St. Louis schools superintendent announces improvement plan

Saturday, January 13, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- With the state weighing a takeover of St. Louis public schools, superintendent Diana Bourisaw on Friday announced a plan aimed at improving the long-troubled district.

The plan is an update of the district's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. The city school board will consider approving it Tuesday, spokesman Tony Sanders said.

The plan includes 178 goals aimed at improving academic achievement; addressing safety concerns; ensuring financial solvency; increasing use of technology; updating facilities; providing professional development to improve competency of teachers, administrators and staff; and increasing the number of certified teachers.

Bourisaw called the plan aggressive, "but it is also a realistic road map to improve our schools."

The Comprehensive School Improvement Plan is required of all public school districts in the state, but Bourisaw noted the St. Louis plan had not been updated since 2004.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education began considering whether an unelected board should oversee the district. No recommendation was made, but education commissioner Kent King said he was leaning toward recommending the plan. The board could vote on the issue next month.

In December, a special panel selected by the state board to recommend ways to improve St. Louis schools called for an unelected, three-person governing committee to run the 32,363-student district, the largest in Missouri.

King noted that in his 11 years at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, he has seen no significant improvement in student performance in the St. Louis district, which has been through six superintendents since 2003 and continues to struggle financially and academically.

St. Louis School Board President Veronica O'Brien has said she would support a transitional board. She also wants to replace Bourisaw -- who took over in July after Creg Williams was forced out.

O'Brien did not return phone calls on Friday. But after Thursday's meeting in Jefferson City, she said the district needs "dramatic, rapid change. I say clean the whole place out."

In the area of academic achievement, Bourisaw's plan sets goals that include having 68 percent of students score at the proficient or advanced level on the Missouri Assessment Program test, and 64 percent scoring at proficient and advanced levels in mathematics on the MAP test.

Toward the goal of a safer learning environment, the plan seeks to reduce the number of serious incidents from behavior infractions by 10 percent each year.

In terms of fiscal stability, the plan calls for a reduction in the overall deficit by the end of the current school year. Utilization of all facilities will be reviewed, and the district would seek to keep transportation costs in check.

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