St. Louis schools and union pledge unity for provisional accreditation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A month away from a critical state meeting to decide whether St. Louis Public Schools will gain provisional accreditation, District officials made a show of unity today with their teachers union and parents.
Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers, participated in a St. Louis press conference with Superintendent Kelvin Adams and parent and local union representatives. The meeting was intended to introduce an online resource library for teachers nationwide created by the union.
But partnership among District administrators and the union was the key message of the day.
Weingarten said LOCAL AFT Union 420 has successfully collaborated with the District to develop a teacher mentoring program, parent involvement initiatives, facility improvements and a massive expansion of early childhood classrooms. She said that collaboration is in stark contrast to the recently resolved teachers strike in Chicago where Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the resolution was like “turning the page'”on strife between the union and school leadership.
“This group of people – teachers, administrators and parents – they've been turning the page in working together with this push to provisional accreditation,” she said of St. Louis. “It didn't take a strike to do that.”
The meeting was held a day after the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to strip state accreditation of the nearby Normandy School District. St. Louis Schools lost its accreditation five years ago amid a battling school board, leadership turnover and disgruntled parents.
Adams said the district is in a committed “marriage” with its teachers union. That, along with improved scores on Missouri Assessment Program tests, puts the District in line to qualify for provisional accreditation, he said. Officials have asked DESE to consider such a move. A meeting in Jefferson City is set for Oct. 16 to decide the issue.
The press conference was held in the library of the District's new Academy of Environmental Science and Mathematics on Spring Avenue near St. Louis University. Last year the school operated as one of six Imagine Charter Schools that closed in the spring because of low student performance.
Union officials said the seamless incorporation of the school and about two-thirds of its staff into the District over the summer was yet another way administrators were working well with the union and parents. About 1,200 elementary and middle school students currently attend the public school, Adams said.