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State board of education will wait to make decision on Normandy schools

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri's top educator says the state may have to take emergency action in the wake of a circuit judge's ruling last week that declared the Normandy schools to be unaccredited.

In a meeting of the state board of education on Tuesday, Margie Vandeven, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the board will consider calling an emergency meeting in the next month if the circuit judge’s ruling forces them to make any decisions on the district and its future.

In recent weeks, besides the ruling from Judge Michael Burton, the district has seen its superintendent resign, to be replaced by the head of its state-appointed governing board. On the state level, Vandeven started her job on Jan. 1, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a new general counsel.

Administrators from the district were planning to attend the meeting but were forced to postpone until next month because of weather. Maureen Clancy-May, the former Bayless superintendent who is working with the district administrators on behalf of DESE, provided a brief update to the board.

Clancy-May said Normandy’s interim superintendent Charles Pearson is currently evaluating school principals.

“Dr. Pearson has been very thoroughly evaluating the role of the principals, so we do anticipate there will be some turnover there,” Clancy-May said. “But again, very well thought out and with the evaluation system in place, it’s been a very helpful tool.”

She also said the coaching staffs that came in to help with teacher training have been making progress.

Ty McNichols, the district’s former superintendent, resigned last month. Vandeven said Tuesday she doesn’t expect the search for a new superintendent to set back any of the district’s timetables for improvement.

“They are going to do what they can to make sure they expedite the process to get somebody in place to start the school year,” Vandeven said. “They’re planning for the smoothest transition possible. Dr. Pearson is someone who’s been engaged from the beginning of the year.”

Board president Peter Herschend said the board needs to look at Normandy and how to solve it from a policy standpoint to avoid similar situations in the future.

“There’s a lot of things we can’t do at this level. We can’t operate anything, which may be a blessing in some cases,” Herschend said. “The longer term question is, for a Normandy, what else do we need to look at from a policy standpoint that we might not have thought about.

“Normandy is not an isolated case. It happens to be the focus of our attention right now, but there will be other Normandys potentially downstream.”

At least for now, Vandeven said, Normandy's Joint Executive Governing Board will remain at four members. Charles Pearson resigned as head of the board when he took over as interim superintendent.

The board was also briefed on this year’s legislative bills regarding student transfers.

Vandeven said the board needs to meet before it determines its stance on the bills. She said the board ideally would come up with a situation that benefits the students and their new districts without harming their old districts. 

“It’s not necessarily the transferring that’s negatively impacting (the districts), it’s some of the tuition costs and the transportation costs and all of that that’s associated with it,” she said. “If we’re able to put together something that is reasonable for both the sending and receiving district, we’ll help all kids in a much better way.”