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Confluence Charter Schools hires top leader from Normandy schools

Confluence Charter Schools hires top leader from Normandy schools

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Normandy schools will lose one of its top leaders to Confluence Charter Schools just as the district has started to show sustained turnaround improvement.

Candice Carter-Oliver, Normandy’s assistant superintendent of academics and support services, has been hired to be the first permanent CEO of the struggling charter network that enrolls more than 3,000 students.

“I am thrilled to work with the students, staff and school communities of Confluence Charter Schools,” said Carter-Oliver in a statement. “I am most committed to ensuring all children achieve at high levels. High expectations, along with high levels of student support, will continue to move us forward.”

Carter-Oliver has a bulk of experience working in urban, high-poverty school districts. She has worked as a teacher, learning coach and elementary principal in Normandy, Riverview Gardens and St. Louis Public Schools before serving in high-level administrator positions at Normandy, including chief academic officer.

“She has an extensive background as a teacher and a leader in urban schools,” said Confluence Board Chair Jose Pineda in a statement. “From her personal experience, she understands the link between the arts and education. Dr. Carter-Oliver has been instrumental in Normandy’s academic improvements in her role as assistant superintendent.”

Carter-Oliver's position becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2017. She will be paid a salary of $190,000 on a three-year contract.

In January, Carter-Oliver was also announced as one of the three finalists for the job of University City schools superintendent.

This year, Normandy performed at the level of a provisionally accredited district for the first time in years, earning about 55 percent of points possible on the state’s annual report card for schools. Carter-Oliver has been credited with helping to drive that improvement.

Academic performance is still low in the district — only 33 percent of students passed state tests for English language arts, and 16 percent for math — but the 55 percent score provided new hope that the district is turning around.

Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson said in a statement that he would want Carter-Oliver to stay with the district, but he wishes her the best.

“Dr. Carter-Oliver is a bright, talented, committed educator with an amazing future ahead of her," he said. "I would love for her to remain here in Normandy but we know her work here has prepared her for this next chapter in her career.”

Confluence opened in 2003 and has since grown from one campus with 245 students to 3,500 students on five campuses. Like the urban school districts Carter-Oliver has worked at, most of Confluence’s students are African-American and come from low-income backgrounds.

For at least the past three years, Confluence has performed poorly, earning just 28 percent of points possible on the state’s annual report card for schools in 2013. This year, it finally performed as well as the state's standard for provisionally accredited school districts, earning about 55 percent of points possible.

The charter network’s standardized test performance is nearly identical to Normandy’s. This year, 32 percent of Confluence students passed state tests on English language arts, and 17 percent on math.

The numbers are lower for social studies, where 14 percent of students passed, and science, where only 6 percent did. For Normandy, 11 percent of students passed the social studies test, and about 8 percent passed science.

The charter’s old sponsor, Missouri University of Science and Technology, put the schools on probation in 2012, then lifted the probation after the network started to show improvements.

Confluence runs Grand Center Arts Academy, Confluence Academy-Old North, Confluence Academy-South City, Aspire Academy and Confluence Preparatory Academy. The University of Missouri-Columbia now sponsors Confluence schools, except for Grand Center Arts Academy, which is sponsored by St. Louis University.

Charter schools are tuition-free, publicly funded and independently run schools that only operate in St. Louis city and Kansas City.

Kristen Taketa is the K-12 education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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