Marcus Robinson says he is “aware of rumors” that he lacks certification to be the superintendent of the Normandy Schools Collaborative. That’s just a taste of the evasive responses he has provided to serious questions about whether he is adequately prepared to lead the district out of its borderline academic status. Far too much is at stake for the students and faculty of one of Missouri’s most troubled school districts for its leadership to remain in the hands of someone with questionable qualifications.
As the Post-Dispatch’s Blythe Bernhard reported last week, Robinson was hired in April under a three-year contract with an annual salary set at $215,000 — a hefty sum even for someone who has completed the required work. When the district announced his appointment, it said Robinson would be completing a doctorate degree from Columbia University in December. Well, December came and went, but the degree appears unlikely to come anytime soon. Robinson entered the university’s doctoral program a full decade ago; it was designed to be completed in four to seven years.
Is this really the best the Normandy Schools Collaborative can do after having struggled for years to dig itself out of academic purgatory? In 2014, Normandy became the first Missouri school district to come under direct oversight of the state school board after years of mismanagement and underperformance. The loss of accreditation forced surrounding school districts to absorb many of its 3,600 students at Normandy taxpayers’ expense.
The district was relaunched with provisional accreditation in 2017. Reluctant students and parents have every right to insist that their superintendent be focused entirely on the job at hand. Instead, at least part of Robinson’s $215,000 salary will go toward helping him cover his own academic deficits.
Robinson issued a statement last Wednesday blaming the pandemic. He added, “I am aware of rumors about my certification and future plans for the district.”
These are not rumors; they are verifiable facts. And the facts are disappointing enough to prompt St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Rita Heard Days to express her concerns. “We are in this fight now for accreditation,” said Days, a former Normandy school board member. “Are they really trying to get Normandy accredited or are they just here to make sure Normandy closes for good?”
Although a doctorate isn’t required to obtain state certification, it is the standard in major school districts across the country. Robinson’s plan is to obtain superintendent certification in New York and transfer it to Missouri — a time-consuming process that would require him to possess a valid New York state teaching certificate plus certification as a school district leader or administrator.
His official biography lists no experience as a superintendent. Nor does it mention a lack of certification. The disappointments keep coming for a district that has already had more than its share of unpleasant surprises.