Monday, February 11, 2008

Rick Sullivan: cutting ties to bad practices in St. Louis Public Schools

SLPS’ Sullivan seeks a fresh start was the headline of a Dec 31st story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Rick Sullivan’s bid for chief executive of SLPS’ Special Administrative Board (the one with the power to actually make decisions for SLPS). The point of the state takeover was to break with everything administratively and policy-wise that simply wasn’t working for the district. Rick Sullivan seems to want to be the director of that change: the man who can lead this difficult time of transition and massive legislative and procedural overhauls, and then carry that change back to a locally controlled board. This is certainly what needs to happen—and Sullivan could breach the gap between the needs that St. Louisans have within the community and the changes that the state wants to implement, but only if—and this is a big if—he can truly make a fresh start. Sullivan is ostensibly still in favor of a four-year-old battle suing taxpayers for billions in education funds, and defended it during his confirmation hearing. It’s the opinion of the state that the former school board (who voted to be part of this suit) has a track record of poor decision-making that has not helped the district recover accreditation—and if Sullivan does want to make a fresh start, a re-examination of involvement in this lawsuit is in order. The Special Administrative Board should have an opportunity to decide if continuing with a costly lawsuit (over half a million so far) is the best course of action for a school district in crisis. What’s even more important, though, is letting the community have a real voice in this decision as the Special Administrative Board has promised will happen as it moves forward. If they are serious about that claim, this would be the appropriate place to start.

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