|Back to Oct. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 225||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||OCTOBER 2004|
|Turnaround Firm Cleans Up St. Louis Schools' Fiscal Mess|
In one tumultuous year that began with the surprise disclosure of a $55 million deficit by the outgoing superintendent, Alvarez & Marsal of New York accomplished the following steps which had eluded previous superintendents:
"Financially, the system was flying blind," explained Vincent Schoemehl, a school board member and former mayor of St. Louis. "We've demonstrated that there is a way to connect the cultures of the private sector with the culture of urban education. I would recommend the model to any public entity that needs to refresh itself." (Education Week, 6-23-04)
An assessment by the Council of Great City Schools, while critical of many aspects of St. Louis schools, concluded that St. Louis, in hiring a professional restructuring firm, set itself apart from other cities that are "captives of their inaction." The school board made its hiring decision shortly after a new majority reform slate was voted into office.
On the heels of Roberti's departure, the school board voted to close five more schools some of which were more than half empty, and two of which had just had air conditioning installed a year earlier. In addition, the board decided in late September to adopt the phonics-based Open Court reading program.
No one would say that St. Louis's school problems have been solved. Educationally, the district has a very long way to go. But putting its fiscal house in order was a necessary first step.