonstrates stability, have acceptable audit results and have no significant compliance issues.•Effective Teaching and Learning – The district demonstrates sustainable academic progress, including alignment among curriculum, instruction, assessments and staff professional development, as well as Annual Performance Reports at or above the accredited level for the most recent three years.•Climate/Culture – The district demonstrates a culture focused on student learning, high expectations, and physical and emotional safety for students.•Parents and Community – District leadership demonstrates collaboration with students’ families and community members, and the community must support the return of district governance back to a locally elected board.“This is a complex issue,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “We are seeking to identify those conditions that – when present – would reflect that the district is well-positioned for a transition in governance.”Three Missouri school districts are currently under the governance of an appointed board: St. Louis Public Schools, Riverview Gardens School District and the Normandy Schools Collaborative. Although Missouri statute allows for a different timeline and review of the appointed board in each of those districts, the proposed conditions for a return to local governance would apply to all the districts.Community members who wish to comment on the conditions for transition to a locally elected board may email SABcomments@dese.mo.gov by May 13, 2016.Thank you,Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education | Communications | 573.751.3469 | dese.mo.gov
Board members Katie Wessling and Bill Haas circulated personal responses to DESE’s criteria. They follow.
From Board Member Wessling:

If the objectives outlined in DESE’s five point plan are not yet achieved after 9 years under the SAB, DESE and the State Board owe the St. Louis community answers as to why. If this is the case, what is DESE’s plan for monitoring and supporting the district to ensure that these objectives are being prioritized?a.                            If there is already a plan in place, what is it and when was it put in place?  Who is monitoring it?b.                            If there is not a plan in place, why have nine years gone by without any oversight or accountability?  If these goals have not been achieved, then continuing to do the same thing that isn’t working, i.e. SAB governance, cannot reasonably be expected to yield any result other than the one that it has—the objectives are not being achieved.

Either the SAB has served its purpose and achieved its goals, in which case it is time to end its tenure, or it has not made a difference in nine years, in which case it is time to end its tenure.
Determining a return to governance based on the criteria suggested by DESE is a recipe for rewarding failure.  The longer the SAB doesn’t meet the goals, the longer it stays in governance.  If an elected board is failing to meet goals, its members will get voted out.  There is no such check and balance for an appointed board.  The only recourse city parents have if they are not happy is to leave.  Which leads us to the next point……
The district has lost 1/3 of its student population during the SAB tenure to other educational options.   Declining enrollment has been the predominant trend since 2007.That is not an indication of community support or trust.
Given the gravity of a situation where a community is deprived of its right to have a part in the direction of its schools, we believe the burden should be on the side of the SAB proponents proving it should stay, not on those who prefer an Elected Board to prove it should return.  Every district of predominantly white, privileged children in this state is governed by an Elected Board. The system is not the problem.  When there are problems, they are caused by the individuals who populate the Board.  Of the six current members of the Elected Board, only one was in office when the decision to reinstate the Transitional School District was made.  We argue that that is the criteria that should govern the return of the district to an elected board; the community has had a chance to vote in new members who were not part of the problems that led to loss of accreditation, and there is no evidence to show that the new Board members are unable to govern.  They are as qualified as any other elected board member in this state; in fact, more so in many instances, as they have had years to learn about the district and attend trainings.  A newly elected Board would have none of that experience behind them.

 Member Haas’ response.
1.      The first thing that is intuitively obvious even to the most casual of observer about DESE’s suggested criteria for return governance from an appoint board to an elected board, is the irony that the worse the appointed board is at addressing its list of concerns, the longer they stay in power. Nine-12 years is a considerable length of time to be sure; we believe the longest ever for an appointed board nationally. Moreover, our understanding of the literature and studies is that on average appointed boards do no better than the boards they replaced or their successors.

2.      The second point that occurs to us is that though the legislature didn’t address an exit strategy the standard they used to take away governance was becoming unaccredited. So it is logical to assume that had they addressed an exit strategy, or if they do in the future, it would be that it regains at least provisional accreditation. If they provided that it regains and maintains provisional accreditation for a period of years, at least two, that would not be unreasonable or unexpected, and we believe that should be the standard for giving governance back to the elected board. We’ve not only regained provisional accreditation for several years, we have enough points for full accreditation, so that would argue strongly that the return to governance of an elected board is long overdue. The granting of full accreditation would not be totally unreasonable, some might say, but that would be totally inconsistent with the standard of the state statute providing for taking away governance, but in some cases could be indefinitely for some districts and that is not reasonable. Taking away governance on loss of provisional accreditation, returning it on gaining provisional accreditation for a period of 2-3 years, the only reasonable standard, and what state statute would provide if legislature ever gets around to it, and what they provide for other districts that have had governance removed, we believe.

3.      Every other district in the state, with the exception of Kansas City, if they became unaccredited, got two years to regain provisional accreditation before governance can be taken away. If it’s not unconstitutional for St. Louis and Kansas City to have no period of time to regain it before governance can be taken away, it should be. And state criteria for returning governance should reflect this unfairness that started this process. We’ve regained provisional for several years, have the points required for full accreditation, and thus time for governance to be returned now!

4.      Poor districts and districts of color and poverty are the only districts that have had governance taken away. Their lack of achievement much more the result of the conditions of the families and children in the district, poverty foremost among them, then the governance of the board, tho admittedly governance of such districts more challenging. So who would contend that populations of color and economic distress are less capable of good elected representatives than middle-class districts?! To take away the governance of their elected representatives in the first place is racist and classist, and every effort should be made to return governance at the earliest possible time.

5.      It is our understanding that the current interest, practice or policy of DESE and other educational professionals is to accredit by school not by district and to help the district get underperforming schools the help they need to succeed. St. Louis Public Schools for sometime now have had all of their schools except less than 20 performing well enough for individual accreditation.  It seems inappropriate in many ways to unaccredit or keep unaccredited a whole district because a small fraction of their schools are not performing to accepted standards. We contend that the most appropriate action of the DESE would be to return goverance to the elected board as soon as possible and work with the board and district to improve those schools which are underperforming.

6.      The longer an appointed board is in governance, the more difficult to transition back to an elected board in some ways because personnel on the board has changed, and thus their experience in governance. This may a practical consideration in some ways but is not the fault of the current elected board. There are three members of the current board with governance experience, but the longer DESE dithers in returning governance the more difficult it will be. Nine years is too long; 12 years unconscionable. Return to governance should begin this year. Even Freeman Danforth Commission recommended return to governance of an elected board after 5  years, as anything the appointed board cant do in five years they probably cant do at all or ever, and this reality is compounded the longer governance remains in the hands of the appointed board.

7.      The reality is that sometimes elected boards can be messy for want of a better word. People have different opinions on matters, groups emerge with different ideas of what is best, sometimes differences become vigorous (hat’s because there are 7 people not 3, among other reasons); that is natural, but there is never any excuse for dialogue not being professional and business, not person, and good boards learn that. . This is a strength of the board, vigorous divergence of ideas. Some, such as our Board member Bill Haas, have been on many boards, in his case 7-10 over a period of 19 years, and there were factions of sorts, differences of opinion, on all of them. But on none of them did such differences cause a failure of the board to be able to act, it made the ideas better, he says. That’s what consensus and majority votes is about. The hecticness of the period from 2003-2006, the period of the Slay slate in charge, where factors that caused the takeover in 2007 occurred, were caused not by divergent views, we believe, but rather because views different from the majority were not fairly considered. Differences of opinion among board members, even vigorous ones, is not a legitimate factor for denying the people governance by their elected representatives. The people get to choose new representatives every two years, sometimes more often (there will be 5 people chosen in 2017 and 2018) if they don’t like the views that are being expressed or the actions being taken. How does that compare to where the people have had no opportunity to have their say in governance over the last 9-12 years. The advantages of an elected board, and the equities of it, for outweigh any simplicity that can be attributed to an appointed board. If not, why not just make all boards in the state appointive?A board of just one person would be simpler still, but few advocate that.

8.      Finally, regarding the other criteria DESE refers to:8a-building and district leadership: why is this any better under an appointed board then an elected board; the elected board had stable leadership under their then superintendent Diana Bourisaw when governance was removed. Dr. Adams has done a good job since then and has the support of the elected board, which looks forward to working with him in the future as it does now.
8b-whether it’s in good shape financially with a fund balance of 10 percent or more is not an appropriate factor in failing to return governance to the people and its board: that the finances of the district had some issues when governance was taken away, all reasonable and knowledgable people agree was not the fault of the then elected board, but of a fall-off in state revenue, which has been improved, as has district finances, especially in view of the new tax that has been passed which will give the district added revenues in the future.
8c-whether it has effective teachers, as demonstrated through overall academic progress: academic achievement has been non-existent or modest under the appointed board, especially until recently; credit would be due to the Superintendent more than the board; achievement issues we believe are the strength of an elected board, especially ours, and we contend the district will be in better hands in the future in ours. See especially our Strategic Plan we’ve had ready for over 5 years and has recently been submitted to the state board, and has, or will be at this time, to DESE.
8d-whether district culture is focused on student learning, high expectations and physical and emotional safety: we believe that this is currently true and would be as good under an elected board as currently under the appointed.
8e-and whether the community supports the return of district governance back to a locally elected board: this standard would be laughable if not so serious. In every election since 2007, candidates supporting an elected board have received more votes than those supportive of the appointed board. Moreover, the community was against the take-over, as vigorously expressed in public hearings that no one paid any attention to. No one cared about the community’s opinion then, how hypocritical is it to feign caring now, even tho it’s obvious to all the community supports return. Even tho this is difficult to quantify, it’s not a reason to return governance to the elected board.
9. Although we agree to some extent with State Board member Lenz that the elected board should “be ready to take over when the ball is handed to them,” we don’t agree that it was the reason for the failures at the time of the takeover. Those were the fault of the Slay slate, admittedly “elected board” members, but elected by an excess of campaign funds from city hall, and voted out of office at the first available opportunities by the voters who supported more democratically elected representatives than those appointed by city hall, at which time members of such slate declared “elected boards don’t work” (discredit History Museum president Bob Archibald) and in our opinion engineered the take-over so they could continue to control the district indirectly that they could no longer control directly.
10. We disagree vehemently with the statement of state board member Peter Hershend that “The problem in St. Louis and every failed district in the state was the board,” but we couldn’t agree more that “what there should be in place an organization in place that is strong enough a board, that is strong enough in place that can pick up and run with the ball.” It may be fair to say that even among elected  board members, there is some belief that we wouldn’t be easily take over governance of the district ourselves on June 30th of this year, but that’s not going to happen. We believe strongly we are potentially capable board (with more than 12 years of active governance among its current members), and will be more so after a three-year transition that should be begin now with two of our members back on the board by this fall, another two after the elections of 2017, and the final three after the elections in 2018, and that that SAB members should roll over when there term expires in 2019.  No way will an elected board not be ready to pick up the ball and run with it after a three-year transiton with the SAB, so the sooner that starts the sooner the elected  board, as constituted now and perhaps with new members in 2017 and 2018 will be ready.
11. Since the inception of the SAB the elected board has expressed their willingness to collaborate on ideas with the SAB even tho only SAB members could vote, on the theory that 10 good minds better than 3. Within the last two years, the elected board has indicated it’s willingness to begin an informal transition of sorts. Virtually all overtures of the elected board has been spurned by the SAB. That says a lot about them, none of it good. We think their unwillingness to work with the elected board in any way, shape or form, is a reason to accelerate a transition back to an elected board not delay it.

If you have not yet done so, please read the criteria and add your own comments to DESE about their transition criteria from an appointed to an elected board at SABcomments@dese.mo.gov by May 13.  You can read the criteria by going to www.dese.mo.gov and clicking on State Board Hears Conditions for Transition to an Elected Board  under the News menu on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Excellent editorial on democracy and the public schools in St Louis (Susan Turk, from the St. Louis American)

Original source: http://www.stlamerican.com/news/columnists/guest_columnists/article_e840a6a2-df17-11e5-bd29-c3bac4e128fe.html

I endorse this editorial.  I have added a few highlighted comments –– Bret Gustafson

Why the SAB is not good for SLPS

By Susan Turk Guest columnist | Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016 1:24 pm
It was interesting to read State Board of Education member Mike Jones’ assessment of how St. Louis Public Schools got into its current state of affairs. He laid the blame at those running SLPS between 2002 and 2006, along with area business and political leaders. The four-member slate that won the 2003 school board election was endorsed by The St. Louis American. Publisher and Executive Editor Donald M. Suggs was complicit in their selection. 
[Yes. Let's say this once more: Mr. Jones is critiquing the same interests who would again seize control after the state takeover.  These are interests who were supported on both occasions by the St Louis American and its Executive Editor.  This is true. Apparently Mr. Suggs and Mr. Jones rely on people to have fuzzy memories. --BG.]
District parents were unhappy with district governance at that time, so they organized and ran parents for seats on the school board. The intent was for parents to exercise oversight of our schools just like in the successful suburban school districts.
It was in specific response to the success that parents began to have in getting elected in 2006 that the business and political leaders went to Governor Blunt and asked for the state to take over SLPS. The Special Administrative Board (SAB) was instituted to prevent a loss of power, not to improve education. [Yes:  This is when the corporate-backed elites sought to undermine the grassroots resurgence, most threatening because it allied black and white activists not controlled by the St. Louis political machine. -- BG]
While Jones may be correct that there is no inherent right to elected governance [the jury is still out on this one.  Who decides inherent rights, Mr. Jones? Rights are decided in political struggle.-- BG] elected governance is the way public school districts have been run since their inception during the 19th century up until very recently. Alternatives to elected governance have been imposed only since the end of federally mandated desegregation in primarily African-American school districts. Jones admitted that many citizens communicated with him and their overwhelming consensus was to return governance to the elected board, yet he ignored them.
The state board of education, of which he is a member, is an appointed board. There isn’t anything we mere plebes can do about them. The members aren’t even term-limited. Jones is utterly convinced of his own rightness, and he doesn’t have to account to anybody for it. He never has to face voters.  [Yes.  Ms. Turk is pointing out how our democracy is being slowly dismantled and eroded.  Let's be clear about this.--BG]
His justification for ignoring the consensus was that no one argued that returning the elected board would improve educational outcomes. Well, continuing the SAB sure won’t! For the eight years they’ve been in power, achievement has either dropped or clawed its way back up to where it was before they took over. [Yes. So true, despite what reporters and corporate advocates continue to say.  Little to no improvement.-BG]
To make matters worse, SLPS has the lowest-paid teachers, with the least experience and the fewest master’s degrees, compared to 18 of their closest competing districts in St. Louis County. Even Normandy and Riverview Gardens teachers are paid better, have more longevity in the classroom and have a higher percentage of teachers with master’s degrees. [Oh yes.  The pay of administration has gone up, while pay has stagnated and the pension board refuses to grant cost of living increases to retirees.  The admin and contractors are sucking money out of labor, to be clear, and out of the public good.  I would add here that there has been an underwhelming response by the teachers' union, who, it appears, were cowed into submission.--BG]
Our children’s academic success depends on the ability to recruit and retain great teachers. The SAB’s tightfisted approach to teacher compensation has crippled SLPS.
Mike Jones and the SAB members serve the interests of the political and corporate elite who prefer to maintain power and diminish the democratic will and the aspirations for their children of the people who live, work and vote in this city. They are instruments of their own and the community’s oppression. They should be ashamed. [Amen. --BG]
It was not lost on this reader that Jones’ screed was located directly above an ad for KIPP St. Louis, a charter school. Charter school boards are not democratically elected. The new normal that the elite promote is an educational system composed of separate and unequal schools over which citizens have no control. Tax dollars expended for education will no longer be subject to public oversight. Democracy is being devalued as a means for running our schools. What will they decide we can’t vote for next? [Yes]
This is our Flint. Across the country, predominantly African-American communities and political entities such as school districts are being told we are not capable of governing ourselves. Democratically elected officials are being replaced by emergency managers in Michigan and appointed boards elsewhere. The resulting usurpation does not improve our communities. Minds are being poisoned in more ways than one. We allow the degradation of democracy to continue at our own peril. [Yes]