Normandy school district faces uncertain future

Sunday, March 30, 2014 | 3:40 p.m. CDT

NORMANDY, Mo. — While most school districts are already hiring new teachers and preparing for next fall, Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols is in something of a holding pattern.

Normandy and the neighboring Riverview Gardens district are unaccredited and were forced by a Missouri Supreme Court ruling last summer to pay tuition and transportation costs for students wishing to attend better-performing districts. The move has all but bankrupted Normandy.

The Missouri Senate has agreed to give the St. Louis County district $1.5 million to help it get through the current school year, but it isn't enough to keep going much longer.

"We want to move forward and plan for summer school, but there are no guarantees," McNichols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It just creates this stifling holding pattern."

Insolvency seems likely, so it appears that Normandy will become the first district to come under Missouri's new authority to intervene in troubled school systems in a more dramatic way. A state-appointed 10-member task force is looking at the district's future.

But for McNichols, staff, teachers, parents and about 3,000 students, the answers can't come quickly enough.

At issue is whether Normandy should continue as a district or be carved up in pieces attached to neighboring school systems. Another option would be to turn Normandy into a system directly run by the state education department.

The task force is expected to deliver a plan to the Missouri Board of Education in May.

The district was the worst-performing school system in the state last year. Many parents of transfers say they were desperate for a better education for their children. They're worried that a resolution the Normandy situation could force their children back to the district.

"Not knowing, that's the horrible thing about it," said Keena Fredrick, whose son transferred to McCluer High School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Fredrick said he's thriving there.

Some who live in the Normandy district feel state officials have set their district up for failure. Even the $1.5 million in aid awarded by the Legislature was less than the $5 million the state education department requested.

Despite the turmoil, kindergarten registration is underway at the four elementary schools. Students at Normandy High School are registering for classes. And McNichols is deciding on how many teachers might be needed and whether to close another school.

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