Chambers optimistic Mehlville School District will earn Distinction in Performance

Ocello wants administration to pursue outreach program


Interim Superintendent Jerry Chambers is optimistic the Mehlville School District will achieve the state’s Distinction in Performance Award.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issues an Annual Performance Report, or APR, for each school district in the state, detailing how each district met Missouri School Improvement Plan performance measures and Missouri Assessment Program standards.

Based on the Mehlville School District’s preliminary APR, the results of which were presented to the Board of Education last week, Chambers is optimistic about the district earning Distinction in Performance for its overall performance during the 2005-2006 school year.

In 2002 and 2003, the Mehlville School District earned the Distinction in Performance Award, attaining a perfect score each year.

For 2004 and 2005, however, Mehlville did not achieve the Distinction in Perfor-mance Award. The school district did not meet standards in three areas — Missouri Assessment Program grades six through eight and the reading index in grade three and grade seven — for 2004 and 2005.

At the Oct. 11 Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Connie Hurst-Bayless discussed the results of the district’s preliminary APR.

Due to a power outage, the meeting at the John Cary Early Childhood Center took place in semidarkness with a backup generator providing some low-level light. Battery-powered lamps also helped illuminate the meeting room.

Hurst-Bayless said, “Mehlville School District has met 13 of the 14 standards on the preliminary APR report, which is very, very good …”

Of the 14 standards, six deal with performance on the Missouri Assessment Program scores in mathematics and communication arts.

“We met all of those at a High 1 or a High 2,” she said, explaining that High 1 is one standard deviation above the state average and a High 2 is one-third standard deviation above the state average.

Given that, she said, the district’s teachers, staff and students should be commended.

Mehlville also met the standards for ACT scores, advanced courses, career-education courses, college placement, career-education placement, graduation rate and subgroup achievement involving Adequate Yearly Progress.

Noting the attendance rate was unmet, Hurst-Bayless said, “However, this is under review by DESE and so that’s why this is called a preliminary report. There are different ways to calculate it. It’s kind of complicated.”

Chambers praised the efforts of North Area Superintendent Eric Knost and Steve Meyer of Information Technology Services for pursuing the attendance issue, saying, “… It’s the only one of the 14 that we didn’t meet, so I want to give Eric and Steve Meyer the credit for helping Connie chase that down.”

Hurst-Bayless said, “That’s right. Eric picked up on it and Steve Meyer’s investigating …”

She also noted Mehlville is not the only district challenging its attendance figures with the state.

“… We did very, very well,” she said. “I’m very pleased with our scores … At this point, we have met 13 of the 14 and we’re very proud of that. We’ll bring you an update when this information’s finalized more …”

During an interview, Chambers told the Call that based on the results of the district’s preliminary APR, he is optimistic Mehlville will receive the Distinction in Performance Award.

“There certainly is much excitement and anticipation from the Mehlville staff about our chances for once again attaining Distinction in Performance,” he said. “As many people know, that high honor may be achieved when the school district meets 13 of the 14 goals. However, many of us believe there’s a good chance that we have met the 14th goal. That is the high-attendance requirement. There’s a good chance our attendance has been miscalculated at the state level.”

The interim superintendent reiterated his praise for Knost and Meyer.

“I want to personally praise Dr. Eric Knost and Steve Meyer of our IT department for pushing this issue and causing a review and further analysis of Mehlville’s school attendance,” he said. “Dr. Connie Hurst-Bayless did a commendable job of not only presenting updated figures and comparisons for the board, but she has also worked tirelessly with staff over the last couple of years to return the Mehlville School District to that distinct category among the state’s school districts.

“Obviously, as I’ve always emphasized, the true credit and praise must go to our students and our staff. Being a newcomer to the district, I have a true appreciation for the hard work of our staff and students to put us in this category. Although the final distinction has not been awarded our district, it seems apparent to me that with or without the correction in our attendance data, the Mehlville district deserves the high honor of Distinction in Performance for the 2005-2006 school year.”

In a separate matter at the Oct. 11 meeting, Board of Education member Micheal Ocello requested that the administration begin work on a community outreach program “to address questions that are certainly out there in the community … I think that we’re all getting a certain amount of them from people asking questions about: ‘Well, if you’re saying the district is having some financial problems, how is it that you were able to do turf?’ And we know that, and I think people who’ve taken the time to really investigate that understand that.

“It seems to me that I’d like to ask Dr. Chambers to work on a program to or at least an event where we can actually address some of these questions so that people can come and ask us the hard questions or at least we can address the hard questions in an effort to be open with the community and help them understand,” he continued. “I think there’s several of those kind of questions that people would like to know about, and it may be even we solicit the community so that we know what their questions are so that we can address them.”

Ocello added that he believed it would be beneficial if the community outreach program was done sooner than later.

Board President Ken Leach said, “And that’d be really in conjunction with what we’re trying to accomplish with the cafe process …”

Leach was referring to another outreach program being discussed by the board in which one or two members would make themselves available at an area business on a Saturday morning to answer questions from the public.

Chambers said that Ocello’s request was “a great idea, and I definitely would support that.”

Leach asked Chambers to begin work on such a program.