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Why Not Welcome Students From Failing Local Districts?

If host schools get money from the failing districts, the students want a good education and class sizes can be maintained, what's the hang-up?

The gym at Francis Howell Central High School was filled to standing-room-only at a town hall meeting about upcoming transfer students last week. Photo Credit: Jared Grafman
The gym at Francis Howell Central High School was filled to standing-room-only at a town hall meeting about upcoming transfer students last week. Photo Credit: Jared Grafman
Perhaps no local issue recently has more wide-reaching impact across our region — and is sparking so much heat, without much light — as the issue of transferring students from failing school districts to other, more successful area districts.

The issue is very simple: The Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts are unaccredited and, essentially, failing their students. The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that, according to this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, failing districts must underwrite the cost to send students who request a transfer to superior schools.

Since that ruling, the Post says, almost 1,700 students (about 16 percent) from Normandy and Riverview Gardens have requested transfers.

Patch has been covering public hearings and town hall meetings around the issue at a variety of sites, including the Francis Howell community in St. Charles and, as recently as Thursday, in the Mehlville School District.

As a reader, I'm proud when I see young students from Francis Howell Central High School say they're looking forward to the transfer students arriving.

"We are happy to have these new students at our school," said Eric Lee, senior class president at Francis Howell High, at a contentious town hall meeting last week reported by St. Peters Patch. "We think it will be a good opportunity. We think that, I don't think we can assume Normandy kids are going to be problems."

His classmate, Gavin Galanes, captain of the school's cross country team, added: "Everyone's excited about the new people coming and the opportunities that are going to be provided to them.

At Thursday's meeting in Mehville, Eric Knost, superintendent of the Mehlville School District, assured residents that class sizes would be maintained and the quality of education will be maintained. A decline? "I won't let that happen. There's no reason that would happen," he said.

And there was this statement from Oakville High student Trey Marlette, reported on Mehlville-Oakville Patch, to the Mehlville School Board: “We get new students to the district every year, and the ones that I know don’t have a problem merging with the students here."

Yet there have been some decidedly opposing views expressed in our comments — mostly by people who aren't interested in attaching their name to their views.

"This is being forced down our throats and we do not want it," wrote one reader. "We don't have to accept it. We will fight it until it is stopped. We do not want this for our children or our community."

For the Normandy students, the most popular districts selected for transfers, according to the Post-Dispatch, are: Francis Howell; Ritenour; Clayton; University City; and Ladue. For the Riverview Gardens students, they are: Mehlville; Ferguson-Florissant; Hazelwood; Clayton; and Pattonville. 

Maybe someone can help me understand what it is that is "not wanted for the community."

If the transferred students are transferring because they want to be challenged with a better education than they could get at their home districts....

And the home districts are required to cover the cost of tuition and transportation for the students who are transferring (to the tune of nearly $23 million so far)...

And many student representatives at the host schools are looking forward to the new students working side-by-side with them...

And the administrators at the host schools are committed on the record to maintaining the quality of their education....

...what is the problem? I can only think of one thing. But perhaps there is something I'm missing. I'm eager to hear from those of you who have opinions on this issue.

The deadline for transfer applications is Thursday.
Rich Pope July 30, 2013 at 11:30 PM
A handful of kids are not going to cause these districts to lose their accreditation. Grow up for crying out loud.
ray faulkner July 31, 2013 at 04:28 AM
A few bad apples can spoil the barrel, these "kids" have seen and lived through things we never will. Violent fights daily, guns in the school, rape, and extortion. I would love to think that only good kids will be transferring, but even they have been effected by the negative stimulus to always be on the defensive. Their posturing and behavior even on the best of days will seem intimidating to students and staff that have not lived as they have.
Rich Marshal July 31, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Show me one failing district whose kids are bused to a another school where that district improved. We've been busing kids for 4 decades to what avail? Look at the data at any of the receiving schools and you will see large differences in test scores by race. Nothing about this situation will change that. Maybe these kids should choose to attend the University City school district. After all, it's much closer and their good liberals are color-blind. Oops, the UC school district is rated only slightly better than Normandy and RG. I wonder why a city that is 50% white has a high school that is 90% black. I can think of only one reason.
heidi August 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM
The district began by saying it could accommodate 100 students from Riverview & Normandy. Then it changed that number to 175. Next we were going to take 152, but still only had room for 175 students. Now we’re taking 186? Is this because of the strong-arming of the ACLU? NAACP? What sort of transparency is this when the numbers keep magical changing before our eyes? What sort of a fix is this, Kurt? At the end of your article you stated "What is the problem? I can think of only one thing." What were you trying to insinuate, Kurt? More of that liberal racism card we hear bellowed at every turn?

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