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Reversing course, Normandy board votes to pay tuition bills

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Board member Terry Artis voted "hell, no" as the Normandy school board voted to approve paying tuition for students who transferred out of the district. The 5-1 vote was made in front of a packed house of more than 80.

he Department of Elementary and Secondary Education "made clear to us that if the district is not making the payments, DESE will make the payments," Artis said before the vote. "[It's like] they're putting a pistol in our hands and telling us to kill ourselves."

At issue are bills from 17 receiving districts for more than $1.3 million in tuition. The largest bill is from Francis Howell in St. Charles County, for more than $500,000; bills for more than $100,000 were submitted by Ferguson-Florissant, Ladue and University City.

The Normandy board had already partially reversed last month’s vote against paying some bills. It approved $108,635 in transportation bills for Normandy students attending Francis Howell schools. Howell is the one district that Normandy designated to which it would pay transportation.

The board also approved an agenda item listed as "personnel actions." The details of the personnel actions were discussed in an executive session and were not immediately available.

Last month the board voted to lay off 103 teachers and offer early retirement incentives to 98 more. The expectation tonight was approval of a finalized list of teachers and staff members affected by the action.

At the beginning of the meeting, Raquan Smith, 18, a student at Normandy High School praised his teachers and urged the board to reconsider the layoffs.

"Statistics say I should have dropped out, been incarcerated, or be dead," Smith told the board. "I feel I can call some of teachers my family."

The board also approved a temporary amendment to the district's sick leave policy. The amendment, which "sunsets" on Jan. 1 was designed specifically for the teachers and staff affected by the personnel action.

The meeting also featured school accountability plans presented by the principals of Normandy High School, Normandy Middle School, Jefferson Elementary, Washington Elementary, and Lucas Crossing Elementary.

Dale Singer contributed information to this story.