When I became Superintendent three and a half years ago, I had a specific vision about education in the Normandy community, in the Normandy footprint. What if our children could envision attending our Early Childhood Center, then Kindergarten, then go to an elementary school, middle school and high school in this footprint, but not stop there? What if there were majors, programs, scholarships, grants, fellowships, and opportunities at the University of Missouri that would support them attending that four-year institution, and then they have an internship and later, a career at Express Scripts, or some other corporation or business in our footprint?
This vision for our young people exists now and I am incredibly thankful.
Two months ago, while sitting with an Express Scripts executive and discussing the UMSL Bridge Program, I was informed that this program offers scholarships to UMSL that our students can apply for. To truly appreciate this, the UMSL Bridge program was developed with Normandy students in mind. In essence, it prepares students for success in college and also trains parents in strategies to support their future college students.
I stood on that hill neighboring UMSL, looking at the foundation and rising walls of the new Normandy Early Learning Center. To the east of the site is Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex, soon to be a 1-8 Elemiddle School. To the north of the Early Learning Center site is the UMSL North Campus. In addition to the four years spent at the high school, at this site, I can see the vision I have for the Collaborative — from early learning to college to career, all within our footprint.
I am thankful for the privilege to be alive now. At this time, in these challenging days ripe with opportunity, I get to serve as the Superintendent of Schools in the Normandy Schools Collaborative and work with a team of committed adults who refuse to settle for low aspirations for our children. I am thankful for the families who trust us to do the right thing for their children, to find ways to support families and teach children. I am thankful for collaborators and community partners who have come alongside us to do what can be difficult. I am thankful for the chance to make a difference.
As I stood on that hill looking down at the walls of the new Early Learning Center rising out of the ground, the footprint of the building is clear now. I can imagine the space completed and filled with our youngest scholars. This was the vision: lay a solid foundation for our youngest learners, create an educational experience that both they and their families will value. This is the foundation that will change our future for the better.
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to thank each of you for helping make this vision a reality. May your thanksgiving be a joyful start to the holiday season.
--Dr. Charles J. Pearson, Superintendent of Schools
At its public meeting Monday, November 12, the Normandy Joint Executive Governing Board (JEGB) approved my recommendation for realigning the current school attendance boundaries.
What does this mean? The current school attendance boundaries are used to determine, based on a student’s address, which school a student in grades 1-6, attends. For example, if an elementary student lives in the Pine Lawn area, the student will likely attend Barack Obama Elementary School. The realigned boundaries may mean some students may have to transfer to another school. These boundaries will also determine which schools our current 7th graders return to as part of the reconfiguration to grade 1-8/Elemiddle schools.
Why change the boundaries? This change will support the move to a grade 1-8/Elemiddle school model and the re-opening of Bel-Nor as an Elemiddle school. With Bel-Nor available for students in grades 1-8 who live in that part of the district, there will be a certain number of students who will be transferred from their current school to Bel-Nor, or a school that is closer to their home address. One of the goals of the realigned boundaries is to return to a neighborhood school model. With neighborhood schools, students have shorter commutes, and longer and stronger relationships between students’ families, and school teachers and staff.
Here’s how the realigned school attendance boundaries will support the changes occurring next school year.
Moving to the 1-8/‘Elemiddle’ Model: Beginning August 2019, the Normandy 7th-8th Grade Center will close, and 7th and 8th graders will attend one of the five Elemiddle schools in the district: Barack Obama, Jefferson, Lucas Crossing, Washington and Bel-Nor (the current Normandy Kindergarten Center). The decision to move 7th & 8th graders back to schools serving elementary students was based on extensive research on the academic performance of middle-school students in Normandy and nationally. In Normandy, we examined student data dating back to 2002, and found academic performance stalled for too many of our students in the middle school environment. This has led to many of our students not performing on grade-level when reaching high school, requiring remedial support in critical areas like reading and math. Research has also shown that middle-grade students in a 1-8 setting perform better academically and are better prepared for high school. This change to the grade 1-8 model is our opportunity to improve student achievement for children at this critical stage in their lives.
Re-opening Bel-Nor as an Elemiddle School: With the closing of the Normandy 7th-8th Grade Center and to accommodate the addition of the 7th & 8th graders, we are opening Bel-Nor as the fifth Elemiddle school. Kindergartners will attend the new Early Learning Center, along with pre-school and pre-kindergarten students. The new Early Learning Center is being built at the site of the current N78C. Bel-Nor and the new Normandy Early Learning Center will open for the 2019-2020 school year.
Families with students currently in the 7th grade and students in grades 1-6 who will need to transfer based on the realigned attendance boundaries will be notified by mail in the coming weeks of their school assignment for the 2019-2020 school year.
These are significant changes for Normandy, but progress only comes with change. I heard a wise person say, “Five-year plans are for adults. Our children need change NOW.” These are all child-centered changes for the benefit of our students. As adults, we have a responsibility to make the difficult decisions and do the hard work today to better prepare our children for a successful future. We appreciate your support and patience as we work to make changes for a better Normandy.