Missouri education board returns St. Louis-area school districts to local control

Missouri State Board of Education approves removal of state-appointed board members at Riverview Gardens School District and Normandy Schools Collaborative

By: - October 19, 2023 6:30 am

The Missouri State Board of Education discusses improvements in Normandy Schools Collaborative's educational program with the district's superintendent Michael Triplett (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

Two St. Louis-area school districts will return to full local governance after years of state education officials overseeing their boards.

The Missouri State Board of Education decided Tuesday that Riverview Gardens School District and Normandy Schools Collaborative had shown enough progress to return to traditional school-board elections.

The state currently has appointed board members at Riverview Gardens and Normandy to create administrative boards, which will dissolve at the end of June.

Missouri State Board of Education President Charlie Shields and Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven open Tuesday’s board meeting, with a full agenda that lasted most of the work day (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven described Tuesday’s vote as a “big deal” and thanked state-appointed board members for their assistance.

Although the state has provided oversight during the past decade, leaders say it is not a “state takeover,” as some describe it. Local administrators have established programs and hired staff to improve their educational offerings, allowing them to show the state board that learning is growing.

“You hear the term ‘state takeover,’ but it’s still all the people in the community,” Normandy Schools Collaborative Superintendent Michael Triplett told The Independent.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said people view it as a takeover because of the state’s appointment of board members. But the state, she said, serves an advisory role.

“The state appointed the members so that they could do the governance piece and make sure that things were going as the state wanted them to go in that direction,” she said.

The state sought extra oversight of Riverview Gardens and Normandy Schools Collaborative after the districts’ school performance scores, which are assessed annually, dipped into the unaccredited range.

Riverview Gardens received scores in the unaccredited range from 2008 to 2016, and Normandy was unaccredited from 2013 to 2017, according to Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data. 

Both districts are currently provisionally accredited.

The school districts have been required to give regular performance updates to the state board over this time, which ends with Tuesday’s vote. Some board members expressed a desire to have these reports continue along with other provisionally accredited schools.

The state’s scoring system for district performance changed this year to the Missouri School Improvement Program 6 (MSIP6), and more districts scored in the provisionally accredited range. Riverview Gardens and Normandy Schools Collaborative are among 112 local educational agencies in the range, and two charter schools scored in the unaccredited range.

DESE is not using the first two years of MSIP6 data for accreditation.

Over a decade

Riverview Gardens School District has had a special administrative board since May 2010 with three state-appointed members.

The district has been shifting toward local control since December 2021, when the State Board of Education approved a local election for two Riverview board members.

In October 2022, the state board approved an additional three locally elected board members, whom voters chose in April.

When the administrative board dissolves, Riverview Gardens’ community members can vote for two school-board members to fill the spots left vacant by the current state appointees.

Normandy Schools Collaborative, previously the Normandy School District, has had a joint executive governing board instead of a traditional school board since 2014.

In December 2021, the State Board of Education voted to begin Normandy’s transition toward local governance. The seven-member board gained two locally-elected leaders in June 2022 and an additional two in June of this year.

When the joint executive governing board dissolves on June 30, 2024, three locally elected board members can fill the state’s vacant spots.

Candidate filing for both boards will be open Dec. 5-26.

Administrators from Normandy Schools Collaborative and Riverview Gardens are hopeful that the right candidates will choose to get involved in the district.

“We have a board that is focused on our students and how we can progress, how we can get our students to be more productive citizens, build communities, environments where they want to be, where they’re learning and growing and where it’s a family nurturing environment,” said Tanya Patton, who will become Riverview Gardens’ incoming interim superintendent.


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Annelise Hanshaw
Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.