A Letter to DESE
For Immediate Release
Monday, October 15, 2012
From the home office:
October 11, 2012
Dr. Chris Nicastro
Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
205 Jefferson Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Dear Commissioner Nicastro,
It is with great pleasure and civic pride that I write to ask you to honor the request by the Special Administrative Board of the St. Louis Public School for an accreditation review.
St. Louis Public Schools has made measurable progress in the years since the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education intervened in 2007. The establishment of the Special Administrative Board (SAB) was a critical first step and offered our district the best opportunity to stabilize. The Department is to be commended for making this decision.
The SAB hired an outstanding superintendent in Dr. Kelvin Adams. The consistent leadership and professional demeanor demonstrated by the partnership between the governing body and the superintendent has sent an important signal to our community that our public school district is serious about offering all of our children an excellent education.
In five years, the essential components of a functioning school system have improved. SLPS has improved in governance, management, operations and finance. It happened because of the cooperation among the governing body, the administration and the teachers. The ability to create a common vision, galvanize support inside and outside of the district, and then move the organization forward has created a firm foundation for future success.
SLPS has tackled many vexing and unavoidable issues. They have provided a stable financial plan that resulted in a balanced budget. District operations have seen measurable improvement. For example, the SAB can boast that the district successfully completed the air conditioning project, something that eluded several previous boards. The voters rewarded the district by supporting Proposition S, which provided additional resources for physical plant improvements.
Of course, academic achievement is most important. Dr. Adams and the SAB are serious about increasing the academic performance of our children and the quality of the schools they attend. They have changed principals, implemented teacher evaluation and a coaching program, and focused on data. SLPS has also added more than 2,000 new preschool seats and extended the successful Stix and Wilkinson programs. The combined efforts of the board, management, teachers and parents has resulted in better attendance rates, graduation rates, post-secondary enrollment, advance and career courses, and End of Course performance in Algebra. While there remains a lot of room for improvement, it is important to recognize how far they have come.
The determination of a district’s status is the purview of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Board of Education. It is based on the analysis of all of the academic data. Whether SLPS meets the criteria will be up to your analysis. But, any academic review should also take into consideration the growing community support, strong district leadership and stable financial management.
As mayor, I want every student to have access to a quality public school. That has to be our focus and our mission. We should not be satisfied until we get there. But, I do see value in recognizing the effort and progress Dr. Adams and the SAB have made.
Thank you for your consideration.
Francis G. Slay
Mayor, City of St. Louis