New Committee Appointed by State to Work with St. Louis Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

In July, St. Louis schools’ Superintendent Creg Williams abruptly resigned. Since then, many members of the community, government officials, and parents have called for various types of intervention for the St. Louis schools.  The law allows for such consideration at different levels of the public school system. Thus, the state has appointed a new committee to oversee, work with, gather information for, and make recommendations to the St. Louis schools and state education officials.

The committee will be co-chaired by Civil Rights Attorney Frankie Freeman and Washington University Chancellor emeritus Dr. William H. Danforth. Other committee members are St. Louis American Publisher Donald M. Suggs, University of Missouri-Columbia Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton, and Ned Lemkemeier, a well-known St. Louis attorney, who has been civically involved for many years.

It is hoped that this appointment will give the new St. Louis schools administration and the school board some breathing room.  They currently must concentrate on stabilizing the St. Louis schools and preparing for the first day of school on August 28th.  Diana Bourisaw is filling in as interim superintendent, until the St. Louis schools can hire a permanent administrator.

Three of the new committee members also are part of the St. Louis Community Monitoring and Support Task Force. Freeman and Danforth co-chair and Lemkemeier is a member at large.  The task force was created by the federal court after a 1999 settlement agreement in the St. Louis desegregation case. It oversees the implementation of this settlement and has received much cooperation from the St. Louis schools, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Voluntary Inter-District Choice Corporation. Danforth is hopeful that the new committee will see as much cooperation from these same groups, especially the St. Louis schools.

The new committee has been charged with finding solutions to the current St. Louis schools problems. These include:

  • The overall academic performance of the St. Louis schools;
  • The St. Louis schools regaining full accreditation and the issues involved;
  • Desegregation settlement issues;
  • Governance issues of the St. Louis schools;
  • The financial condition of the school system; and
  • The primary concerns of parents and the community over the administration and operation of the St. Louis schools.

The committee also will develop recommendations for potential changes to state law, concerning the state’s involvement with the school system.

Danforth was quick to point out that the committee was not there to assess the merits of either the last or present superintendent, nor to review or criticize the actions of the past or present St. Louis schools board.

President of the St. Louis schools board Veronica O’Brien has made no comment about the committee appointment by the state, nor have any other board members.