One District Requiring Individual Court Orders for Normandy Transfers

Even though area school districts in St. Louis are allowing Normandy students to transfer, one St. Charles County district is making it the process a painstaking one.

The Francis Howell School District is requiring that each student get an individual court order before he or she can return. KMOX-TV reports that Francis Howell can expect 350 students from Normandy after a judge’s decision that school districts are by law required to allow students to leave unaccredited districts to attend school in higher performing districts.

The Missouri Board of Education tried to do away with the  transfer law, and, for a short period of time, Normandy students were not allowed to transfer to other school systems.

Superintendent of the Francis Howell School District Pam Sloan, says that students are getting their individual court orders, but she predicts that not all of last year’s 430 Normandy transfer students will come back to Francis Howell, according to Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We do not know how many of the eligible students will have an interest in returning,” Sloan wrote. “As always, our school district will comply with all court orders and laws.”

Normandy students’ attorney Joshua Schindler announced that he will continue to file for the families, but he is concerned about the lost class time for students who would like to be back at their new schools.  It was August 15 when County Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled that Normandy students should continue to comply with the disputed state law which allows students to leave unaccredited districts for accredited schools.

“The bottom line is, I’m not stopping,” Schindler said. “I’m not going to stop until every kid is who wants to be back in Francis Howell is back in Francis Howell.”

Schindler is being paid by the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, a school-choice group financed by investment banker Rex Sinquefield.  Francis Howell’s attorney has accumulated $17,000 in fees so far, which is covered by the district’s insurance.

All the accredited districts involved  have made it clear that they will charge their full tuition, which was $11,034 last year.  The schools had earlier been asked to charge a lower fee by Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, approximately $7,000.

Last year, 2,200 students left the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. The Normandy district had to pay $1.3 million to the schools which received the transfer students, which nearly caused the district to declare bankruptcy. There are about 3,700 students enrolled in the Normandy schools this year, say Normandy officials.  Francis Howell officials say that the transfers are draining resources for the students who remain in Normandy.  This year, too, Normandy is facing “significant cash flow” problems.

The Missouri Legislature gave the Normandy district $1.5 million in an attempt to keep the schools afloat.  Solicitor General James Layton predicted that if the transferring program continues, Normandy would be insolvent by Oct. 31 of this school year, say Elisa Crouch and Jessica Bock of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  One result of that insolvency could be that when the Normandy students who remained in the district have to be dispersed to other districts or have to be attached to another school system, transfer students could be facing transferring from their new schools in the middle of the year.

As of now, the Normandy Schools Collaborative will be the first in the state to be under direct state oversight.  Many teachers will be new in the district’s schools, and an appointed governing board will report to the Missouri Board of Education.