Crowd of 1,200 turns out to weigh in on SLPS
By Adam Allington, KWMU
St. Louis, MO – A crowd of 1,200 people packed into an auditorium at Harris-Stowe State University on Tuesday.
The public forum was hosted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to gather input about a potential takeover of the St. Louis School District.
Deputy Education Commissioner Bert Schulte and DESE's St. Louis representative Robert Taylor took notes as one person after another came forward to say what turned out to by an underlying theme.
"We need to be clear," said Liz Brown, "the citizens that are here tonight that have taken their time out to come and speak to you are saying one simple thing. Keep your hands off our district!"
The choices before DESE aren't cut and dry they can dissolve the current school board and let the Mayor, Governor and president of the board of Aldermen each appoint a member to a transitional board. Or they can keep the board intact hope the district solves its problems internally.
Of those who spoke, most shared the opinion of Mary Armstrong, President of the St. Louis teachers union.
"Our position right now is not to have the state come in and take over the school district," said Armstrong.
"When the elections take place in April the issue of governance will take care of itself and then we can all work together and try to improve the finances of the district."
Several St. Louis Politicians including Senator Maida Coleman and State Representative Jamilah Nasheed, have also asked the state not to take action prior to Aprils school board elections.
The current president of the school board, Veronica O'Brien was one of the few in attendance last night who has consistently supported some form of state intervention.
The forum's meadiator, Dr. Charles Brown of the Wellston School District had to plead with the audience for close to 10 minutes to allow Ms. O'Brien to give her short statement.
"I fully support the recommendations to allow state intervention and institute the transitional board effective immediately," said O'Brien.
Opponents of a state takeover point to recent progress by the district toward achieving provisional accreditation.
DESE's next meeting is scheduled for February 15th in Jefferson City. Whether the state will make a move to revoke the school districts provisional accreditation and institute an appointed board is up for debate. Threats of law suits have already been voiced if the state attempts a takeover of the district.