On Thursday, Nov. 19, the elected municipal leaders in the 24:1 Municipal Partnership hosted a virtual town hall to address the education crisis in the Normandy school district.

“Not Without Us” is the 24:1 Municipal Partnership’s rallying cry to ensure public and charter schools’ governance is locally elected, accountable, and attuned to the needs of every student.

The civic leaders shared their position on the current situation and invited the community to come together for action. More than 200 community residents attended the town hall, hosted virtually on Zoom and Facebook Live.

Many residents submitted questions for the 24:1 Municipal Partnership, the Leadership School, and the Normandy Schools Collaborative. This Q&A compiles all of the responses.


Questions about 24:1 Municipal Government Partnership

Q: Is the 24:1 Municipal Partnership opposed to parent choice?

  • To what lengths will the 24:1 go to stop charter schools from coming into the NSC district?
  • What does the MGP want or need from TLS when it comes to assurances that the school will listen to feedback from all community members and taxpayers?

A: The 24:1 Municipal Partnership fully supports any parent who believes an educational option other than the Normandy Schools Collaborative is best for their child. We believe that the children of our community deserve the highest quality public education that prepares them for life, no matter the direction they choose.

Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we oppose any privately governed charter school that does not afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

You can read more about what we believe in the position paper “Not Without Us: The Historic Perspective on the Education Crisis in the Normandy 24:1 Community and Our Battle for Educational Sovereignty.”

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: Who is Mike Jones?

A: One of the speakers for the Nov. 19 press conference and town hall, Mike Jones, served on the State Board of Education for nine years. After his term expired in 2018, he served at the pleasure of the governor until his replacement was approved by the Missouri Senate in early 2020.

As a passionate advocate for Normandy students, Mr. Jones gave the opening and closing remarks on Nov. 19, speaking alongside three representatives of the 24:1 Municipal Partnership: Mayor Brian Jackson of Beverly Hills, Mayor James McGee of Vinita Park, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Victoria Valle of Glen Echo Park.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: What sacrifices are required of the 24:1 Community for the creation of a charter school like The Leadership School?

A: Currently the community is being asked to sacrifice locally elected school governance and accountability—which we have already ceded with the Normandy Schools Collaborative. We believe this will lead to further fragmentation of the community’s political power, further damage to community-based institutions, and further financial instability to the public school system. Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we oppose any privately governed charter school that does not afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How can the community make sure new schools (especially charter schools like The Leadership School) offer students a quality education, instead of opposing them?

A: We as community leaders and all of our residents must support our children and their families in every manner possible to ensure that they can succeed in their educational pursuits at a school of their choice. Ensuring that all of our community’s educational options are high quality and responsive to the voices of the residents will take innovative ideas, steadfast dedication, many additional resources, and extensive networks of support. We welcome all partners and friends who understand and respect our position, the district’s rich history, and the value of educational sovereignty.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How can the 24:1 Municipal Partnership partner with The Leadership School and/or broker partnerships with The Leadership School and the Normandy Schools Collaborative?

A: We as community leaders and all of our residents must support the Normandy Schools Collaborative and hold them accountable for the individual and collective success of our children and our school district. This support must extend to other education options within the 24:1 footprint as well.

However, while we extend respect and gratitude toward the external parties who have genuine good intentions for our students, we believe that today’s lingering challenges reveal serious external threats from multiple governance layers. Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we will strive for partnerships with entities that afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: Do members of 24:1 Municipal Partnership have children in the Normandy school district?

A: We are not sure the intent behind this question. Regardless of the answer, the elected leadership of this community has both a moral and financial obligation to work for successful schools. The moral obligation is that all the children of this community have a real and meaningful opportunity for a quality education. The financial obligation is that the community’s tax base is and always will be driven in large part by the quality of the public schools.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: Do members of the 24:1 Municipal Partnership have recommendations for potential board members to help make sure charter schools like The Leadership School are a success for all children?

A: We believe it is premature to offer names at this point in time.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership


Questions about Charter Schools

Q: How does a charter school affect the issue of ‘parent choice’?

  • Do parents pay for charter school attendance?
  • Are charter schools a better option for parents?
  • What happens when all the students that are still in a school district are in a disadvantage prior to a new charter school’s arrival?
  • Can Normandy Schools Collaborative and a charter school exist in the same space?
  • What are alternatives to the charter school model?

A: Charter schools are free public schools that operate independently of a school district. They are nonprofit entities that have a contract (or charter) with a sponsoring entity, and they are governed by boards that must comply with the conditions of the charter agreement and performance contract. Unlike public school board members, charter board members are appointed and operate under the same Missouri laws that regulate nonprofit organizations.

Charter schools can operate in all school districts in Missouri. In accredited districts, only the local school board can sponsor a charter school. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission can sponsor charter schools in the Kansas City Public Schools district, the St. Louis Public Schools district, any unaccredited district, and any district that’s been provisionally accredited for three or more years.

Charter schools are open to all students in the areas they serve and may not discriminate, but they can set admission preferences (such as students who live in zipcodes near the school). If they are at full enrollment, they can choose to admit new students by random public lottery.

Charter schools vary in the grades they serve, their educational philosophy, their school culture, and many other factors. This flexibility is one of the main arguments in favor of charter schools. Some charter schools are operated by charter management organizations that are contracted to provide curriculum development, assessment design, professional development, administrative services, teacher recruitment, facility management, and more.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: To what extent have state representatives been involved in the charter school approval process?

A: The charter school approval process does not go through the state legislature. The first step for a prospective charter school is to find a sponsor. Sponsors—often a university or the nonprofit Missouri Charter Public School Commission—are responsible for monitoring student and school performance, compliance with the charter, etc.

After the charter school has been approved by a sponsor, it then applies to the State Board of Education, which can disprove the granting of the charter within 60 days if the application fails to meet the requirements of the law or if the sponsor previously failed to meet its responsibilities.

Charter schools are approved for five-year terms. Sponsors review a comprehensive body of evidence to determine if a charter school should be renewed. If it is convinced the school has been meeting the criteria for renewal, it submits a renewal application to the State Board of Education.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership


Questions about the Leadership School and Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: Where would the Leadership School be located geographically?

A: The Leadership School will serve as a high-quality option for all students residing in the 23 St. Louis County municipalities that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative. The founding team is committed to securing a suitable facility in a convenient location for parents.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: What is the Leadership School’s plan to improve low student scores in the district?

A: The Leadership School exists to grow our students’ leadership capacity through earnest engagement in an academically rigorous, culturally relevant, and relationship-oriented environment. As we develop students who know themselves deeply and are poised to work with others to make a positive impact in the world, we believe we will get there by aligning all aspects of our school model to three primary tenets:

  1. Developing a deep sense of belonging—ensuring that all students are safe, feel seen, and thrive in a context of strong relationships.
  2. Providing rigorous academic experiences, which includes creative and innovative learning opportunities that cultivate the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century.
  3. Promoting authentic leadership—leveraging relationships and a sense of belonging, alongside each student’s toolkit of academic skills, to practice and exercise leadership in one’s own life and the world around them.

Our full charter application can be found on the Missouri Charter Public School Commission’s website.

Additionally, here is a link to our board interview (Aug. 18, 2020) and public hearings (Aug. 18 and Oct 28, 2020).

—The Leadership School

 

Q: How will the level/quality of education at the charter school differ from that of NSC?

A: Now—more than ever before—it is essential that schools prepare students to be in the driver’s seat of their own education and to navigate a path toward the lives they imagine for themselves. In addition to schools that are academically thriving, parents have told us that they are looking for schools that cater to the specific needs of their children, schools that expose them to a range of career options and prepare them to explore any field of their choosing. Essentially, parents want schools to help set their children up for successful life outcomes and provide a safe, joyful, rigorous community along the way.

In light of the current global pandemic, there is uncertainty about how schools will be structured in a post-COVID world. However, we are more assured of the need for schools to be more flexible, nimble and student-centered. The Leadership School’s model directly addresses research that represents the robust changes that are necessary to reimagine schools to move away from the traditional industrial-era format. Learn more about the nine “leaps” that Transcend Education offers to create more “equitable, 21st century learning environments.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: Has the Leadership School truly attempted to work in collaboration at creating a solution for the children in 24:1?

A: The Leadership School’s mission, values, and academic model have been developed through extensive engagement with parents, students, educators, and community members. Through one-on-one interviews and small-group conversations with dozens of parents, we have heard that parents want their children to be prepared for the future and for jobs that do not exist yet.

The Leadership School has a profound belief that preparation plus opportunity equals success. Therefore, it is important to us that we design and build, within our school community, a pathway that is responsive to the unique aspirations and needs represented. Throughout our planning process, we have deeply engaged with the Community Impact Network and agencies serving the Normandy community. Through that affiliation, we have developed an understanding of the most pressing needs of the community, such as diapers, food, assistance with rent, resources for mental health, and child care for young children.

We have also contributed to the planning and program implementation for the Youth 1st and 5ByAge5 coalitions within the Community Impact Network to conceptualize countermeasures to restore the educational building blocks of this community

—The Leadership School

 

Q: Why weren’t the Normandy school board and the school district involved in the decision of bringing in a charter school to our community?

A: Under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson, and with effective coordination of resources, strategies and support from committed educators, community partners and nonprofit organizations, the district upgraded its accreditation to provisional status. With Dr. Pearson’s retirement and the selection of a new superintendent, we believe that the district is well poised to continue improving and having stronger outcomes related to successful children.

The Leadership School looks forward to partnering with the Normandy Schools Collaborative board and staff in any ways possible to align our efforts of improving educational outcomes for all students.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: Is the Leadership School part of a larger plan to implement more charters in the region?

A: We are solely and intensely focused on creating The Leadership School and making it a safe place where parents choose to send their children for a high-quality education that is every child’s civil right—regardless of their race, gender, where they live, or family income.

Given our model, we believe that our students will be prepared to thrive in any high school environment. This means that a revitalization of Normandy High School (which is a goal of the new superintendent) over the next five years could result in our parents feeling confident and sending their children there. Like other families in Normandy are doing today, our parents may choose to send their children to private or independent schools. But we also recognize that our students and their parents may want to continue their high school journey with The Leadership School. Whether we accommodate them will be based on the demand for a high school and our students’ understanding of what type of structure and academic environment they need, and whether or not it can be found elsewhere.

Regardless of whether we seek to expand, our school’s impact will definitely reach beyond our enrolled students by partnership with community organizations and the local school district, as well as engaging and equipping other students and adults with leadership skills. Through the use of the Leader in Me program, anyone in our community will have access to leadership development opportunities similar to those that our students will receive.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: What is the history of the Leadership School regarding an attempt to establish it in Hazelwood?

A: The problem for African American students is not too many schools. The problem is too few good schools. So we set out to fill a need that we knew was vast. We committed ourselves to providing a great education to students who otherwise could not get one. But we knew that being passionate was not enough. We also had to be smart. So, we did our homework, considered multiple options, talked to and listened to hundreds of voices, and ultimately ended up focusing our time, energy, and passion where we thought it was needed most: in Normandy.

After hearing from students and parents, we began to look for school models that centered on the whole child. We wanted to understand the culture and ethos at schools where kids were seen, known, and loved, and where they had a voice.

We also researched best practices and sought inspiration through visits to some of the most successful schools across the country in terms of academic achievement. We did not find one specific school model that provided all of the necessary approaches that students need and parents desire.

Instead, we synthesized what we learned from our listening sessions, empathy interviews, and research in multiple focus groups of parents and educators. We gathered insight and feedback from families in Normandy and surrounding municipalities. We solicited feedback and critique from other successful educators in robust learning sessions from local and national supporters. The model that has emerged is tightly woven and well aligned to ensure that all components of the design work harmoniously to achieve our mission, vision, and goals.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: What is the relationship between the Leadership School, charter school organizations, and the Opportunity Trust?

A: Educators never stop learning, never stop listening, and never stop considering different points of view. The Leadership School has been able to rely upon the knowledge and expertise of a wide range of individual advisors, educational organizations, and both local and national charitable organizations, including the Opportunity Trust. We are grateful for the learning opportunities and connections to resources that these partnerships provide. But, at the end of the day, The Leadership School will be run by its board of directors and held accountable by its sponsor.

—The Leadership School

 

Q: What stage is the Leadership School at in the approval process?

  • What organizations are sponsoring and supporting the charter school, locally and nationally?

A: The Leadership School’s application is current awaiting approval from the State Board of Education. Its application has been approved by its sponsor (the Missouri Charter Public School Commission) and public hearings have been held (Oct. 23 and 28). To see updates, visit the commission’s website.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How was the decision made to incorporate the charter school model in Normandy?

  • Will there be a return of the district transfer program in the future?

A: Charter schools may be operated in St. Louis and Kansas City’s school districts plus any unaccredited school district and a district that has been provisionally accredited for three consecutive years under specific conditions. Normandy Schools Collaborative lost its accreditation in 2012 and has been provisionally accredited since 2018.

The state-mandated transfer program—which allowed students from Normandy Schools Collaborative to attend neighboring school districts with their home district paying for tuition (and in some cases transportation)—went into effect after Normandy lost its accreditation. It ended when the district attained provisional accreditation in January 2018. Some students who currently attend school in another district under the program can continue until their next natural transition (for example, leaving elementary school).

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: If there is a subsequent decline in academic performance, how will it affect NSC’s current provisional accreditation?

A: Provisional accreditation is the second-lowest level in the MO School Improvement Program. If Normandy’s performance were to decline, it could lose its provisional accreditation and become unaccredited.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How would a new charter school affect NSC per-pupil spending?

  • Is it true that charter schools take the top students and leave the others behind, thus leaving the district with even less funding?

A: Because charter schools are publicly funded, they receive per-pupil spending from the state of Missouri just like other Local Education Agencies (LEAs).

The calculations are complex, with many variables. But in general, a district such as Normandy would see a cut of about $9,000 per student per year—but it would not lose its full per-pupil spending amount (currently around $13,000).

Because charter schools are open to all students in the areas they serve and may not discriminate, they are not able to accept only a certain subset of the district’s students. But they can set admission preferences (such as students who live in zipcodes near the school). If they are at full enrollment, they can choose to admit new students by random public lottery.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How was the current superintendent of Normandy Schools Collaborative hired/selected?

A: Superintendent Marcus Robinson was installed in May 2020 following the retirement of Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson. His bio is available on the district’s website. He was hired by the Joint Executive Governing Board, the state-appointed entity that governs the Normandy Schools Collaborative. 

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How are students adjusting to the extended online curriculum during the pandemic?

A: There is no extended online curriculum for our students to adjust to. We have made modifications to our program in that everything cannot translate virtually. The real problem for us is the same problem for students who live in poverty nationally … virtual learning only amplifies the difficulties our students have to accessing academic success.

We are clear that our students learn best when they are present with us. First, the cognitive science around how we learn is clear that effective teachers lead to effective learners. Period. Full Stop. All students learn best in the presence of an amazing teacher, and that presence goes beyond pictures of teachers faces and teacher voice. Our students need in-person learning desperately.

Second, it is much easier for us to respond to the challenges of poverty (hunger, healthcare, mental health, abuse, etc.) when we can see our students in person. Across the country, kids in urban areas are suffering from much more than learning loss by virtue of the fact that they don’t come to school. As a community, we should be working as hard as we can to restore our students to in-person learning. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: What is the future of Normandy school district if a charter school is established?

A: The Normandy Schools Collaborative adopted an ambitious strategic plan that envisions a much-improved school district in the next five years. Our plan establishes a new portrait of a Normandy graduate with aggressive transformation goals in student literacy, mathematics, and teacher quality. A copy of our strategic plan is available on our website at www.normandysc.org.

If a charter school is established in Normandy, Normandy will continue to be focused on its strive to become a world-class school district irrespective of the planning and programming of any other entities. We are committed to a plan that will be transformational for our students and foundational to the restoration of prosperity in our community. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: What can the community do regarding getting elected school board members back on NSC the school board, rather than state-appointed members?

A: As a community, we can work to ensure that the adopted strategic plan meets its aggressive goals for student learning and staff training. Through academic progress, the school district will achieve its accreditation and create a case for support of elected school governance. The NSC board has never had elected members. Its members have always been appointed by the State Board of Education after the dissolution of the Normandy School District in 2014. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: Is there a way to dissolve the state-appointed superintendent position and board?

A: After conducting a national search using a known and respected superintendent search firm, the superintendent was appointed by the Joint Executive Governing Board for the Normandy Schools Collaborative, not by the State of Missouri (through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or DESE).

After the Normandy School District was dissolved by the State Board of Education, the Normandy Schools Collaborative was launched to maintain local schools in the Normandy footprint instead of sending Normandy students to surrounding districts. The DESE website says the following:

On July 1, 2014, the State Board of Education created the Normandy Schools Collaborative in the same boundary as the Normandy School District. Feedback from parents, students, staff, and community members made it clear it was important to keep schools open within the Normandy community. The only feasible way to accomplish this was to establish a new district under the oversight of the State Board of Education.

Those in Normandy were clear on their expectations and wishes, which included:

  • Schools in the community
  • Quality education for every child
  • Support from the Department, the State and others

A fresh start will allow the district the opportunity to break the cycle of persistent low achievement by making deep and fundamental cuts to school operations.

A dissolution of the Joint Executive Governing Board would require The State Board of Education to vote to allow an elected Board of Education to govern the school district, which it is unlikely to do until the district achieves full accreditation. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: What is the superintendent’s current position on this charter school and charter schools in general?

A: NSC’s superintendent is a decorated school leader in public, private, district, and charter schools. He is neither a proponent nor opponent of charter schools in general. He is an advocate for great schools for all children, especially those children who live in poverty. Because he has experience in leading high-performing, high-poverty schools, he is convinced that the Normandy Schools Collaborative can have world-class schools for all of its students. His focus has been on leading Normandy toward the successful execution of its strategic plan, which does not include charter schools. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: Is there a conflict of interest with the school district receiving “donations” from the Opportunity Trust and the superintendent’s previous relationship with the Opportunity Trust?

A: The Superintendent has spent more than two decades involved in education philanthropy as either a grantee or a grantor. As an Executive in Residence with the Opportunity Trust, he helped to lead a strategy toward regional growth for low performing schools by investing in innovative school initiatives. NSC is grateful for a significant grant from the Opportunity Trust to assist in the implementation of our strategic plan. This investment in Normandy is similar to investments the Opportunity Trust has made in other public schools in the region. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: Is there a conflict of interest with the school district receiving “donations” from the Opportunity Trust and the superintendent’s previous relationship with the Opportunity Trust?

A: The Superintendent has spent more than two decades involved in education philanthropy as either a grantee or a grantor. As an Executive in Residence with the Opportunity Trust, he helped to lead a strategy toward regional growth for low performing schools by investing in innovative school initiatives. NSC is grateful for a significant grant from the Opportunity Trust to assist in the implementation of our strategic plan. This investment in Normandy is similar to investments the Opportunity Trust has made in other public schools in the region. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative

 

Q: Where can we find a school offering personalized learning in Normandy?

A: There isn’t a school offering a “Personalized Learning” program in the 23 municipalities that form the Normandy footprint. 

—Normandy Schools Collaborative


Questions about community engagement and next steps

Q: How can teachers and community members become more involved?

  • What options do parents have as they wait on the district to improve?
  • What can we do as a community and members of the school district to stop the destruction of our school district?
  • What can parents do to organize against charter schools?

A: The 24:1 Municipal Partnership encourages everyone who lives within the Normandy Schools Collaborative to learn more about Missouri’s public education system. Currently Normandy is provisionally accredited—the second-lowest level in the MO School Improvement Program.

Information about charter schools is available from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.

There are many opportunities to learn more and advocate around the topic of education. For example:

  • The 24:1 Public Policy and Advocacy Council is a public group that meets with elected officials the first Monday of each month. To receive notices of upcoming meetings, contact Reyna Spencer at rspencer@beyondhousing.org.
  • The Joint Executive Governing Board—the state-appointed board that leads the Normandy Schools Collaborative—meets the second Monday of each month. Meetings are held virtually due to COVID this school year. The public may attend via phone or Zoom, and login information is posted online the day of the meeting.
  • Normandy Schools Collaborative hosts parent and community meetings and communicates with families in a variety of ways, from texts and automated phone calls to email newsletters and social media.

The 24:1 Municipal Partnership plans to host additional public meetings with the goal of addressing the current education crisis in the 24:1 Community. Please follow our page on Facebook or check our241.com for updates.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership