Almost two years after the storied school district lost its accreditation, the Normandy Schools Collaborative has sustained two consecutive years of growth, this year earning 76.5 points on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Annual Performance Report (APR).
This is the second year in a row the Collaborative made double-digit improvements in the areas DESE tracks as part of its system to gauge student learning and education quality. In 2014, the Collaborative only earned 10 points out of a possible 140. In 2015, the district quadrupled that number earning 42.5 points.
Dr. Charles J. Pearson, Normandy Superintendent of Schools, attributes the continual progress to several factors: supportive families and community, dedicated staff, giving partners, targeted curriculum strategies – and students willing to do the work.
Pearson and his staff streamlined operations and closely examined how instruction was delivered. They toured buildings, met with principals and staff to determine strengths and weaknesses of staff and curriculum, evaluated how and where students learn best, and worked with external partners to garner resources for non-academic needs, like counseling, and washers & dryers for families to use.
From the meetings and brainstorming sessions, the Collaborative made several changes, including:
“We have been blessed to have the outcomes we’ve seen in the last two years,” said Pearson. “Our students and staff have made the sacrifices, doing what was needed to improve instruction and learning. We have also been very fortunate to be a part of a community who stepped up and asked, ‘how can we help.’ Now we have a network of nonprofits, corporations, individuals and other school districts – all a part of the team to bring the best education to our students. It’s been a partnership of resources, efforts and goodwill from multiple providers. We are extremely grateful; they all have had a role in our resurgence.”
When the district lost its accreditation in 2013, the state appointed a Joint Executive Governing Board (JEGB) to oversee the operations of the Collaborative. Rich Ryffel, JEGB president, is proud of the accomplishments of the students and staff, and grateful for the community’s support during this period of transition.
“We had a challenging task in front of us,” Ryffel explained. “But the community demanded change and we owed that to them and, most importantly, to our students. We had to make some difficult decisions and work through some obstacles, but my colleagues on the JEGB are committed to turning the district around and putting the Viking ship on the right path.”
Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, an executive with Express Scripts, is a Normandy alum and resident of the district. She was appointed to the JEGB in November 2015. Her service on the JEGB is a mission for her.
“I serve on several boards, and my commitment to my community runs deep but Normandy is personal for me,” Westbrooks-Hodge said. “We’ve asked some hard questions of staff and administrators but we owe it to the community to provide the best education for our students. I cherish my years in Normandy and I want our graduates today to feel the same.”
And while Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson is ‘ecstatic’ about the progress made so far, this milestone is not the ultimate goal.
“For the last year and a half, I have told multiple audiences, accreditation is the short-term goal,” Pearson said. “The long-term goal is to provide the best education to our students so that they are prepared to work with – and compete against – students anywhere in the world.”
CAPTION: Staff from Centene and Normandy Schools Collaborative joined student interns at last spring’s grand opening for the Centene processing center in Ferguson. The high school seniors were part of the inaugural internship program which employs Normandy students at the Fortune 500 corporation. This is one of several initiatives implemented by the Collaborative to help prepare students for life after graduation. The Collaborative’s performance in the area of College and Career Readiness helped Normandy earn 76.5 points on the state’s 2015-16 Annual Performance Report.