• Dr. Adams

    Kelvin Adams – St. Louis

    Black superintendents by the numbers

    Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 5:15 am

    By Rebecca S. Rivas
    The St. Louis region has more African-American superintendents in its public school districts than ever before. Out of the 23 public school districts in the region, not including charter schools, nine have African-American superintendents.

    Of these nine, four landed their jobs in the past year and three of those newcomers replaced white superintendents.

    The newest superintendents who were hired in 2012 are Sharmon Wilkinson at Clayton, Tiffany Anderson at Jennings, Karen Hall at Maplewood-Richmond Heights and Grayling Tobias at Hazelwood.
    The other five are Art McCoy at Ferguson-Florissant, Clive Coleman at Riverview Gardens, Stanton Lawrence at Normandy, Kelvin Adams at St. Louis and Joylynn Pruitt at University City.  
    To get a glimpse into these nine superintendents’ worlds, the St. Louis American compared data from the Department of Early and Secondary Education on student demographics and performance – as well as administrative salaries. African-American superintendents are leading some of the largest and highest-performing districts, as well as some of the most struggling.
    Karen Hall: Maplewood-Richmond Heights 
    Of the nine superintendents, Karen Hall leads the smallest district with 1,088 students. Thirty-four percent of the district’s students are African-American, and less than one percent of those students drop out of school – the second-lowest dropout rate of the nine districts.
    Hall said the district’s size helps them catch struggling students before they drop out. The district also established a nonprofit program six years ago called Joe’s Place, which houses homeless boys in the district. Of the 20 boys who have gone through the program (99 percent of them African-American), all have gone onto college or the military.
    “Because we are so small, we’re able to develop real authentic relationships with all of our students,” Hall said. “And when you are talking about students that may be on the radar for not graduating, we can specifically wrap around that student and their family.”
    A native of Webster Groves, Hall came to the district almost five years ago from Pattonville, where she served as a principal. Last summer, Hall replaced the retiring Linda Henke, who spent 12 years taking a district about to lose its full accreditation to achieve the highest points possible (14) on the state’s annual report three times in a row.
    “Everyone loves the programming that we have and our approach to educating young people,” Hall said, “and I just want to ensure that it’s sustained.” 
    Hall earns the least of the nine superintendents, at $160,000. However, her district’s state allotment per pupil is in the top three of these nine districts with $15,088.
    Sharmon Wilkinson - Clayton 
    Of the nine superintendents, Wilkinson’s district has the lowest dropout rate, of 0.1 percent, and 100 percent of the black students in Clayton graduated from high school last year. Black students make up 20.3 percent of Clayton’s 2,500 students, which means that Wilkinson also leads the district with the smallest proportionate African-American population of the nine. The district also earned 14 points on the annual performance report in 2012.
    Wilkinson is the first African-American superintendent in the district and was hired last May. While she was serving as interim superintendent in spring 2012, the St. Louis County Circuit Court was deciding whether it was legal to require St. Louis Public Schools to pay tuition for their students to transfer to accredited school districts, as required by a Missouri law. Clayton parents sued the district for not billing SLPS for tuition. The court ruled that the state law violates the Missouri Constitution because it creates unfunded mandates.
    She testified on the behalf of the district during the trial. That’s when the reality set in – that she could become superintendent as students were flooding into Clayton from unaccredited school districts.
    “That’s when the impact of the case hit me, in preparing for my testimony,” she said.
    Originally from Chicago, Wilkinson has served as an administrator in the Clayton district since 1996. Her annual salary is not the highest at $215,000. However, the cost per pupil is the highest by far at $18,300.
    Tiffany Anderson – Jennings 
    A St. Louis native, Tiffany Anderson leads 2,700 students, 97.7 percent of whom are African-American.

    Jennings has an overall dropout rate of 3.1 percent, which is significantly lower than surrounding districts. The district is currently provisionally accredited, unlike unaccredited Riverview Gardens and Normandy on its borders. Jennings earned seven points on the 2012 annual performance report. To be provisionally accredited, district must earn between six and eight points.

    Anderson said she’s been through academic challenges before. In 2005, Anderson accepted a superintendent position in Montgomery County Public Schools in Virginia. During her tenure, Montgomery moved from having seven fully accredited schools to having all 23 accredited.
    “Every district that I’ve been in, we’ve had our challenges when I’ve entered,” Anderson said, “but through the collective energy of many, we have moved those districts to the highest possible performance with kids performing at the 90th percentile and above.”
    Anderson took her position last summer, and she earns a salary of $175,000.
    Joylynn Pruitt – University City 
    Joylynn Pruitt, a St. Louis native, has led University City schools since January 2008, making her the most veteran superintendent of the nine. The district has 3,000 students and 80 percent are African-American.

    During Pruitt’s time, the district’s annual performance scores have continued to improve, from seven points in 2008 to 10 points in 2012. To maintain full accreditation, districts must earn at least 9 points.

    Pruitt said their success was a collaborative effort that started in conversations with the community in 2007. “It was clear they had a strong need for academic reform,” she said. Since then, the district has largely focused on changing its instructional model.
    The district still struggles with a nine percent dropout rate, which she said they are addressing by enrolling students at risk into alternative schools and other measures.
    Pruitt began her career in the district 13 years ago as an elementary school principal. She’s been an educator for more than 30 years and now earns $192,200 per year.
    Stanton Lawrence - Normandy 
    Normandy School District has been transformed quite a bit in the four years that Stanton Lawrence has been superintendent, but unfortunately that didn’t include annual performance, which has remained at five points.
    In August 2010, the district absorbed the Wellston School District, and Normandy now has 4,200 students, 97.6 percent of whom are African-American. Lawrence said the merger was part of the reason Normandy did not improve in academic performance. The district lost its provisional accreditation status last fall and is now unaccredited.
    Last fall Lawrence announced that he is leaving the district to return to his home state of Texas. Ty McNichols, currently the superintendent for learning at Hazelwood, was selected to take his place. McNichols is also African-American.
    Clive Coleman – Riverview Gardens 
    Out of the nine superintendents, Clive Coleman gets the lowest amount from the state per student at about $9,500. The district has the highest percentage of African-American students with 97.9 and is the lowest-performing on the annual performance report – earning four points out of 14. The district has 6,000 students.
    Coleman came to Riverview just before the state took away the district’s provisional accreditation status. Previously he held several executive positions in the Kansas City (Mo.) School District, including associate superintendent, chief academic officer and interim superintendent.
    Coleman will be leaving the district on July 1 and will be replaced by Scott D. Spurgeon, who is not African-American. Coleman’s salary was the second-lowest of the nine superintendents at $172,500 and his administrators made on average second-to-last salaries ($94,300) among the nine staffs. Spurgeon has a three-year contract for a $170,000 salary. 
    Art McCoy - Ferguson-Florissant 
    In July 2011, Art McCoy became the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s first African-American superintendent, as well as one of the youngest superintendents in the state at 33. McCoy, a St. Louis native, started teaching at age 19 and became one of the state’s youngest certified teachers.
    Ferguson-Florissant has the third-largest student population of the nine districts with 11,500 students. The student population is about 78 percent African-American, and five percent of black students drop out of school, a relatively low number for a predominately black district. Normandy has the highest dropout rate with 22 percent, and SLPS is next with 18 percent.
    Like Hazelwood, Ferguson-Florissant earned 9 points on the 2012 annual performance report and is fully accredited.
    Ferguson-Florissant has the third-highest administrator salaries with an average of $105,378, behind Clayton’s average of $122,311 and Normandy’s of $105,425. McCoy said it’s important to have competitive salaries to retain the best leaders.
    “You want to create a salary structure where you make it a loss for someone to have to leave your system,” he said. “We want champion leaders because we want to do things no one else has done.” 
    In 2010, the district had to cut $15 million from a $150 million budget, and then another $8 million just recently. McCoy said though its salaries are competitive, the district has had three pay freezes in the past 10 years in order to balance the budget.
    McCoy is getting the second-highest salary of the nine superintendents with $217,000.
    Grayling Tobias - Hazelwood
    Grayling Tobias, a St. Louis native, is the first African-American superintendent of Hazelwood. He was appointed as interim superintendent at the end of August, after Steve Price was fired, then was named superintendent in November. The district has 17,700 students, 71 percent of whom are African-American.
    Tobias’ first career was professional baseball in the Montreal Expos and Detroit Tigers systems. He returned to St. Louis to coach baseball and basketball at Lindenwood University, then taught at Parkway. After 13 years, he left to become a principal in Riverview Gardens. In 2002, he came to Hazelwood as the first African-American certified administrator at the central office level. He previously served as assistant superintendent for learning.
    Tobias said Hazelwood is focused on excelling under the state’s new academic assessment standards, which are changing from a 14-point system to 140 points. 
    “We believe that our students are capable of achieving at high levels,” he said. “I believe that no one rises to low expectations.”
    Tobias earns a salary of $212,000.
    Kelvin Adams – St. Louis 
    Kelvin Adams leads the largest district in the St. Louis region with 22,500 students, and he’s also the highest-paid of the nine superintendents with a $225,000 salary.
    However, he is not the highest paid superintendent in the region. The highest paid in 2013 was Thomas Williams at Kirkwood with $257,220, a district with one-fourth the students that SLPS has. Rockwood has the nearest enrollment of SLPS with 22,200 students, and Rockwood’s superintendent Bruce Borchers earns about $10,000 more than Adams.
    However, SLPS administrators make the least among the nine school districts, with an average of $83,000.
    Adams, who relocated to St. Louis from New Orleans in 2008, arrived in an extremely turbulent environment. However, the district has consistently improved its annual performance. Last year, it became provisionally accredited, earning seven points on the report. 
     The story can be accessed here.