FHSD discusses Normandy Transfers, attempts to address concerns, sparks emotions

By Sophie Gordon

Members of the FHSD community gather in FHC's gymnasium Thursday evening to discuss the incoming Normandy Transfers. Many parents and residents brought up concerns and spoke directly to the school board at a microphone. Among those who spoke were two FHHS student, an FHC student and State Representative Mark Parkinson. (photo by sophie gordon)
Members of the FHSD community gather in FHC’s gymnasium Thursday evening to discuss the incoming Normandy Transfers. Many parents and residents brought up concerns and spoke directly to the school board at a microphone. Among those who spoke were two FHHS student, an FHC student and State Representative Mark Parkinson. (photo by sophie gordon)

July 12–Almost 3,000 parents and residents crowded in FHC’s gymnasium yesterday to express their concerns about the incoming Normandy transfers. The meeting, which started at 6 p.m. and was scheduled to end at 7:30 p.m., did not end until 8:50 p.m. with the FHSD Board of Education (BOE) and Superintendent Pam Sloan staying even later to address additional questions.

“My biggest concern is about safety,” Sandy Rotter, mother of FHN junior Rachel Rotter, said. “My child is in her last two years at school, so academically, I don’t feel that this situation will affect her tremendously. In my opinion, it’s more likely to be the high school kids that are going to be more violent, and I specifically wanted to know what their plan was to provide security to the kids in the high school.”

Rotter’s concern about safety was among the most common. Various parents and residents stepped up to the microphone to express feelings of fear about violence. Comments alleging that Normandy has metal detectors sparked insistence that FHSD have the same level of security. Metal detectors are not mentioned on Normandy District’s website; however, it does mention staffing safety and security officers as well as requiring its students to bring clear backpacks to school, similar to Ritenour High School’s policy.

“Safety is our number one concern,” Sloan said. “We have a lot of practices and processes in place in order to keep our schools as safe as we can. We have teachers and staff who are trained to provide for our students, and hallway supervision is part of what we do every day. We put a great deal of emphasis on [safety]. We have school resource officers in every one of our secondary schools. We have character education programs in place at our schools. We will look at the [Normandy transfer] student records like we do any transfer student and see what kind of students are coming to us to the best of our knowledge. We will look at those to determine what supports might need to be in place.”

Another concern of many parents is the increase in class size. Many wonder whether their children’s educations will suffer with this influx of students. According to the District, FHSD has room for approximately 1,000 new students this year—this number includes the potential for 300 to 400 new District students, which leaves 600 to 700 spots open for Normandy transfers. As of press time, only 150 students registered to transfer, not even close to this maximum capacity. However, the number of transfers will not be finalized until Aug. 1, the deadline for Normandy students to register to transfer to any school district.

“I don’t feel like we’re getting answers,” Colleen Cosby, an FHN graduate and mother of FHSD students, said. “How many students are coming in? How many do I prepare my four children for? We need this addressed…I know you don’t have the answers today, but I would assume, as a taxpayer and a voter, that those decisions will be made and not, ‘Oh, we’ll let you know when school starts.’ That’s not acceptable.”

In order to address concerns about overcrowded classrooms, the District said that it has set a desirable class size for each grade level:

  • Kindergarten through second grade: 20 students

  • Third and fourth grade: 22 students

  • Fifth and sixth grade: 25 students

  • Seventh through twelfth grade: 28 students

“As we move forward into the 13-14 school year, we will make the recommendation to our Board next week that we continue to keep our class sizes at the desirable limit,” Sloan said. “We’re going to make a commitment to make that happen.”

According to Kathy and Eddie Barnes, parents of two Normandy students, quite a few of the kids they talked to are choosing not to transfer to FHSD. In their opinion, most of the transfer students will be kids who want to learn.

“Some of them won’t want to travel this far, and then it’s a strange place where they don’t know anyone,” Kathy Barnes, mother of twin incoming sophomores, said. “The kids that really want to learn and want something different, they’re going to grab hold and come out here. But they have to be chosen. They have to apply, they have to be accepted. And the reason that we are really considering them coming here is because [our twins] have been in band since third grade…and we want them to go on a scholarship, so we need their GPA to come up so they can get a scholarship and go to college and be able to keep their scholarship.”

As for concerns about how Normandy will pay for tuition, the BOE will recommend a policy and regulation that addresses the collection of tuition for nonresident students on July 18. The annual tuition rate, which is calculated according to the provisions of Missouri State Statute 167.131 and a spreadsheet formula model created by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will be divided into one-tenth increments which will be billed each month.

“If the student attends one day during the month, we will bill the sending district for the entire month for that student,” Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple said. “So we will have that tuition coming to us on a monthly basis….If the sending district falls behind in paying [tuition] to the receiving district, the [Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] will intercept their state aid and send that to the receiving district.”

Towards the end of the night, State Representative for St. Charles County Mark Parkinson spoke and urged the concerned parents and residents to call the governor’s office to request that the governor call the representatives into special session as well as sign Senate Bill 125 (http://goo.gl/7QL1N).

“The governor of the state of Missouri is the sole power to call us into special session to fix this problem,” Parkinson said. “This solely rests on his desk. Call his office. I called on the governor two weeks ago to call us into special session to fix this issue. He is on record this week saying he will not do so. Call his office.”

When the meeting finally ended, many parents approached the Board with additional questions. While FHSD address its parents’ concerns, the Barnes worried about their own children and whether they would be able to transfer to FHSD. They hope to move their twins from a school district that they claim didn’t distribute books until the middle of the year to a school district that will help their children get into college.

“My concern is: will my kids be safe?” Eddie Barnes, whose son and daughter hope to be sophomores in FHSD, said. “I’m hearing all of this and I have the concern whether they’re safe or not. They’re not bad kids. My kids don’t go outside because of what’s going on in the neighborhood. So that’s my concern. Will they be safe here?”

“My biggest concern is the teachers,” Kathy Barnes said. “Are they willing to give that attention that the children need or are you going to just automatically, ‘Oh, you’re from Normandy, I don’t want to deal with you?’ I don’t think that’s fair because if that’s how they’re going to treat them, then I’d rather they don’t come to the district. If they aren’t going to get treated any better than they are at Normandy, they might as well go to another district.”

Additional information will be released by the District as it becomes available. There will be a Board of Education meeting on July 18 at 7 p.m. at the District Administration building.

SOME FACTS TO NOTE:

  • Normandy student transfer’s test scores will become FHSD test scores.

  • Normandy students must apply to transfer. (http://goo.gl/LWPhw & http://goo.gl/m9Brm)

  • Normandy’s Superintendent only started on July 1.

  • Riverview Gardens School District chose to bus its students to Mehlville. (http://goo.gl/9NS

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