Post editorial on Mehlville deserves an ‘F’ for failure

By Mike Anthony

Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost took it on the chin last week in an editorial by the “mighty” St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The editorial singled out Knost and laid the blame on him for all that ails our public education system. As we’ve said in the past, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

That’s exactly the case with the editorial, which accused Knost of fudging attendance numbers to block students from the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District from attending Mehlville schools.

At the July 25 board meeting, Knost announced Mehlville could accept 150 Riverview Gardens students. That same night, the board voted to adopt its first-ever policy on class sizes.

“In an amazing coincidence, the new class-size targets were announced after the transfer plans,” the editorial stated.

Amazing coincidence? Hardly, as minutes from the board’s June 20 meeting note, “He (Knost) stated there will be a discussion on classroom seat size at the July Board of Education meeting.”

At the board’s June meeting, it was considered unlikely that Riverview Gardens would select Mehlville as its transportation district given the distance between the two districts.

“I never thought for a minute that Riverview Gardens would select the Mehlville School District,” Knost told the Call’s Gloria Lloyd after the decision was made. “Not that I didn’t think it was possible. I figured I would get a phone call saying, ‘We’re thinking about Mehlville, what are your class sizes and your capacity? Or tell us about your district in general.’

“We never got any of that.”

Citing Mehlville’s declining enrollment since 2004, the Post editorial contended, “The figures make it clear that the problem in Mehlville is not a lack of room, but a lack of will.”

It’s not that simple. Among the factors adding complexity to the situation are the grade levels of the Riverview Gardens students, building capacities and number of teachers. All that has to be balanced with maintaining the high quality of education that Mehlville currently provides.

In fact, Mehlville officials late last week revised upward the number of Riverview Gardens students the district would be able to accept to 216.

Reducing class sizes has been a stated long-term goal for Mehlville.

To contend otherwise is a result of either being woefully uninformed or making a deliberate attempt to distort the facts. Either way, it’s obvious the Post did not do its homework. So its editorial deserves an “F” for failure.