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St. Louis Public Schools considers sponsoring Confluence Academies charter schools

Confluence Academy’s South City Academy
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The sun sets on the Confluence Academy’s South City Academy in Dutchtown in July.

St. Louis Public Schools might become a charter school sponsor. The district’s Board of Education will vote next week on a proposal to sponsor Confluence Academies, a network of multiple charter schools in St. Louis City.

Confluence Academies is currently sponsored by the University of Missouri-Columbia, but Mizzou is stepping away from that role after this school year for all of the charter schools it oversees.

Confluence Academies and SLPS have partnered on a few initiatives in recent years, including gun violence reduction and efforts to coordinate education among different school systems in the city. St. Louis City Board of Education President Matt Davis said if the sponsorship comes to fruition, that type of partnership will define the relationship.

“The autonomy stays,” Davis said. “There's no financial overlap, and there's no operational overlap. There's just going to be a new sort of partnership relationship.”

Charter school sponsors are supposed to hold schools accountable for improved academic results, and they can open schools or close them if they do not meet expectations.

There is a precedent for this type of relationship in Missouri; Kansas City Public Schools sponsors three charter schools. But Davis said it has been years since St. Louis Public Schools even considered a move like this.

The University of Missouri-Columbia’s sponsorship of charter schools has recently been under scrutiny. Last year, the state board of education removed MU’s authority to sponsor three charter schools, saying the university hadn’t met state standards for these relationships. The board also took away the university’s ability to sponsor additional charter schools in the future.

Then at the end of October, MU’s director of charter school sponsorship, Gerry Kettenbach, sent a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education saying the university is ending sponsorship of all its charter schools.

“The College of Education and Human Development has experienced changes in leadership over the last two years and the Charter School Sponsorship office faces changes in leadership next year,” Kettenbach wrote. “This is an opportune moment for the College to assess where it can best expend its resources to make an impact that it is uniquely positioned to do.”

This means charter schools Momentum Academy and Frontier Schools, which make up the rest of MU’s portfolio of charter schools, will also need to find new sponsors after this school year.

If the St. Louis City Board of Education does decide to sponsor Confluence Academies, there are still a few more steps before it would become official. If that does happen, sponsorship would start next school year.

Kate Grumke covers the environment, climate and agriculture for St. Louis Public Radio and Harvest Public Media.