NORMANDY – For its second superintendent search in three years, this time collaborative leaders from Normandy schools are seeking community involvement.
“We wanted to ensure broad participation from parents, the community, our teachers, principals, administrators, stakeholders and most importantly our students for such an important role,” said Ron Roberts, chairman of the district’s Joint Executive Governing Board. , in a recent forum for the three finalist superintendents.
After hiring Marcus Robinson as superintendent in 2020 without the necessary qualifications, the board has come under fire for a lack of transparency. Elected officials held protests calling for its termination. Robinson resigned in June, having never obtained the proper credentials, including his state license.
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The Normandy district has long struggled with academics and at times with finances. The state education department took over Normandy in 2014 and worked to return the district to local control. In April, voters elected two of seven board members for the first time in nearly a decade.
The district no longer receives funding from the Opportunity Trust, an education reform group where Robinson worked before coming to Normandy. The Opportunity Trust gave $625,000 to the district during the time Robinson was hired and pledged another $425,000 last year. After Robinson’s resignation, the last $200,000 went unpaid, which the group said was due to a lack of a midyear checkup.
Normandy leaders hosted focus groups to poll the community on the district’s direction and goals for the next superintendent. On Wednesday, residents were able to ask questions of the three finalists at a forum held at the nonprofit Beyond Housing.
The men vying to help return the district to full recognition are Howard Fields, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Kirkwood School District; Bruce Green, director of secondary education for Ritenour School District; and Michael Triplett, assistant superintendent of operations for the Olathe, Kansas public schools. All three have state superintendent certificates.
The board is looking for a superintendent who can restore the district to excellence, Roberts said. When Robinson took over, Normandy students had the lowest test scores in the state, with 15% of students proficient in reading and 7% in math. Last spring, 12% of students were proficient in English and 8% in math.
Enrollment has dropped by a quarter over the past decade, to about 2,800 students. Fewer than 45 percent of students attend class 9 out of 10 days, according to state data.
At the forum, Fields reviewed his Normandy connections: His early childhood home was in Pagedale, his father was a 1983 graduate of Normandy High, and his grandfather owns the Gemini barbershop on Page Avenue.
In 2014, Fields was principal at Koch Elementary, the school closest to the Canfield Green apartments, where a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. While Fields led students and staff during the Ferguson riots, Koch’s performance more than tripled.
Fields avoids the term “at risk” to describe students, preferring “at risk of not reaching their fullest potential.”
“The best way to predict future success is past performance,” Fields said. “I don’t want to be superintendent more than once. I want to stay in the same community… and I want to be a part of something special.”
Green, of the Ritenour School District in north St. Louis County, said he was a finalist for superintendent of Normandy in 2020. His experience includes a total of 21 years in St. Louis public schools and Hazelwood districts .
“I am a student. I’m a person who loves to think,” Green said. “One of the things I was missing was the experience of working in a smaller setting.”
Green studied the Normandy’s test score data and said he would like to explore the Washington school’s improvements in fourth- and sixth-grade math and apply their strategy to the rest of the district.
The third finalist, Triplett, said his experience has led to the improvement of the school in Kansas.
“We need to remove this stigma of our kids not performing, and we need to make sure that we rebrand and counter the narrative of what people are saying about our performance,” Triplett said. “We have a lot of talent in Normandy and can do the job. We just need to have a leader who can push them to do the job.”
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