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Jennings School District taps McCoy as next superintendent

Jennings Freshman Kevion McKay shakes hands with Superintendent-elect Art McCoy Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Jennings Freshman Kevion McKay shakes hands with Superintendent-elect Art McCoy Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.

Updated 6:30 p.m. with comments from McCoy, board-- The Jennings School District has selected a superintendent to fill the shoes of the woman credited with helping the district regain accreditation. Art McCoy will replace Tiffany Anderson when she takes charge of Topeka Public Schools in July.

McCoy was previously the superintendent for the Ferguson-Florissant School district but stepped downtwo years ago after that district’s board put him on administrative leave.

Hundreds of parents and residents protestedthe move and reasons the board put McCoy on leave were never made public. Some questioned whether race was a factor. McCoy is black, as are the majority of students in Ferguson-Florissant. At the time the Ferguson-Florissant School Board had no black members.

After his departure, McCoy took a position as chief academic officer and superintendent in residence at the Mind Research Institute and helped developed school administrator training for the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. 

McCoy said Friday he has since worked things out with the Ferguson-Florissant board, and he plans on running Jennings as if he were the district’s father and the board were the district’s mother.

“I will educate each child as my own and my priority is to work with the board whom I’m married to, to communicate endlessly to make sure that we provide everything for our children,” McCoy said.

Jennings school board president Harold Austin said he recruited McCoy to come to Jennings as soon as he heard McCoy was available.

“We’re elated that we have a man of his stature and credibility as an educator to be the superintendent of our district,” Austin said.

McCoy spent most of his childhood in Jennings, and said it was good to be coming home.

The district is paying McCoy $205,000 a year for a two year superintendent contract. Austin said the contract offers an option for a two-year extension at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

McCoy will also serve as deputy superintendent from March 14 until the end of June to help transition the school to his leadership.

Continuing Anderson’s legacy

McCoy is replacing current superintendent Tiffany Anderson, who has earned national praisefor turning around academics in the high-poverty district. She trimmed central office staff and funneled the savings into classrooms, brought trauma-informed teaching to the district and recently opened a shelter for homeless students. Last December, the Missouri State Board of Education upgradedJennings' status from provisional to full accreditation.  

In an interview earlier this week, Anderson said the success in Jennings can continue after her departure.

“It’s not me making it happen. I’m just pointing the direction, showing the path and creating the system. The power in this continuing, this system continuing, is show it’s possible anywhere,” Anderson said.

Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson takes her turn as a crossing guard.
Credit Jennings School District
Jennings' departing superintendent, Tiffany Anderson, takes her turn as a crossing guard.

Anderson is leaving to take a new job running schools in Topeka, Kan. Topeka has 14,000 students, nearly five times the enrollment of Jennings, and about 70 percent of its students come from poor families, compared with 100 percent in Jennings.

She’ll be the first African-American woman to run Topeka Public School, home to the historic 1954 case Brown vs. Board of Education case on school segregation.    

Calling Anderson a champion, McCoy said Friday  he plans to continue her legacy of pushing for academic excellence in Jennings.

“We not only want to not maintain the level of achievement that we have, which is 81 percent on accreditation, we want to be accredited with distinction,” McCoy said. “We will do it and show others how to do it.”

“What things will make that happen? Making sure that we continue an accelerated curriculum that’s at least two or three grade levels above, making sure that we have dual credit options in high school that allows for an A.A. certification upon graduation and an aligned job even before the graduate from high school,” McCoy added.

McCoy said he will also continue Anderson’s cost-saving measures and hands-on approach — including serving as a crossing guard.

“It’s a commitment of mine to be in a classroom every day and to give a demonstration lesson at least once or twice every month,” McCoy said.

Follow Tim and Camille on Twitter @TimSLloyd and @cmpcamille.

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.