We are sharing the St. Louis Schools Watch Newsletter’s Candidate Survey in lieu of drafting and cat herding answers to our own survey. Survey answers have been reformated as one paragraph answers without bullets, italics, ALL CAPS, etc..
In order of candidate filing…
1. Please supply a brief autobiography including relevant employment and academic degrees.
Adam Layne: Adam Layne is an education advocate who has been driving toward educational equity and excellence in the city of St. Louis where he began his professional career. Adam began his career in 2011, joining Teach For America and teaching Algebra I, Algebra II, and Trigonometry to students at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy on North Grand. In 2014, he stepped into a new role as the Scholar Support & College Access Director for InspireSTL, an education access and support nonprofit serving students in the city as part of a 10-year experience. While there, Adam built curriculum necessary for running successful mentorship, leadership, educational excellence, and college access programs. In 2016, Adam transitioned to becoming the Director of the InspireSTL program and during his time, 100% of students graduated on-time from high school with an over 90% college persistence rate. Adam currently continues to build culturally responsive curriculum in St. Louis for various programs, and also does diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings for middle and high school students and staff. Adam currently is working on a research project at Washington University in their Academy on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Adam is a native of Boston, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He received his Master of Education in Secondary Education and Curriculum Development from UMSL. Adam lives in the 18th ward as a resident of the Lewis Place neighborhood.
David Merideth: I am a 1991 alum of SLPS, father of 11 (4 current SLPS students and 4 SLPS alumni), retired Air Force Officer, and Realtor in the St Louis area. Since I retired, I’ve spent the majority of my time working with students and schools through PTO organizations and the district Parent Action Council. I have served on district committees to select new principals, improve communication, and evaluate current school start times. I was also one of 2 parent representatives on the SAB task force on future governance of our school district. I currently hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle University.
Louis Cross: I am a native St. Louisan. I attended SLPS and graduated from Sumner High School. Married 48 years to Gail Cross. We have two daughters, Lynn & Kelly. Graduated with a BS in Physical Education & Psychology from Lincoln University. Masters & EDS in Guidance & Counseling from SIU Edwardsville. Received an Administrative Certification from Lindenwood University. I worked as a Physical Education Instructor, Guidance Counselor, Academic Coach/ Instructional Coordinator, Principal and Interim Superintendent for E. H. Lyle Charter Schools. 18 years adjunct professor at Lindenwood University.
Barbara Anderson: Born and raised in St. Louis, I am a graduate of St. Louis Public Schools, as are my husband, daughter, and granddaughter. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Harris Teacher’s College, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University. I also hold a Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership and a Doctorate in Education from St. Louis University. I have been a student, parent, grandparent, literacy coach, and principal. These experiences give me a unique perspective as to what happens in our educational institutions on a ground /grass roots level. I have taught on the elementary, middle, and university levels throughout my professional endeavors. I am first, and foremost, an educator.
Bill Haas: I’m a semi-retired corporate lawyer with 20 years college and secondary teaching experience, currently a daily substitute for Ritenour Schools. I’ve served four terms on the St.Louis School Board. Among my accomplishments are the 9th grade dropout prevention initiative in 2001 or so which people credit with preventing our losing accreditation, working with Mary Armstrong to settle teacher negotiations in 2005 when the Slay slate of school board members was trying to break the union, initiating the audit of the St. Louis Schools from my friend Tom Schweich’s Auditor’s office, and this past school year initiating a pilot program of a second qualified adult in early child classrooms to improve reading scores, and other initiatives to improve early childhood reading.
Tracee A. Miller: I come from a very middle-of-the-road town and schools in Indiana, but from a family of teachers who inspired a love of learning at a young age. In the same way that some children fantasize about a dream home or car, she regularly spent afternoons imagining the perfect school. It wasn’t until I met my husband and visited his elite prep that I realized that my dream was a reality only for folks who could afford it. The distance between his academic experience and my own was vast, but the distance between mine and those of my SLPS students is infinite. I’ve lived in St. Louis since graduating from Mizzou, and have worked in St. Louis Public Schools as a middle school math teacher, and then as a contractor coaching teachers and managing academic intervention programs. I now work at Khan Academy where their mission is to provide a free world-class education to everyone everywhere. I have undergraduate degrees in English and Secondary Education, an MEd, and am currently a PhD student in Education Policy at UMSL.
Daniel McCready: I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, I attended public schools K-12. I earned a BA from Denison University in Economics, Religion and Spanish. I taught 3rd and 5th grade math at Bond Hill Elementary, a Cincinnati Public School. I learned from master teachers an important lesson: kids need to love their teachers if they’re going to learn.
After attending graduate school at WUSTL, I fell in love with St. Louis. My wife and I bought a home in Benton Park West. I started working for KIPP Victory Academy immediately following graduation.
2. The SLPS is currently governed by an appointed Special Administrative Board, whose current term ends June, 30 2019. The elected board has limited responsibilities. While possible, it is not guaranteed the elected board will return to power during the term for which you are running because the state board of education may extend the SAB for as many terms as they wish. Why, then, are you running? If you believe the elected board will return to power, please explain why.
Adam Layne: I am running because I believe that our young people have so much potential and are pivotal pieces to the positive transformation of our city. We, as board members, have the opportunity to address obstacles in education and maximize opportunities. Though it is not a guarantee that the elected board will gain back power and thus an increased ability to drive and impact change, it is crucial to ensure the right people are on the board to lead this effort. Now, more than ever, the residents of St. Louis need to be demanding of and intelligent about who we choose to represent our young people and our families. I believe the elected board should have power because that means that the residents of the city have power. The board members, chosen by the people, should represent the best interests of the people and work relentlessly for the people. I believe there is one way the board will and should regain power other than simply being handed it by the State. Elected officials often are willing to deeply engage the public when they need votes. They’ll knock, send out mailers, put up signs, and make countless visits and trips around the city. When they get elected, however, that outreach stops abruptly. We go from prioritizing knocking on every door to expecting everyone to show up to a monthly meeting having not heard from us the other 29 to 30 other days of the month. As an elected board, we need to take that same energy we had during campaign season and apply it to after the election. We need to be in schools and go to communities to build advocacy and show we value the voice of the students and families of SLPS. We have to do our job to have the students and families of SLPS renew their confidence in us as a board. This will take work. I stand by this, and I hope to be the person to bring this to fruition with my fellow board members. If in June the state doesn’t believe we should regain power, we would have a strong base of families that would write letters or show up on the board’s behalf. Right now, I don’t believe we have that. No matter the outcome in June, our biggest priority as a board is determining how we instill confidence of an elected board back into the students, families, teachers, and staff of SLPS.
David Merideth: I am running because I want to help ensure the transition of governance returns to the elected board. Having served on the SAB advisory committee, I saw the community support for this transition, and I want to use my drive to see it become a reality.
Louis Cross: I am running because I have the expertise and knowledge to move the district forward in a progressive, positive direction, in a facilities management, academic excellence and financial stability. I am a forty year veteran of St. Louis Public school system serving in numerous capacities. The appointed board has been in power for ten years and has requested to be removed from power and that the elected board be returned to their position of authority. They have done what they set out to do in restoring our school district to full accreditation for the last three consecutive years.
Barbara Anderson: I am first, and foremost, an educator. Having been a student, parent, grandparent, teacher, instructional coordinator, and building principal, I have a unique perspective as to what really happens on a daily basis in our classrooms. The district has achieved full accreditation. It was originally stated that should the district achieve full accreditation, the elected board would transition back into decision making power.
Bill Haas: I ran in 2010, after 5 year hiatus from the board, because I thought we would be regaining governing then, and was disappointed that we didn’t. I think the writing is on the wall that we’ll be regaining governance by June of 2019 at the latest. The SAB is tired of governance, as is the community of their governance, and after their recent hearings, they recommended return of governance, and I think the state board is prepared to follow that recommendation.
Tracee A. Miller: I believe that the elected board will return to power because the community will demand it. The Special Administrative Board does not represent the community in the same way as the Elected Board, and the Elected Board is committed to the community values of transparency, accountability, and accessibility. I am running for this position because I believe in the ability of the Elected Board to improve in its current decision-making capacity, to come back into power, and to make decisions that reflect the diverse community that we serve.
Daniel McCready: I’m running because my wife and I are building a life here in St. Louis and, like many city residents, we’re trying to decide what schools would make a good fit for our future family. Regardless of whether power is restored to the elected board, I believe that it’s important for St. Louisans to engage with educational issues, specifically how we ensure that the children of St. Louis have choice-filled lives. If my run for school board gives me a platform to discuss new ideas with engaged citizens, then I’ve already won.
3. What is your understanding of the role of a school board member and what do you want to accomplish as a board member?
Adam Layne: I believe that school board members have a dual responsibility: to govern and to advocate. As a school board member, we have a responsibility to examine and analyze the policies that govern our district for the purpose of ensuring those policies are the best to serve the families and students of our district. Also, with governance comes the responsibility of ensuring the superintendent is the most capable individual, able to lead in all district-wide matters, and is held accountable for the results of the schools in out district. Lastly with governance, the board is responsible for ensuring proper financial management of district funds. The second responsibility, advocacy, is just as important. We, as board members, should be voices for the people we serve. We have a responsibility to visible, to learn from our community, to give our constituents opportunities to be heard, and ensure that we take action on and value the voices of our community. I don’t see one as being more important than the other.
Louis Cross: The primary role of each of the board members is to develop, policies and procedures to be carried out by the superintendent.
David Merideth: I believe a school board member’s main role is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of the local community. What I’d like to accomplish is a community run top-down review of the district. Then, with the ability to help shape the budget, be able to drive some of the large-scale changes that will best benefit our current student population.
Barbara Anderson: My understanding of the role of a board member is that that person is one of a group who is dedicated to a shared vision of solid and effective educational foundation for all students. Board members must have high expectations for all students and staff. It is expected that St. Louis Public Schools will be the framework for this expectation. (Inspect what you expect. Dr. Lynn Beckwith}
Bill Haas: A board member sets policy (which means different things at different times), hires the superintendent, helps set goals for the district, and dialogues with the superintendent about means to reach those goals. The superintendent’s role is to implement those plans to achieve those goals and generally administer the day to day operations of the district.
Tracee A. Miller: The candidate did not supply a response.
Daniel McCready: It’s the job of a school board member to enact policies that improve scholarly achievement across the district. I’d like to focus specifically on student culture, because children learn from people they love. It starts with collecting information on how children feel about their school, their teachers and their administrators.
4. Are you the parent or grandparent of children who currently attend or recently graduated from the SLPS? Did you attend and/or graduate from the SLPS? Have you ever worked for the SLPS or are you related to a current or former employee? Are you now or have you in the past served as a board member? If you are not an SLPS parent, graduate, former employee or relation of one, or board member, do you have any other connection to the SLPS?
Adam Layne: I appreciate my connection to SLPS. While I have no children, I taught math at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy and consider each of the hundreds of students I taught over the years to be my family. Aside from my direct years of experience in the classroom, I’ve had the pleasure of regularly walking the halls of every SLPS middle and high school over the years as the program I directed, InspireSTL, worked closely with teachers and building administrators to provide holistic services and support to middle and high school students in the city. I have many relationships in SLPS that I truly value and have always reinforced two truths: we have and endless supply of talented students in our district and an abundance of dedicated teachers and adults eager to serve them. I have served on a board before. I currently serve on the board of Kairos Academies, a charter school opening in south St. Louis city that will provide personalized learning and individualized, 1-to-1 coaching to students. I did not graduate from an SLPS school as I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts.
David Merideth: I am a 1991 alumni of Central Visual and Performing Arts HS (CVPA). I have 4 children that have graduated from SLPS and 4 children still in the school district.
Louis Cross: No. Yes. Yes. No. Trustee, Public School Retirement System of the City of St. Louis.
Barbara Anderson: Our granddaughter, Chanel Smith, a graduate of Clyde C. Miller, is our most recent graduate of St. Louis Public Schools. I first attended SLPS at the age of four at Marshall Elementary, and graduated from O’Fallon/McKinley in June, 1970. I was first appointed as classroom teacher in Sept., 1976. I retired from St. Louis Public Schools on June 30, 2012. I have never served as board member.
Bill Haas: No. No. I was a substitute for the district for the 1991-1992 school year, and again for the school years between 2007 and 2010 after I went back on the board. And was a board member from 1997-2005, and again 2010 to present.
Tracee A. Miller: I am the godmother of a student who is a senior in SLPS, thought I did not attend school in the district myself. I worked as a 6-8 teacher and contractor in grades 2-12 in schools across the district. I have no served as a board member, but I have experienced the impact of board decisions from a wide variety of angles and look forward to addressing them so that others have an easier path than my godson has had as a student, and easier than I had in my multiple roles with the district.
Daniel McCready: I have no connection to SLPS. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio and attended public schools K-12 there.
5. What are your thoughts about the Special Administrative Board which currently governs the district?
Adam Layne: I know who they are and what they’ve done, but my opinion of them stems mainly from the SAB meetings I’ve attended. I can speak to my impressions from those meetings. They occasionally ask tough questions and demand a certain level of accountability during the meetings I’ve attended, however I wonder about he follow through and commitment to equity for all St. Luis city residents as it pertains to education and educated communities. I will also say that while regaining accreditation doesn’t mean that every SLPS student is receiving a high-quality education and experience within our schools.
David Merideth: While I disagree with the tactics utilized to enable the SAB takeover of the district, I must recognize many of the improvements they have been able to implement. Yet, while it might have made sense to have an unelected entity oversee the district while it was still unaccredited, now that SLPS is fully accredited the residents of the city deserve to have the same right as every other accredited district to elect our own school board.
Louis Cross: The candidate did not supply a response.
Barbara Anderson: The State Appointed Board was appointed according to state guidelines. Since the district has achieved full accreditation, it is time for board members elected by the community to transition into authority.
Bill Haas: Dont get me started. Ok, you’ve got me started. I think they’re well meaning and have done the best they can. It seems obvious that the SAB has been run by Rick Sullivan and Richard Gaines. I think 10 years is too long to have been in governance, but that is not their fault. Student achievement was essentially flat under them and I’m not sure what to make of that because I have high respect for Dr. Adams, so I can only assume that achievement was not an issue the SAB excelled in promoting. I think I would fault the SAB most on thinking they had a monopoly on wisdom and what was best for the district and not involving the Elected Board in a continuous dialogue and advisory capacity. The district would have been much better off for that collaboration.
Tracee A. Miller: I understand the necessity, under Missouri law, to appoint this board, and respect their vote to return power to the Elected Board. I have not seen transparent decision-making or foundation change while this board has been in power, and I look forward to the possibility of change with the transition.
Daniel McCready: I believe that the Special Administrative Board has allowed us as a city to hit the reset button on how our elected board should operate. That being said, the SAB was never expected to be permanent and should, now that the district is accredited, be dissolved.
6. What is your understanding of the impact of charter schools on the SLPS? Should more charter schools open in the city?
Adam Layne: In my opinion, the biggest impact charter schools have had is in dividing the educational landscape in St. Louis. We have effectively made education “black and white” in the city with no opportunity to operate in the gray. I believe education in St. Louis cannot advance on a divided front. I hear arguments all the time that focus on the fact that charters in St. Louis overall are “not performing better”, but completely dismiss the fact that most public schools in the city are also underperforming. Pointing out charters are performing poorly doesn’t make public schools perform better. I serve on the board of a charter school opening up in the city. I am also a former SLPS teacher who had an inflow of students after the Imagine Schools closed. The first reason I serve is because I looked across the charter boards in the city and I didn’t see representation for the majority of students who attend these schools. Yes, they made a choice, and I want to ensure they have representation when their voices need to be heard because representation matters. I know how uprooting an entire community can have negative repercussions on the ones affected the most. I also am aware of the more than $67 million (last figure I was aware of) the district has to allocate to charters in the city. I am also aware of the financial mismanagement that occurs in our district. If someone were to tell me that $67 million dollars recovered from charters would solve the problems of SLPS and create a quality education for every SLPS student, I would be the first person to start knocking on doors and collecting signatures. I believe we should come to the table together with real solutions to our education problems instead of spending on opposite sides of the fence. My second reason for joining the board of Kairos is that they are doing something actually difference and providing 1-on-1 coaching daily, which was a life-changing experience we provided at my nonprofit. There are too many charters in St. Louis claiming to do something different, and aren’t. That is my biggest gripe with charters, that and it is entirely too easy to get a charter. I believe to fix this, we need community members to approve the addition of charter school in their region in conjunction with the board as well as have the community and board vet the candidates for governance and leadership of the charter school. So no, I am not in favor of opening a slew of new charters unless, after coming together at the table, SLPS deems a specific charter is necessary to serve the city’s needs. For example, if someone wanted to open a charter for specialized learning of students with disabilities and special needs, I would be for it because of the lack of transformational support for students with special needs.
What is most disheartening is that we pit families in the city against each other. We effectively disown parents who truly believe they are making the best decision for their children if they don’t choose SLPS. We even excommunicate them from the process of being part of the solution. I don’t believe in choosing side, I believe in the equitable and quality educational experiences for ALL students who call St. Louis home. Parents don’t want to send their kids 20 miles out of their zip code to sit in a classroom where they are seen as “other” just to get a great education. Parents don’t want to have to use their cousin’s address in Kirkwood to beat the odds. But parents also don’t want to look back one day and feel like the failed their child because they didn’t do anything in their power to give their child their best chance. Do I believe there is a grand plot to privatize education in the region? Probably. But that needs to be taken up with the Rex Sinquefields of the world instead of hating and blaming families and kids. That’s not on them, that is on us. We need to restore quality and thus faith in ALL of our SLPS schools and that is something I intend to work toward. It’s not enough to TELL them to choose SLPS, we need to prove to them why they should.
David Merideth: Charter schools currently account for almost 1 out of every 3 public school students in the city. They have performed a needed function helping to retain families with children in the city while SLPS was struggling. Currently, they are a drain on the resources needed for an integrated fully functional district. I don’t think any more charters should be allowed to open in the district until there are several changes made in their certification process and I would rather see the total number decline.
Louis Cross: The candidate did not supply a response.
Barbara Anderson: Charter schools are here to stay. I do not believe that charters are a cure all for our district. School choice is needed for parents to make educational decisions for their children. Parents must be convinced that the best educational choice for their children is St. Louis Public Schools.
Bill Haas: Charter schools hurt SLPS by taking away funds from the schools and make it harder to educate the remaining students left behind. On the other hand, charter schools seem here to stay, and our goal should be to lobby that they have to be subject to the same rules we are, with respect to acceptance and expulsion of students, and academics. And that the traditional schools are treated fairly with respect to finances. Money to the charter school might be phased in, and if a student is expelled, remaining money should be returned to SLPS. SLPS should not be complicit in establishing charter schools except perhaps with collaboratives like we may have with KIPP. Our goal should be to offer such excellent education that parents don’t feel that they children will get a better education in charter schools than they’d get in the SLPS.
Tracee A. Miller: There is no one-size-fits-all opinion of charter schools, and I believe that our focus should be on provide high-quality education to all students in the city.
Daniel McCready: I believe that this is a question about quality, not quantity. Parents shouldn’t have lots of bad choices, they should have a handful of good choices that can create a pathway for their child to lead a choice-filled life. Bad charter schools should be closed as quickly as possible, because they don’t benefit families and they can damage functioning schools.
7. The SAB is currently developing a not for profit corporation called the Consortium Partnership Network which will be governed by its own appointed board and whose purpose will be to govern the lowest performing schools. Meramec and Ashland elementary schools have been assigned to the CPN for the 2019-2020 school year. The CPN will be empowered to contract with private not-for-profit companies to manage these schools. If returned to governance, the elected school board will have an as yet undefined oversight role regarding the CPN but no direct oversight of the schools they are assigned. What are your thoughts on this?
Adam Layne: I think we, as a community, should decide whether or not this is the best decision for the students, families, and teachers of SLPS. Even though Meramec and Ashland have been chosen, I wonder the extent to which the community supports the initiative. Therefore, to me it makes sense for the decision to be made after governance is restored to the elected board who are the representatives of the people. Then allow the board to do it’s due diligence, vetting the opportunity the CPN presents and gathering the thoughts of the families that represent Meramec, Ashland, and the communities they are housed in. This information gathering and advocacy by a governing elected board in conjunction with more detailed information about the plan and strategies for the CPN are what I believe are required before a sound decision can be made.
David Merideth: As the parent representative sitting on the CPN board until a parent from one of the 2 schools selected can be appointed, I can say this is a misunderstanding of what the CPN is. No private not-for-profits will be allowed to manage these schools. Both Meramec and Ashland will remain SLPS schools. A group was hired to help the teacher leadership team at each school develop their vision and goals and any changes they think will best serve their students and community. The documents establishing the CPN will state that given 1 school year notice the governing body of SLPS will have the authority to move a school back out of the CPN network and into the direct control of the district. Additionally, while the elected board might not have direct oversight of the CPN schools they do have a large role in governing them. The CPN board will consist of the president of the governing body of SLPS, the superintendent of SLPS, a parent representative of a school assigned to the district and an appointee of both the mayor and the president of the board of aldermen.
Louis Cross: The elected board should have complete governance over the Consortium Partnership Network (CPN). Attempts to diminish the power and control of segments of the CPN will not receive my support. Any attempts to limit the oversight role of the elected board members or attempts to limit the oversight role regarding the CPN or the selection of schools that are assigned will not be supported by my vote. It appears that the SAB developed guidelines to limit the elected board’s governance of the CPN partnership. This is unacceptable and disrespectful.
Barbara Anderson: CPN is not a viable solution for failing schools. We must take a look at successful schools. We must duplicate/imitate what is working and eliminate what is failing. Instead of creating more divisions/programs, (charters/CPN), we must take a look at what is working and duplicate it. CPN is not a solution. CPN will simply ignore the real problems of attracting and retaining quality educators and instructional processes. Instruction is not about the program, it is about delivery by qualified professionals.
Bill Haas: This is a complicated issue. At first I was against it even though it seemed like a done deal, until Dr. Adams told the board in response to my question that it was initially his idea. Tho he may have been required to say that even if it wasn’t, I trust his judgment. We have the right to end it after a year or two, I believe. We need metrics to see if it works and then we should decide. But with such a complicated issue, I think it’s important to have an experienced thoughtful person like myself on the board to evaluate and help oversee this new and different experiment and experience.
Tracee A. Miller: The teachers, families, community, and school staff know their students best and this may provide an opportunity for low-performing schools to address the needs of their students in more appropriate ways than the current cookie-cutter decisions passed down by the district. That said, all schools should be held to the high standards and measures of accountability.
Daniel McCready: I would need more information about this before forming a substantive opinion.
8. Do you have any ideas to improve public confidence in SLPS and improve enrollment?
Adam Layne: I think public confidence depends on a number of factors. Before jumping to solutions, I would like to find out the root cause of the issue as opposed to assuming what the cause of the problem is. I think two main issues are that families don’t feel they have a voice in SLPS and also that families can’t affect change within SLPS. There are issues in any district, but when people feel powerless in addressing those issues, their confidence deteriorates. Agency in that way stems from the relationships they have with the district. At the end of the day, what matters is the relationship families have with the district. First thing we need to do is restore their voice by returning power to the board. The board is chosen by the people and that is a direct way of ensuring some type of representation. Second, we need to rebuild relationships and that means direct outreach from the elected board. We can’t just expect community members to show up at school board meetings, we need to meet them where they are give them a reason to show up. We can hold office hours at different schools, come and attend staff meetings to hear concerns of the staff and not just be present in schools our own kids attend, and provide childcare and dinner at board meetings to have more of a community feel. We can and should reimagine community participation. When families are looking for a school, they do their research and value, more than anything, what other parents and students are saying about the school. If the students and families attending the school don’t have great things to say, it doesn’t matter how many banners and ads we have asking people to choose SLPS. We need to do our part to create ambassadors who can say that they saw a board member come and listen at their school, or they went down to a board meeting and felt the community was heard, or that they can list a number of ways the district plans to improve the quality of education, ways that were constructed using the input of the community.
David Merideth: The biggest thing to improve confidence is to rebuild our neighborhood schools and get out and talk to people about improvements made. Right now, if the only talk people hear is how bad SLPS schools are then no one really goes to compare them to other choice schools.
Louis Cross: Improvement of the behavior and academic performance in SLSPS will enhance the confidence in our schools. Parents, who in the past, have sent their siblings to SLPS or now looking at Charter schools because of the lack of respectful behavior and low academic performance. A behavior team, which includes a full-time therapist, ISS monitor, teachers, social worker, counselor, and an assistant principal in all schools with 400 or more students , plus a therapeutic classroom for students who constantly disrupt the classroom. The team will develop strategies to drastically improve behavior Anas progress to improve academic performance.
Barbara Anderson: I do. We must stop playing the blame game, and drill down to what is going to move our students forward. We must present a district climate and culture that attracts the best and brightest educators. We must create a district that encourages post- secondary skill training. We must stop teaching our students that they cannot be successful unless they leave their communities. We must ask our parents why they choose not enroll their children in SLPS and honestly address their concerns.
Bill Haas: I’ve always said that the district ultimately will have the public confidence and enrollment we’ve earned and deserved. And that will start with 3rd grade reading scores. If we don’t solve that, we’re not going anywhere good. For the 20 year period I’ve been on the board, 40% of third graders are still not reading at grade level. As long as that is true the district and the community are not going anywhere fast. When I recently ran for congress, third grade reading scores, rural, urban, and everyone in between was my number one issue and priority. And the key to changing that is a second qualified adult in the classroom, a certified TA, and I believe there are two different kinds. For those student falling behind, and behavior issues, and as Dr. Adams says, it just changes the culture of the classroom. During the 2017 mayor’s race, I asked Dr. Adams how much this would cost. The answer was $12 million/year, and I think we need to go back to the community for a tax increase (about half or less of what we went for before, I believe) to do this. This needs to be our number 1 priority, and the community’s.
Tracee A. Miller: Ensuring that schools have the financial ability to invest in their students in ways that align with the student and community values will, in turn, empower them to more effectively involve the community in its operations and culture. For example, giving principals the power to hire their own staff will ensure cohesion among the adults in a school, will build a culture of understanding and excellence, and will improve confidence in the school’s ability to serve its children. As families feel connected to their schools and feel confident that their children are valued and receiving high-quality education, enrollment will improve.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response.
9. The Missouri legislature usually considers bills that would expand school choice by expanding charter schools, using vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition tax credits making it possible for students to attend private schools using public money or depriving the state of general revenue so parents could use their own money for private tuition without suffering tax penalties. The Trump administration promotes school choice and may re-allocate Title I funding away from providing low income children with extra resources to master reading and math toward expanding school choice options. School board members will be faced with an uphill battle in a struggle to attract and retain students to our school district. How will you respond to these challenging developments?
Adam Layne: I would oppose the legislation. I think charters capitalize on the ability to provide different choices and options because our district doesn’t. I would oppose this on the grounds that if the state wants to fun school choice and increase options, they can create a separate budget for it instead of using Title I funds. Aside from not using Title I funds, I believe increasing financial access to different types of schools is fine. It increases diverse populations and experiences for all. I see two issues. The first is that our public transportation system does not align with this ideal. If we really wanted diversity in all areas of our city and county, our public transportation system would reflect that. Second, if we really want to see this melting pot of education, we need to also focus on improving the quality of all schools, specifically SLPS. To me, it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to say we want to pay for students to go to well-resourced schools and not want to additionally fully resource underresourced schools and school districts.
David Merideth: This will be a constant fight and we will have to take a hard look at our budget and find ways to deal with these issues. We need to find new and creative ways to utilize the large amount of empty space in some of our buildings to give us the increased funding to simply address the infrastructure issues many of our older buildings face. Rebuilding neighborhood schools can also help in that it will cut down on the bussing costs needed for the vast number of magnet schools the district operates.
Louis Cross: In order to improve the SLPS, vouchers, educational savings accounts or tax credits and re-allocation of Title 1 funds away from low income children are counter productive and can (incomplete sentence)
Barbara Anderson: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making SLPS the first choice for education. Parents are always going to make the choice that best benefits their children. It is our job to make sure their choice is SLPS. Anything else is a farce.
Bill Haas: We must do everything we can to oppose these efforts and that won;t be easy. Electing representatives who share our values will be necessary. The Clean Missouri redistricting bill might help.
Tracee A. Miller: Part of this is answered in the above question about improving trust and enrollment. We must work to enact policy that improves the quality of SLPS, and actively advocating for money for public schools and students and against measures that take away high-quality options for students in public schools.
Daniel McCready: I think it’s important for schools to quickly implement what’s working in other successful schools in the city, be they charter or traditional public schools. I also believe that building out the resources that neighborhood schools can provide families as hubs for healthcare, job-training, networking can be leveraged to attract new enrollees.
10. What are your thoughts on the following legislation being considered by the Missouri legislature this year?
HB130 Sponsor: Carter. This bill specifies that the State Board of Education shall terminate the St. Louis City transitional school district if the district is classified as provisionally or fully accredited. Terminating the transitional school district shall return governance to the elected board of the school district. Since the SLPS is fully accredited this bill would have the effect of immediately returning the elected board to governance.
Adam Layne: I support this measure. I believe power needs to be restored to the board and thus the people. I also believe that there needs to be more local and community oversight of any new charters. I would change the bill and say that charters should be approved by the local board as well before being sent to the state level. I think the state level approval doesn’t allow for the acknowledgement of how different neighborhoods and districts are across the state.
David Merideth: I fully support this bill and would change the language to apply this statewide. I believe a trigger for return of district control was intentional left out of the original legislation to make it harder for the city of St. Louis to regain governance of its schools.
Louis Cross: I agree with HB130 legislation if the school shows the necessary improvement there should be no need for a transitional board.
Barbara Anderson: The last time I checked, and according to the school signs I have observed, the district is fully accredited. I believe the requirement states that once accreditation is achieved, decision making should be returned to the authority of a duly elected community based board of education.
Bill Haas: For! What we’ve been fighting for all these years; long overdue.
Tracee A. Miller: I support the termination of the transitional state that SLPS is currently in, in accordance with Missouri law.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response.
HB629 Sponsor: Quade. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, this bill requires specified charter school applications that are approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) to not become effective until approved by the voters of the district in which the charter school is located. The bill requires that the charter approval be submitted to the voters of the district at the next municipal election or, if the next annual school election is more than 60 days away, at a special election. A majority vote is required for approval of the charter school application.
Adam Layne: The candidate did not provide a response.
David Merideth: This is another bill I fully support and have spoken to Rep Quade about. Since charters have no oversight from the local communities there needs to be some way to gauge need. Many times, if the effort to start a charter were put towards local school improvement it would have a greater impact for the entire community as a whole.
Louis Cross: The candidate did not provide a response.
Barbara Anderson: Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of convincing parents and caregivers that SLPS is the first and best choice for the education of their children. Trying to persuade parents that what looks good to you isn’t always good for you, is a losing battle. Parents want to make the best choice for their children’s education. We must convince parents that SLPS is the best choice. Any other battle is a losing one. The voting public must make appropriate decisions that will benefit student learners of all ages.
Bill Haas: Sounds good for us.
Tracee A. Miller: The candidate did not provide a response.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response.
11. What are your thoughts on SLPS magnet schools?
Adam Layne: I support the idea of magnet schools. I taught for three years at a magnet school within SLPS. My reasons are similar to the answer to question #8. Diversity of educational experiences allows our students to interact with more people that the ones in their radius. To be honest, I think students who live outside of the city have a negative view of the city that can only change through meaningful and joyful learning experiences within the city. To have true magnets, we need to commit to quality in our educator’s ability to cultivate culturally competent learning environments, and their ability to be culturally competent themselves. If we want to truly take a step beyond, we should fully resource and create excellence in ALL our schools and when the quality of the school is superb, all students would be attracted to all the schools. We shouldn’t just pump money into magnets, using all our resources to attract a particular demographic.
David Merideth: The magnet school program is a hidden gem in the city. It has really kept the district afloat during tough times. That said I think we have reached a point where we have too many choices. Additionally, the added costs for busing to magnets (both in the need for 3 bell times and bussing city-wide for each school) has impacted the district’s ability to made other upgrades and changes.
Louis Cross: Magnet schools are a fine addition to the SLPS landscape and have proven to be a truly effective tool in improving academic performance. SLPS should keep the Magnet School programs.
Barbara Anderson: We must eliminate the disparity between magnet, charter, and neighborhood schools. All schools should afford opportunities for visual and performing arts, technology, athletics, and career skills, as well as basic educational foundations. I do not like the idea that students are led to believe that they must leave their neighborhoods in order to get a quality education.
Bill Haas: I like them. We seem to need more of them.
Tracee A. Miller: Having taught at a magnet school, I found that many do not in fact emphasis their purported area of focus. However, many of our magnet schools have higher academic outcomes than other schools. Unfortunately, the application process for charter schools can be complicated, and the quality of education all SLPS buildings should be excellent. I believe that families and students should have options that fit with their values and desires for their children’s future, but the path to those options should be more readily available to everyone.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response
12. What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?
Adam Layne: Even saying the term “neighborhood school” in St. Louis bears with it a negative connotation. Our neighborhood schools should be staples of our communities and strengths of our communities. When we tear down and strip resources from our neighborhood schools, we are indirectly expressing how we feel about the community the school sits in. I believe when we begin to reinvest and revamp out neighborhood schools, we will see better investment in our communities and stronger communities as a result.
David Merideth: Rebuilding neighborhood schools should be the future focus of SLPS. They can be the lifeblood of a neighborhood and are the foundation upon which the rest of the district can build. We have some neighborhood schools that are already showing tremendous success that I think we should strive to duplicate at all the others.
Louis Cross: I am all for neighborhood schools; but, in a great number of cases because of school closures, busing is the only viable option.
Barbara Anderson: The biggest disservice to learners today is that they are taught that they must leave their neighborhoods in order to be successful. Attending neighborhood schools has become synonymous with having no other options. This must change. The only way to rebuild our neighborhoods is to remove the negative stigma of remaining in communities, and rebuilding our neighborhoods and neighborhood schools.
Bill Haas: I like them. I think we should have more of them. I think parents like them too.
Tracee A. Miller: Many neighborhood schools have a negative reputation in the city; however, this is the result of policies that require one-size-fits-all policies that do not take differences between neighborhoods and students into account, as well as policies giving little choice to school staff (particularly principals and teachers) who know their students best. I believe that the path to high-quality neighborhood schools is within close reach.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response
13. What ideas do you have to help students learn?
Adam Layne: I believe all students can learn. The first thing we need to do is raise our standards. A commitment to quality and excellence needs to start earlier. We need to instill a love for education among our students by instilling that in our teachers and staff who work with them. How can out students be joyful learners if our staff are not joyful educators. We instill that joy in our staff by paying our teachers better and providing them with the resources they need. I believe students learn best when they have some control of their learning and teachers have control of their content. Standardization often strips learning environments of both. I would love to bring teachers to the table, especially in professional development sessions where they discuss the flaws in the curriculum and scopes of sequence and talk about ways to make learning more effective outside of the standardized plan. Experiential learning is something I also believe in. When students are able to tie their learning into the world around them, it promotes a healthier mentality around education. It also breaks up the monotony of the classroom. Especially for middle and elementary school students, learning by way of discovery should be promoted and not just in the form of an occasional field trip, word problems, or infrequent experiments in class. Experiential learning should be its own focus where we provide curriculum, support, and resources for schools and teachers to adequately execute. I think we need to revamp the way we discipline students. Students are coming in with a lot of troubling experiences, circumstances, and trauma. We need more counselors and less detention. We need to build in time for real therapists, and not just people who can change a student’s schedule, are used to talk and impart tools for students to be more successful in and outside of the classroom. A radical idea I’ve always had for the high school level is a change in the schedule. We have one and a half hour blocks, back-to-back, at most of our public schools. We could cut classes down by a half hour, freeing up 2 hours a day for students to rest, recharge, and seek help from quality counselors in their schools. We want our students to go to college where they will have the responsibility to manage their time, but throughout the first 18 years of their educational experience we adults structure their time down to the minute. We fear what would happen if we give our students a little freedom of choice within the day. Most of the top performing schools build in free time for students during the day. This type of autonomy allows students to manage their time and seek out help, and actually use resources. This will also help students see going to their counselor as a benefit and not as a punishment.
David Merideth: 1 way to help students increase learning is to allow teachers to focus on teaching. With the most vulnerable student population in the region we must ensure we have specialists at every school to deal with non-educational needs. This would include a social worker and a nurse in every building. Additionally, we must maintain the extensive student meal plan currently in use. If our children are hungry they will not be able to learn.
Louis Cross: The district should provide a strong phonics program to improve reading and comprehension; also, adopt Singapore Math to improve Math scores.
Barbara Anderson: In addition to having fully certificated staff, a positive, nurturing, and safe environment, must be established for students, staff, and parents. Educators must feel free to make educational decisions for their students. Although it is recognized that some uniformity is required throughout the district, instruction involves risk taking and constant review and revision. The only person who can make those decisions accurately is the person involved in the instruction of those students daily. Other ideas include flexible classrooms and grouping. Students who are engaged in teaching their peers are actually amazing teachers. Their self- esteem is also exponentially enhanced. A stable staff is vital. Another strategy I used extensively, as a building principal, was to use the public address system as a teaching tool. The staff and principal would determine the most important messages to convey. School pledges, classroom rules and school rules of conduct are repeated daily. This sends the message to students that these messages are important. I actually became famous at the postal service office, and in the neighborhood, for my morning and dismissal announcements. Adult staff members were able to convey consistent messages to students because the message was delivered consistently, whether I was on site or not. It is also vital that students are recognized for following those rules. These actions confer to students that positive behaviors will be recognized and rewarded. School wide rules are few and far reaching. At the school to which I was assigned, we had three simple rules: come to school every day on time; complete class work and homework daily; and engage in good behavior at all times. We conducted black history trivia contests every Friday. These contests were designed to enhance writing, research, and reading skills. The contest winners got a chance to enhance their classroom libraries by selecting books of classroom interest. We also sponsored weekly writing contests. These winners would read their submissions. Another winning strategy was to engage in reader’s theater. One would be amazed at the practice that would engage students to make their performances on the public announcement system highlight their reading skills. We also had student readers to make daily announcements. Every school should be able to engage in activities that enhance performance and comprehension skills for their sites. I believe that obstruction to instruction should not be tolerated. I believe that In School Suspension rooms should be established in all elementary schools, and that those classrooms should be staffed by fully certificated personnel (preferably with special education training). Instruction should not be interrupted because of inappropriate behavior, and there should be better direction than “there will be no suspensions”.
Bill Haas: It’s about third grade reading scores and a second qualified adults in early childhood classrooms, as discussed above. I’ve also long been (since before I was elected in 1997) of computer based learning, especially for students behind in their grade level studies and have often advocated for us to make more use of this, but hardware and software are expensive, but we should find a way.
Tracee A. Miller: All students learn differently, and have different curricular, instructional, and extracurricular needs. Our schools should be empowered to invest in what their students need, whether this is more support staff, higher-quality curriculum and resources, professional development (particularly on culturally relevant pedagogy and other topics that impact relationships and not only instructional strategies), and a focus on evaluation measures that support teacher growth so that they can, in turn, help their students thrive. If you ask me about what ideas I have to help students learn in different and specific contexts, I can, in most cases, give you an extensive description.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response
14. What do you think about the MAP tests and standardized tests in general?
Adam Layne: I believe in assessment as a necessary tool in tracking student achievement and driving toward results. However, we’ve gone from using testing as a tool to using testing as the main objective. Teachers are forced to “teach to the test” as opposed to use their creativity and skills to increase content mastery and depth of knowledge with our students. Coupling this with the fact that there is inherent testing bias especially for students of color who comprise a majority of our district, it is evident we need to rethink the way we test our students especially what we’re testing them on and the frequency to which we administer benchmarks.
David Merideth: While testing in general is good to help us evaluate where are students are currently at educationally, too much emphasis is put on them. With funding and accreditation directly tied to scores, we end up with cases where teachers simply teach to the test instead of being able to modify their lessons to best impact their students.
Louis Cross: Standardized tests and MAP testing are here to stay. Not only in Missouri but nationwide in some form. While there has been some controversy as to their effectiveness in gauging full academic aptitude and cultural biases, presently, it’s the only tool we have in assessing our students across the board.
Barbara Anderson: Although it is vital to measure progress, I think we place too much emphasis on one shot measurements. I further have questions as to why SLPS changes requirements for success so often. Progress monitoring is a much more useful tool. The scoring of selected MAP sub-tests is subjective in nature. Perhaps another instrument should be explored? Missouri has one of the most challenging state mandated standardized tests in the country. I don’t like the pressure placed on staff and students for performance on the MAP. The whole idea for maximized performance on state mandated standardized assessments is for learners to be so comfortable with subject matter that pressure is minimal. Standardized testing is problematic in educational circles. Ours is the only profession where students are promoted with deficits. Why do we blame teachers for the deficits of a poorly designed assessment instrument? I am glad this is not how airplane pilots are trained. Closer to home, would you like to be trained to drive an automatic car and have to pass the driver’s test with a stick shift? What is wrong with knowing what you are supposed to know? Yet this is the requirement we place on classroom instructors.
Bill Haas: I know people object to use teaching to the test, but if we have to teach to something, teaching to recognized skills is a place to start. Other values are important, but our kids have to learn reading and math, and we have to know where they’re at so we know where to improve, and well-designed standardized tests need to be part of that. One component of improving early childhood reading has always been regular testing to determine who is improving and who falling behind and who need intervention to catch up.
Tracee A. Miller: There is too much at stake with standardized tests, from funding to people’s jobs to student futures. In addition, these tests have been shows be biased against marginalized populations. While I believe it is important to measure academic growth and performance, I strongly believe that MAP scores are not a holistic representations of student ability or growth, and that these tests in general create an environment in schools that prevents joy in learning rather than fostering it.
Daniel McCready: I think it’s important that assessments are able to be used by teachers to inform their instruction. It’s unacceptable that schools get standardized tests back months later, given modern technology. That being said, tests let teachers and parents know that children are learning what they are teaching. If designed well, they provide a road map for future growth.
15. Approximately 70% of SLPS high school graduates who enroll in college must take remedial courses. What policies would you promote to lower this statistic?
Adam Layne: My first year teaching math, a freshman student came up to me and told me should couldn’t complete her math assignment because she couldn’t read the directions. Our high school students are graduating unprepared, but the problem isn’t exclusively tied to their four years of high school. Students who struggle in high school have probably been struggling years before. The remedial classes students often take are in math and English. We need to work earlier (elementary, middle school) with students to build their number sense. Math continues to build off of itself, but even complex math is comprised of simpler parts. We need math teachers at the earlier levels who can push students and get them to think deeply about math concepts and not just complete problems. College math requires this. Some of my poorest performing algebra students were exceptional at basic computation and multiplication tables. I could tell they were ahead when it came to memorizing math operations, but topped out there and weren’t pushed further. As for English, we need to build better literacy skills. Other schools have summer reading lists and resources for students to deepen their reading comprehension, but that is not something we do on a wide scale. When it comes to high school, most grammar instruction goes out of the window. Student write essays and are graded for content as opposed to composition and syntax. This does our students a disservice as those nuanced elements are tested on college entrance exams. Our worst students graduate not being able to read and our best students graduate barely able to write. Lastly, we could have students sit in on college classes their freshman year of high school and get a detailed report of their gaps, in a qualitative way that shows the ways they need to develop in their math thinking and English proficiency so that educators can take a more targeted approach to educating them.
David Merideth: Many of these remedial courses are the result of years of neglect. We must focus on these basics at a younger age and promote policies and efforts to improve basic reading, writing and math skills. If a child enters HS and can only read at a 5th grade level it is unfair to our HS teachers who must then try and catch them up enough to even qualify for college. There are many non-profits and universities I feel we could partner with towards this goal.
Louis Cross: Again, policies like phonics to enhance reading and Singapore Math to improve Math scores along with strong learning tools in all the core subject areas.
Barbara Anderson: I would promote a policy of having a staff that is fully certificated for all professional positions in all buildings. That would include an in school suspension room with a fully certificated teacher (preferably with SPED training). I promote a policy that does not allow for overcrowding of classrooms. Even more effective, is to employ special education teachers in overcrowded classrooms, when high classroom numbers are unavoidable. Special education teachers are specifically trained to make individual education decisions based on individual student learner needs. We must pursue and develop district policy that addresses the needs of all learners. I would explore current school calendars. One of the biggest complaints of teachers is that so much time is wasted at the beginning of the school year in remediation. In the urban setting, students no longer need time to perform seasonal agricultural activities. Schools are air conditioned now, so there is no need to shut down schools for temperature concerns.
Bill Haas: It’d be nice if we could recognize and improve this before they graduate. Better reading by third grade will certainly help, and programmed computer-based learning. Skills tests before been allowed to graduate are controversial, but I’d be open to it if students without the skills are given intervention to acquire them.
Tracee A. Miller: There are policies in place that encourage social promotion, as well as policies about how teachers must allocate grades and make determinations about passing students. I would encourage policy that promotes in-school tutoring for students, more support staff to ensure that students’ holistic needs are being met, courses designed specifically to prepare students for transitioning to college that include work study opportunities, and more investment in teachers and schools so that the improvement in overall quality of education in SLPS will impact this statistic.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response
16. In the past the elected school board has been criticized as dysfunctional. Local media have unfairly perpetuated this impression. How would your election to the board help to dispel this inaccurate perception.
Adam Layne: I believe the board has been painted this way to dissuade the public that the elected board should return to power and reduce public confidence in the board. I think the board does an excellent job of listening to the people and doing its due diligence to serve the students, families, and educators of SLPS. I think my election to the board would help because I plan to be extremely vocal about all the great work the board is doing and the accountability we have as a board. I believe the best way to dispel myths is to show people the truth. I want to get out in front of the people, be accessible to the people, and bring everyone to the table so we can change education in our city together in such a way that the media won’t have a chance. This will only happen if we are all working together, united and well-represented.
David Merideth: I spent 20 years in the military dealing with people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs and finding compromises. Additionally, as a parent of numerous SLPS students I’m deeply invested and committed to ensuring the board’s success.
Louis Cross: The Elected Board, of which I will be a member, will function on a highly productive level and represent the parents , students, community and all employees in a manner that will make them proud that they voted for all elected board members.
Barbara Anderson: The only thing to be done is to conduct business professionally. There is no time for personal disagreements. Transparency, accountability, and accountability are vital for any functioning entity. The only group to change this dynamic is the voting public. It is our duty, as educators, to keep the citizens properly informed, and to engage in educational activities with the voting public.
Bill Haas: Oh, my. The Post Dispatch and other media has not been fair to the public schools since the Post supported the Slay slate of candidates and couldn’t get themselves to admit they were terrible (and The American since Donald Suggs supported the takeover), either in news or editorial, and don’t believe anyone who tells you they’re independent. Goodness knows I’ve become a pest trying to educate the Post on this issue, and have failed. I think the elected board should concentrate on the achievement of our students, and when that is successful, the media will acknowledge that and the job we’re doing. It’s not about the people we elect, it’s about what they do once elected.
Tracee A. Miller: As a member of the board, I would ensure transparency and accountability to the public. I am skilled at communicating and considering the perspectives of those who don’t agree with me, and would ensure that the board establishes goals, norms, outcomes, and retrospectives to meet our community’s expectations.
Daniel McCready: The candidate did not supply a response