Lindbergh Schools’ annual Learning Report outlines academic achievements of students

Fey committed to resolving district’s financial challenges

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh Schools’ students continue to excel academically as their Missouri Assessment Program scores are among the best in the state, district administrators recently told the Board of Education.

Administrators presented the district’s annual Learning Report to board members during a recent special meeting, outlining the academic achievements of students during the 2008-2009 school year.

Director of Curriculum and Student Programs Chuck Triplett reported to the Board of Education that 2008-2009 was “a great year of solid academic growth and academic achievement …” Lindbergh students’ academic accomplishments also compare favorably nationwide, he said, as Missouri’s academic performance standards are among the toughest in the United States.

A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics compared proficiency standards set by each state by using the National Assessment of Education Progress as a benchmark.

The study found Missouri’s proficiency standards are:

• Second in rigor only to Massachusetts in fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade math.

• Second only to South Carolina in eighth-grade reading.

• Fourth in the nation in eighth-grade math — behind South Carolina, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

“… Our state tests are very rigorous. So our kids who are proficient aren’t just proficient. They are mastering extremely difficult ideas and very difficult skills …,” Triplett told the Board of Education during the Nov. 17 special meeting.

Statewide, he said Lindbergh ranks very high, citing comparisons available on

. Of the 501 districts measured by schooldigger.com in Missouri, Lindbergh ranks No. 4 with its Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, scores outperforming such benchmark districts as Parkway, Kirkwood, Rockwood, Webster Groves and Pattonville.

As for the state’s top three districts, No. 1 Mirabile has 64 students, No. 2 Norborne has 206 students and No. 3 North Shelby has 337 students, Triplett told the board.

“… Sixty-four students and they’re No. 1 in the state,” he said of Mirabile, which has a kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment. “So when we come in No. 4 with 5,600 students, that to me speaks volumes about how well we do …”

Lindbergh’s MAP scores exceeded Missouri’s target scores by roughly 20 percentage points. While Missouri’s adequate yearly progress, or AYP, targets are 59.2 percent proficient for communication arts and 54.1 percent proficient for math, 70.2 percent of Lindbergh students were proficient or advanced in communication arts, and 72.5 percent were proficient or advanced on the math part of the MAP test.

“… Throughout the state, we absolutely hold our own, outscoring almost everybody in almost any way you want to measure …,” Triplett said.

Lindbergh Schools also received a perfect score on its Annual Performance Re-port, he said, noting the district met all 14 performance indicators used for accreditation of school districts.

“… That should get us a ninth Distinction in Performance,” Triplett said.

To qualify for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Distinction in Performance Award, a school district must meet 13 out of 14 performance indicators, including all MAP-based measures.

Besides MAP scores, other standards are: ACT Scores, Advanced Placement Courses, Career Education Courses, College Placement, Career Education Placement, Graduation Rate, Attendance Rate and Subgroup Achievement.

Besides hearing about districtwide academic performance, board members heard presentations from the principals of each of the district’s schools.

Principals highlighted students’ academic achievements as well as areas in which improvement is needed.

After the presentations, Board of Education President Ken Fey noted the financial challenges facing the district and praised the work of administrators.

Speaking for himself, he said, “… I always enjoy this evening and I would like to say a giant thank you to everyone in this room. It does not work without you. The bar gets higher and higher and higher. Now we’ve had a couple of blips. Everyone has come up here and shown that this may go up, this may go down, but this was an incredible report tonight. There’s lots and lots to be happy about here. Again, we’ve got some challenges. We’ll get through these challenges, but again personally I would like to say thank you very much. We are very lucky. I mean we sit up here at board meetings and sometimes we get the accolades and we get the handshakes and we get the applause …”

But it’s the staff that does the real work, Fey said.

“This is a tremendous administrative staff we’ve got here,” he said. “As (Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction) Nancy (Rathjen) said, you are some of the finest principals in the area and I just feel so lucky to have all of you folks on our side.”

The board president said he is committed to resolving the district’s financial challenges, noting that officials pledged in November 2008 not to seek a tax-rate increase for at least 24 months.

Though Lindbergh also faces financial challenges as a result of the current economic recession, the district’s reserves of roughly $24.6 million are the reason why the situation is not a crisis at this point.

The district’s long-range financial plan calls for a planned spend down of those reserves with a deficit-spending cap of $3 million per year.

In June, the Board of Education adopted a 2009-2010 operating budget that projected a deficit of $3 million. But a further decline in the assessed value of commercial real estate — including successful appeals by commercial property owners to the county Board of Equalization — increased the district’s projected budget deficit for the current school year to more than $5 million.

Lindbergh officials plan to further utilize district reserves this year to cover the increased deficit, but will have to cut a total of $5.5 million from the 2010-2011 budget — the planned spend down of $3 million in reserves plus an additional $2.5 million.

“… There will be a time (to seek a tax-rate increase) and we are discussing that time right now,” Fey said. “And we are very serious about a time table. I mean we will have to go out and this board will put it in front of the voters. We will not let this go on forever. We have committed here that through these economic times that we will wait for a little bit. We do have some reserves and we will wait a little bit. But we will not — we will not just let this go down and down and down. I do not want to see this district just go straight into the ground.

“Whether it’s this board or the board behind us or whoever, they will go out and we will go out and we will try very, very hard to get some more revenue in here … That’s my commitment. I will go out to the community and I will do everything in my power to get an increase,” he added.