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Normandy Turmoil Spills Over Into St. Louis County Executive's Contest

Steve Stenger
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The turmoil in the Normandy School District is spilling over into the race for St. Louis County executive. 

St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, put out a news release Monday morning calling for the Missouri State Board of Education to “reverse its decision preventing Normandy students from returning to schools they attended last year under Missouri’s transfer law.” Stenger wasreferring to the state board's creation of a new Normandy Schools Collaborative with no accreditation status.

After the state board's decision, the Francis Howell School District announced that it would not accept Normandy transfer students in the coming school year.

“The children of Normandy and their families have been traumatized by the turmoil in the Normandy School District,” Stenger said in a statement. “We need to do everything possible to assure our kids have access to any services that might be available.”

Stenger called for the council to work with the Children’s Services Fund to allocate money “for the Normandy School District children.” Stenger has been critical of that fund for accumulating a hefty surplus.

Stenger's release also criticized Mike Jones, one of Dooley’s advisors who is also on the state Board of Education, for stating at the state board meeting “there are going to be causalities with what we are going to do today.”

“Even though the county cannot enact statewide education policy, it is our obligation to fight for the children in St. Louis County and devote what county resources we have to deal with the unfortunate aftermath,” Stenger said. “The Dooley administration has sat idly by and through Mike Jones … supporting the whipsawing of the children of Normandy. The Dooley administration has opposed using the Children’s Services Fund for Normandy and other unaccredited school districts. I will not.”

Dooley responds

Dooley’s campaign sent out a blistering response to Stenger’s release on Monday afternoon.

Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley

It included a quote from Dooley stating that the “Francis Howell decision is disappointing but not unexpected given the recent decision to waive Normandy's unaccredited status.” 

“The focus now should be on putting the right people and policies in place in the Normandy district to ensure a quality education for the students,” Dooley said. “St. Louis County will continue to support Normandy and Superintendent (Ty McNichols) any way we can. We have a number of programs in the district already and where it makes sense to invest additional funding or support we will do that.”

The campaign release then accused Stenger of “once again showing that he will say anything and do anything to get attention and try and boost his name recognition during this election.” 

“Mr. Stenger has said nothing and done nothing to support Normandy or Riverview Gardens school districts the entire time he has been on the council. When he was chairman of the council, he said and did nothing,” the release stated. “The challenges facing Normandy have existed during Stenger’s entire tenure on the council and he hasn’t lifted a finger nor uttered a word. Now that he’s trying to get votes he wants to use Normandy and the families caught in this difficult situation to curry political favor. It’s loathsome.”

Dooley’s release went onto say that Stenger “has no understanding” of the Children’s Service Fund “or of the issues in the Normandy School District.” It went on to say that the fund “has a separate board with clear guidelines for the allocation of revenue.” It also said the fund is supporting agencies helping the Normandy School District, including Big Brothers, Big Sister, Crider Health Center and Epworth Center.

“County Executive Dooley has held meetings with superintendents to educate himself on issues and provides resources where appropriate,” the release continued. “He has met with Jennings, Normandy, Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood and others — he has been hands on and it has not been part of a campaign trick.”

If Stenger follows through on his request for a committee of hearing at tomorrow’s meeting, it could prompt another confrontation between Dooley and the council. Most council members have aligned with Stenger on various issues, which has led to testy clashes in recent weeks.

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.