© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Francis Howell Could Get Up To 350 Normandy Students

Francis Howell website

The superintendent of the Francis Howell school district says that if court rulings continue to favor transfers from the new Normandy Schools Collaborative, as many as 350 students could end up returning to Francis Howell.

Last year, Howell ended the year with 430 students who had transferred under the law that says students living in an unaccredited school district can transfer to nearby accredited districts. Normandy had designated Francis Howell as the district to which it would pay tuition, so most students who left Normandy transferred there.

When the state took over Normandy as of July 1, it changed the district’s status to accredited as a state oversight district, so the transfer law no longer would no apply. State education officials said Normandy students could still transfer to the districts they attended last year, if the districts voted to accept them.

Most districts did so, and others – including Ritenour, Pattonville and Ferguson-Florissant – dropped their initial opposition after a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge ruled that the state board of education had not followed the proper procedure in changing Normandy’s accreditation status.

Francis Howell still is the lone holdout. Its stance remains it will accept any transfer students that the court orders it to take – that totals 17 so far – but otherwise it will not accept students who do not live in the district.

“Our school district remains committed to providing each child who comes to us a quality year of learning,” Sloan said in the letter to parents. “That is our responsibility as a public school district.”

But, she said, the district does not believe that transfers are the best way for Normandy to rebuild its schools or for Normandy students to get a good education.

“We firmly believe that strong school systems are the underpinnings of strong communities,” Sloan wrote, “and we will continue to protect the interests of our school district. I encourage all parents, staff, and community members to continue to reach out to our decision-makers and urge them to find solutions that will enable every child to get a quality education in their community. Working together we can help find solutions.”

Joshua Schindler, the lawyer who has so far successfully represented Normandy transfer students who have sought to return to the districts they attended last year, has said he plans to continue filing suit on behalf of groups of such students until they all win the right to transfer. The lawsuits have been underwritten by the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, whose primary funding comes from Rex Sinquefield.

Credit File photo

When it issued the rules under which Normandy students could transfer, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education urged districts to accept a tuition rate of $7,200 instead of the tuition rates of up to nearly $20,000 that were charged last year.

Some districts have agreed to that request; others have said they will accept returning transfers but at higher tuition rates, which vary. In Francis Howell, for example, the rate was set at $11,421.

Last week, DESE acknowledged that because of the ruling by Judge Michael Burton, it will pay whatever tuition a receiving district charges. Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro has said that if the number of transfers increases significantly, Normandy could be in financial trouble as early as next month.

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.