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Commentary: Normandy Superintendent Urges Legislature To Act

Ty McNichols
Normandy School District

As superintendent of the Normandy School District, I urge our legislators and governor to reform the school transfer law before the end of this year’s session. Getting this done now is critical for our district and for metropolitan districts throughout the state.

We are grateful that our leaders already have a bill in the works, SB493. While no bill is ever perfect, and there are issues in the bill that are controversial, the underlying impact of adjusting the transfer ruling to reality on the ground – not to mention the effort to protect the Normandy Reformation plan -- cannot be ignored.

SB493 will relieve the tuition cost for unaccredited districts. Relieving the tuition pressure now will guarantee a local option for parents and families who want to choose schools that are close to home for their children.

Relieving the tuition pressure now will also allow our teachers and administrators to end this year with the assurance of professional stability looking ahead. Since last summer, uncertainty about the future has been a terrible consequence of the transfer situation.

Regarding stability, we in Normandy publicly thank the General Assembly for recognizing how important it is to keep our kids in their local school district for the remainder of this highly unusual school year. A special thanks to our legislators Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Rep. Clem Smith, who have worked tirelessly to protect the students and the community of the Normandy School District.

Now SB493 needs to become law this session so our district can retain the talented staff that is so hard to recruit to an urban district.

Looking to next year and beyond, Normandy is proud and excited to implement a bold approach to school reform that is based on proven practices and research. Indeed, one of the key amendments to the tuition fix ensures that we will be able to implement our reformation plan.

We expect our plan to provide the blueprint for urban school districts around the country. It has been enthusiastically endorsed by academic experts at Harvard, the University of Illinois, and the University of Georgia, among other institutions; as well as community development professionals working in New York City, Hartford, Conn., and Boston. Here at home, as we share it out in the community, we are receiving 100 percent positive feedback from our families.

Developed by Normandy staff and faculty and based on data from the community we serve, our reformation plan brings together an enriched and more hands-on curriculum, social and emotional wraparound services, and strong ties with our community partners and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

I am proud to say that the greater Normandy community -- including our families and non-profit and corporate partners -- has been united in support of the district and our plan for comprehensive, bottom-up reform. We invite Missourians to have a look.

And one final thought. Whether children go to public schools, independent schools, charter school, or parochial schools, and whether families live in an urban, suburban or rural part of this state, every child deserves a high-quality education. That is why we developed the Normandy Reformation Plan. Our plan was made in Normandy, by Normandy and for Normandy, and when it works in Normandy, we will give hope to struggling districts everywhere.

The people of the Normandy School District believe that when Missourians work together, we will get schooling right for every child, no matter what school their families choose.

Tyrone J. McNichols has been superintendent of schools in the Normandy School District since July 1, 2013.