Superintendent Lori VanLeer

Franklin County superintendents last week sat down with local legislators to discuss a variety of educational issues, including school transfers.

Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer hosted the meeting with state Reps. Paul Curtman, Dave Hinson and Dave Schatz.

In attendance were school leaders from Strain-Japan, Spring Bluff, Lonedell, New Haven and Sullivan.

Union, St. Clair, and Pacific superintendents were unable to attend, and state Sen. Brian Nieves was out of town.

“In addition to discussing school transfer solutions, we also shared information about how our districts write, revise and develop curriculum, the Missouri Learning Standards and Common Core,” VanLeer said. “We also talked about other issues like tax reform, tax credits and the budget.

“We had great conversation with each representative and we really appreciate our time with them in this collegial setting,” she said

VanLeer’s video message to her staff this week also discusses school transfers and the New Path to Excellence, a plan being put forth by school leaders across the state and several school organizations to address the issue of failing schools.

“We did cover this with Reps. Hinson, Schatz, and Curtman,” she said. “The state is struggling to figure out what to do about unaccredited school districts and the transfer (school choice) issues that have materialized as a result.”

VanLeer said the issue will eventually affect all school districts, including Washington, if the current transfer model continues because there isn’t enough funding for education to support bailouts of bankrupt school districts along with the foundation formula allocations.

“Most importantly, all children and families deserve quality community schools and that is truly where they would like to stay and what they should expect,” she said. “A New Path to Excellence is a proposal of ideas to be considered by the State Board of Education and legislators. It should help start a conversation about possible solutions.”

New Path

VanLeer said a New Path to Excellence would focus on individual school accreditation, not the whole district, and provide for much earlier intervention while allowing students the option to transfer to higher performing schools within their own school district.

It also proposes to change the current accreditation of three ratings to four ratings, and place the focus on intervention and support rather than just consequences for struggling school districts.

That intervention would happen at the provisional accreditation level, which does not happen right now. There also would be a five-year time limit for provisional accreditation, which does not exist now.

The plan also proposes for an outside review team to go into struggling schools and help set goals and make recommendations for improvement, and the establishment of a state improvement director to serve over the struggling schools.

In her video message to staff, VanLeer said she will continue to provide updates on the plan and any legislation action regarding transfers.