Plan for St. Louis public schools draws fire

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) -A new plan that could bring in outside contractors to run more than a dozen city schools came under fire Saturday. St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams invited input at a public forum on his plan. He certainly got it.

The loudest critics were members of the disempowered elected school board. They took aim at Rick Sullivan, President of the Special Administrative Board now running the district. He was not among the close to 100 people at Central VPA High School in South St. Louis for the forum.

“He belongs here, in support of his plan that he’s trying to jam down the throats of this community,” said elected board member, Bill Monroe.

“The elected board cannot and will not support any outsourcing of management of the schools to any outside entity, non-profit or otherwise,” said elected board president, David Jackson.

Adams said “outsourcing” was not an accurate term.

Phase 1 of his plan is to shift $6.3 million next school year to about 6300 students at the 18 lowest performing schools in the 67 school district. The money will pay for longer school days, reading and math specialists in the schools, plus tutors, social workers, and nurses. The goal is to bring all schools up to state accreditation standards. If phase 1 fails, phase 2 would bring in educational contractors in the 2015-2016 school year.

Other big city districts have tried the approach with varied success.

“They’re about to move out of Houston, TX, now because the results have been real positive results (over the past 3-4 years),” Adams said.

Critics likened it to the hiring of businessman Bill Roberti a decade ago to turnaround the district. There were massive budget cuts, layoffs, and school closures to address the district’s fiscal issues. However, those changes failed to forestall the district’s accreditation crisis.

Adams felt it was an “apples and oranges” comparison.

“We’re not even thinking about that at all, zero, zilch. This is about educational consultants supporting, assisting the district in terms of creating the climate that results in increases in student achievement,” Adams said.

The Special Administrative Board will likely vote on the plan at its April meeting.

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