The editorial position of this newspaper regarding the St. Louis Public Schools has been consistent throughout the recent years of turmoil. Starting well before the reform movement, which came to be associated with Mayor Francis G. Slay, SLPS has been a district doing an overall inadequate job of educating the city’s youth and preparing them for a productive future.
The changes needed in the district to turn it around and improve student outcomes are not minor changes. There is a consensus among professional educators about what is necessary to reform dysfunctional urban school districts. These necessary changes will not be popular in the short term. That is because people by nature tend to fear change, and they grow attached to particular structures both physical and administrative. It is also because certain people will lose their jobs and authority in the process of radically revising the district for the better, and people typically do not face loss of employment or power without a fight.
Those who want what is best for St. Louis and its citizens, however, should undertake the reform of SLPS, despite its unpopularity in the short term. Two civic leaders who have weathered criticism from the community in the interests of bettering the fortunes of the youth served by the district, Robert Archibald and Ron Jackson, filed Tuesday to retain their seats on the SLPS Board of Education in the upcoming municipal elections. They did so knowing that the board could be rendered powerless for some or all of their tenure, should they be re-elected, based on proposed changes to the administration of the district suggested by a Special Advisory Committee convened by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This committee, chaired by Dr. William Danforth and Frankie Muse Freeman and including Donald M. Suggs, the publisher of the American, recommended a temporary state intervention in the district and the establishment of an interim three-person governing panel, should the district completely lose its accreditation from the state . . .
What is clear, above all, is that the city’s school district has for years needed a new direction for constructive change and that its youth deserve it. It is for the best interests of those youth so many of them African-American, with long-deferred dreams of a brighter future that the American continues to advocate for dramatic change in the St. Louis Public Schools.