Missouri School District Loses Financial Control

The Missouri State Board of Education voted to require financial oversight immediately to the Normandy School district, to help them get through the rest of the school year. This action means that approval by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is needed for contracts, financial obligations, and actions with possible financial implications by the Normandy School District.

Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said the oversight would allow the department to ensure money approved for Normandy is monitored and judiciously spent. She said students will complete the term in their current classrooms — relieving concern that students might be sent elsewhere or miss graduation were the district to become financially insolvent this spring.

Education News previously reported on the possibility of closure of some of Missouri’s school districts. For Normandy the financial difficulties stem from the money paid for transfer students to attend nearby accredited schools. An education official referred to the district’s condition as “very, very fragile.”

Normandy spokesperson Daphne Dorsey said the district has done everything they can to be financially responsible. Normandy schools have saved more than $3 million by eliminating 103 jobs and closing an elementary school. Nicastro says that while they may have been responsible, that he believes they have also been “reliant on the anticipation of additional monies from the legislature.”

The oversight in Normandy came on the same day the State Board of Education reviewed the education department’s recommendations for assisting and intervening in Missouri school districts. That proposal seeks earlier interventions and would provide greater state involvement as a district’s performance worsens.

The Colombia Daily Tribune reported that under the proposal, individual schools would be accredited and districts that continue to struggle may become unaccredited. Binding contracts will also be set up between provisionally accredited school districts and the state. Unaccredited districts that see no improvement may be allowed to fail, with the option of the district being put under state oversight for restrictions and assigning students to other schools.

In Missouri, there are three unaccredited districts: Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and Kansas City public schools. Eleven schools in the state have provisional accreditation. School transfers for unaccredited school districts would continue under the new plan.

Nicastro sent a letter out to parents and guardians of Normandy students to help calm their worries about the possibility of their children’s school closing. The letter stated that:

Your school will remain open through the remainder of the year. If you are scheduled to graduate from Normandy this year, and you meet all state and district requirements for graduation, you will graduate as scheduled.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream said the panel would approve a midyear spending bill of $5 million to help the schools stay open the rest of the school year. The bill would require approval from the House and Senate.