• Wells Fargo partners with district and foundation to help city schools

    Adams and Donahue
    Jane Donahue, president of the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, consulted with SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams during the “Shared Vision for Student Success” event hosted recently at the Wells Fargo Advisors Learning Center. Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American


    Posted: Friday, October 31, 2014 12:36 pm | Updated: 12:38 pm, Fri Oct 31, 2014.

    By Bridjes O’Neil

    Jane Donahue, president of the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, and SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams introduced plans for an “invigorated partnership” between the foundation and district recently at the Wells Fargo Advisors Learning Center. 

    “I’m thrilled to be here on the first phase of a collective journey to build a wide web of support for the students, teachers, administrators and families of the SLPS,” Donahue said at the “Shared Vision for Student Success” event.

    The foundation and district work to ensure that all SLPS students receive equitable educational opportunities. Founded in 1998, the foundation is the only funding organization with the unique and specific mission of supporting SLPS by mobilizing community resources and expertise. 

    During his remarks, Adams celebrated gains the district made within the past year toward regaining its full accreditation status. The provisionally accredited district earned 60.5 points on its Annual Performance Review, up 75 percent from last year, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

    “The needle is moving in the right direction,” Adams said. “But I think we all want it to move faster.”

    SLPS Foundation Board Chair Valerie Bell introduced event host Atul Kamra, senior managing director at Wells Fargo Advisors, as the “pioneering architect” of the partnership between SLPS and Wells Fargo Advisors.

    “We appreciate the whole team and are fortunate to have Wells Fargo leader Al Caiazzo on our board,” Bell said. Caiazzo is managing director at Wells Fargo Advisors.

    Wells Fargo Advisors forged a partnership with SLPS and the foundation in 2012 to ensure that students at SLPS attain their educational goals. Wells Fargo Advisors team members took a three-prong approach by organizing a Student Academy and Teacher/Principal Academy as well as an Engagement and Metrics Committee.   

    At the student level, Kamra said roughly 175 to 200 Wells Fargo Advisors team members serve as tutors or mentors for students at SLPS’ Dunbar Elementary, Carr Lane VPA and Vashon High School every week. The goals are to ensure that all students at Dunbar read at grade level; that students at Carr Lane are ready for high school; and that 100 percent of Vashon seniors graduate and move on to college, he said.

    Over the next three years, Donahue said, the foundation will work closely with the district to improve student outcomes in four key areas: Kindergarten readiness, postsecondary planning, student health and school leadership. It is a part of the district’s recently implemented Transformational Plan.

    Adams said the district first began expanding its early childhood education program in 2008 and that the number of three- to four-year-olds the district served has doubled from an estimated 1,200 to 2,300. Adams said he hopes to maintain this higher level of service.

    He linked access to early childhood educational opportunities with future student performance, citing data of current fourth graders who attended SLPS preschool. He said these students outperformed those who did not attend SLPS preschool in both communication arts and math.

    By 2016, the district will increase its number of school leaders by developing a principal recruitment and training program. And over the next three years, the district will seek to place college and career coaches in at least 10 of its high schools. The goal is to increase SLPS’ college enrollment rate by three to five percent.

    Additionally, the foundation will seek funding to implement evidence-based supplemental programs in academic tutoring and ACT preparation as well as improve student access to health and wellness.

    “We know we need to evolve in order to trigger accelerated success for students,” Donahue said.

    Shawn Williams is a 2008 graduate of Vashon High School and a corps Member at Teach for America – St. Louis. He teaches fourth grade at Pierre Laclede Elementary School. Williams was among several community and school leaders within the audience that stood and shared their vision for SLPS.

    His vision, Williams said, is for students “to want greatness for themselves. For them, to develop into world-class leaders who change the face of this nation.”

    Follow this reporter on Twitter: @BridjesONeil. E-mail this reporter: boneil@stlamerican.com.