St. Louis School Board paints gloomy picture of state intervention

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The state's pending takeover of the St. Louis schools could have disastrous financial and educational effects, warned several city school board members who pledged Thursday to fight to retain their power.

At a special meeting, the board voted 5 to 1 to ask the state to reconsider the school district's unaccredited status and agreed to pay lawyers to research possible legal action on the matter. Board member Flint Fowler voted against those measures.

All the board members present, including two newly elected members, also voted out School Board President Veronica O'Brien, who supports the state takeover and has been criticized for her leadership style.

O'Brien said by telephone she had not attended the meeting because she had appointments at her business, an insurance agency.

"I could care less," she said of the vote to remove her from the presidency. "I think it's six people with a vendetta."

Vice president Bill Purdy will lead the school board for now.

The State Board of Education voted last month to strip accreditation and appoint a three-member board to oversee the 32,000-student district long troubled by low test scores, high dropout rate and budgetary problems. The new, appointed board would begin June 15.

The governor, mayor and aldermanic president each appoint one member of the board, with the governor's appointee serving as chief executive. Gov. Matt Blunt has chosen home builder Rick Sullivan, who lives in a St. Louis suburb, to lead the board. The other two appointees have not been named.

Current school board members said as more information becomes known, they fear that the state-level decision was not completely thought through. If students leave the city schools in significant numbers, it could lead to more school closings, harm the city's magnet schools and create additional financial hardship for the district, several argued.

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