I am disappointed with the Post-Dispatch's narrow editorial response ("No excuses," June 2) to its article last month about the chaos in the Normandy School District. The subheadline “It's time to get serious about the Normandy School District” is the kind of thinking that got the district to where it is. It should have read, “It's time to get serious about the Normandy community.”
The problems noted in the article were brought into the schools by struggling neighborhoods, not by a failed school district. (Does anybody notice that there are numerous examples in the media, Department of Education statistics, etc. of “good” schools in “bad” communities but one would have to look long and hard to find a “bad” school in a “good” community? Schools may persevere, but only for so long before they are overwhelmed by the dysfunctions around them.) If significant positive change is to come to the Normandy School District, it will only be when the communities within that district experience substantial positive changes.
The Missouri Department of Education should intervene but not to act unilaterally. It should coordinate a conference to call others into action. State, county and municipal governments, the Urban League, social service and health agencies, educators, community leaders, parents, various police departments, neighboring school districts, St. Louis Public Schools (who have experience with out-of-control campuses), the NAACP, charter, parochial, and private school organizations, etc. Talk about the whole iceberg, not just the tip.
Think outside the box. Give the school district great flexibility to reinvent itself while the troubles of its communities are being addressed by the appropriate bodies. As with any structural rehab, allow the district to tear down to a solid foundation. If, as was implied in the article last month, secondary students do not even have a shared value system, then start there and allow those kids who have already proven their understanding of those values (respect for others, educational ambition, etc.) to transfer to a neighboring district with a split cost.
Everything should be considered. Everyone should be enlisted to help. No one should think this is just Normandy's problem.
John McDonald • Ferguson