SLPS Superintendent: Unaccredited school districts need more help

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-Monday, August 12, is the first day of classes for St. Louis city public schools.  It will be the first time in five years SLPS has entered the school year with state accreditation, and Sunday the superintendent was quick to criticize state officials for the dire situation other struggling districts are in.

Speaking at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis, Dr. Kelvin Adams said the state is not doing enough to help the Riverview Gardens and Normandy districts, who St. Louis just missed joining in the mass transfer chaos that has erupted this summer.

"There has to be better solutions for kids in the state of Missouri," he told parishioners.

And he made a dire prediction about the end result of the current state law requiring those two districts to spend more than $35 million to transfer their own kids to accredited districts.

"I know as a fact those districts will probably be bankrupt by January just because they’re losing their population and losing kids."

Adams' district missed those troubles by just ten months.  It was last October that the state Board of Education restored provisional accreditation to the SLPS.  Had that not happened, the 40,000 plus students in St. Louis' schools would also be eligible for transfer.  Adams is pleased with the accreditation step, but says there's much more ahead.

"It’s a small step, quite frankly.  It’s a big step in terms of the scope of what we’re trying to get done, but it’s a small step in terms of what we really, really want for every single kid."

He says the success they've achieved in his time here has come from strong support by the state appointed board, and a decision making process that relies more on hard numbers than subjective "gut feelings."

"Attendance data. Student achievement data.  Teacher attendance data.  How teacher’s teach.  Just data around academic results," he said are the sorts of things that guide his choices."

And data is also a big part of the reason he and other school system officials were fanning out across two dozen city churches, Sunday.  They are asking the people in the pews to check on kids, any kids they know, to make sure they're ready for school, Monday.  He says making sure they're in the seats is vital.

"The data shows the students who are in school on the first day have a dramatic difference in terms of achievement and attendance."

Parents we spoke to share in the new optimism.  Joyce Hall has a first grader and a third grader in the system, and says she cast her lot with the SLPS early.

"At one point when other parents were pulling their kids out, I stayed. I said, you know what, we as parents have to do something, too.  You have to work with the teachers also.  You can leave and say the grass is greener on the other side and you get over there and it might be the exact same thing.  So I stayed."

Website: St. Louis Public Schools