By SCOTT MILLER
Parents and employees comprising Mehlville’s Long-Range Planning Com-mittee want more information before beginning to discuss the school district’s financial and academic goals for the future.
In the meantime — under the direction of Mehlville administrators — the group spent much of a four-and-a-half-hour meeting last week wrestling with the district’s mission statement and core values and beliefs, mirroring conversations from the group’s first meeting.
Currently, Mehlville’s mission is “to prepare students of character for lifelong learning.”
Core values and beliefs include: “Students are the focus of our efforts. All decisions are child centered. Everyone has worth and will be treated with dignity and respect. We have high expectations for all students and staff. Students need daily successes. Education is a shared responsibility — students, family, school and community. We prepare students to live and learn in a global society.”
The group wants to add words to the beliefs such as “live, learn ‘and succeed’ in a global society,” or “everyone has ‘equal’ worth and will be treated with dignity …”
The committee also wants mention of administration and staff accountability and the best use of resources.
Also, an early draft of the group’s proposed mission statement reads, “The mission of the Mehlville School District is to ensure that each learner is equipped with the tools to reach his or her potential, preparing them to be lifelong learners with a dynamic curriculum, community collaboration and a safe, nurturing environment thus en-abling students to serve and lead in society.”
Committee members still are hashing out the correct language for the statement and the core beliefs. A final recommendation may be made at its meeting today — Nov. 4.
On the need for more information, the group wants a specific breakdown of district revenues and expenditures as well as students’ Missouri Assessment Program test scores. They want scores broken down by school to see which is performing and which isn’t.
Mehlville’s MAP scores tend to be low compared to area districts such as Lindbergh, Affton, Kirkwood or Rock-wood, according to information district officials gave to the committee. The group is trying to formulate strategies to raise scores.
As the group began considering more specific reasons for the low scores and possible ways to increase them, Deputy Superintendent Jane Reed said, “We need to go back to the big picture. There’s going to be plenty of time for a whole lot more of this. Right now, the most important thing that we have clarity on is correct interpretation of the information that you have. The questions that you felt like the data did not elaborate enough on or you need more information, we’re not trying to solve the issue, not yet. We need to really flush out the big picture first … clearly define the issue.”
On finances, the committee was given four pages of graphs regarding state and local revenue comparisons as well as expenditure breakdowns. Committee members also received a tax-rate comparison of St. Louis County school districts and a per-pupil-expenditure comparison of county districts.
Mehlville has the sixth lowest tax rate of 23 county districts at $3.95. It also has the fourth lowest per-pupil ex-penditure at $6,533, according to information provided to the committee. Plus, more than 80 percent of the district’s funding comes from local revenue, while state funding is frozen at 1993 levels.
“We know we’re hold-harmless, that we’re not getting any more money from the state, but how are expenses changing?” asked Sandy Applegate, a committee member and retired Mehlville teacher. “How much more do we spend on utilities each year? Is air conditioning more expensive? I’d like to see some more information, let’s say for the last three years, on how expenses have changed.”
Committee members also wanted more historical information on textbook and transportation expenses, among other expenses.
Salaries account for nearly 70 percent of district expenditures, debt service is 10 percent, utilities are 8 percent and supplies are 6.9 percent. The district has a $91.7 million budget this year.
The Long-Range Planning Committee is charged with making annual recommendations to the Board of Edu-cation on improving finance, facilities, technology and academic achievement.