• SLPS plan could bring in nonprofit operators


    Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 6:15 am

    By Tim Lloyd of St. Louis Public Radio

    St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams outlined his blueprint for building up academic achievement and meeting new standards established under the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP5) on March 13.

    The “St. Louis Public Schools Transformation Plan” would construct a four-tiered system to hone in on schools that struggle the most academically. It would also give greater flexibility to those schools with the greatest academic success, according to a draft proposal he presented to the district’s Special Administrative Board (SAB).

    In what might be a controversial provision in the plan, the district could seek nonprofit operators to take over the schools in the lowest tier if improvements aren’t made during the coming school year.  Adams said a request for proposal is already prepared and could be released as soon as next week.  An outside operator would have the authority to hire staff and set curriculum. However, it could be months before the SAB considers an outside operator for final approval. No school could be taken over by an outside operator before the 2015-16 school year.

    Adams gave no indication that he’s concerned about potential criticism to this part of the plan.  

    “We’re not talking about it happening forever,” Adams said.  “We’re talking about for a limited amount of time, a focused, limited amount of time.  It might be three years, it might be five years, but the intent is that it remains a district school and all of the resources are district resources.” 

    Adams also said the district would look to contract with a university to bring in additional teacher training around literacy instruction at schools with the lowest level of academic performance.

    “I’m trying to focus resources on the greatest need students, that’s it,” Adams said.  “I’m trying to focus resources on the places that based on the data need the greatest support.”

    President of the SAB, Rick Sullivan, asked Adams during his presentation whether he was at a point where he could say there are no excuses for why the district can’t achieve the goals laid out in the plan.

    “I think the answer is yes,” Adams said.  “I think that is exactly what we are trying to compensate for by providing additional resources in the places that we need to have them.”

    Under the four-tier system, the lowest-performing schools – on a tier called “Superintendent Zone” – would receive the greatest level of support from the central office’s staff. Putting these procedures in place would cost the district $6.4 million and 18 district schools fall under this category, with a combined student body of 6,276 students this school year.

    The second tier is dubbed “Focus” schools, and 16 schools fall under the category. According to the draft proposal, the district would cover the costs for the plan by reallocating existing funds.

    The next tier of “Cluster” schools – 19 in total – would receive flexibility as to how they reach the overarching goals listed in the draft proposal. These schools will continue to receive support from central office staff, or “cluster” teams, made up of an associate superintendent and curriculum specialists in math, communication arts, science, art and music or social studies.

    The best academic performing schools, called “Autonomous,” will be given the greatest level of flexibility in meeting their goals. Fourteen schools qualify for this category, being schools that meet accreditation standards set by the state and have a principal with a minimum of three years of experience as a principal in the district.

    The district will ask for public comments on the plan at two upcoming meetings: 6-8 p.m., Thurs., March 27, 2014 at Vashon High School, and 10 a.m.-noon, Sat., March 29 at Central VPA High School. For those unable to attend the public forums, the power point presentation is available online at www.slps.org/presentation.   

    Edited for length and reprinted with permission from news.stlpublicradio.org