We are writing on behalf of our 18,000 students, members of our Board of Education and 50,000 households regarding the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article “North County Suburbia in Crisis.”
As superintendent and board president of the largest district in North County, we are well aware of the challenges we face, as well as the many attributes that make our school district a wonderful place to work, live and raise a family.
Hazelwood School District recently received its Annual Performance Report under the more rigorous fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 5). Under MSIP 5, school districts can earn up to 140 points based on academic achievement; subgroup achievement (includes minority students, students with limited proficiency in English, students with disabilities, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, and students receiving special education); college and career or high school readiness; attendance rate; graduation rate.
The Final 2013 Annual Performance Report from the state indicates that HSD earned 119.5 points out of a possible 140. This represents 85.4 percent of the total number of points and a 5.4 percent increase from last year. Not only is HSD fully accredited, but our district is less than seven points from earning accredited with distinction honors.
HSD graduates have been very successful. Our students are attending distinguished universities, such as Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kyle Jordan-DeDeaux has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar. Kevin McPartland has been awarded the University of Alabama Presidential Scholarship. The United Negro College Fund recently awarded scholarships to several members of the Class of 2013.
It would be difficult to find a community that has been more supportive than ours. Since 2004, voters have authorized HSD to sell $255 million in bonds to support new schools and facility upgrades.
Thanks to voter support, we implemented full-day kindergarten district-wide, built four new middle schools and renovated our two existing middle schools, made multiple safety upgrades, and provided new space for our early childhood and gifted programs. We also built a new, state-of-the-art library at Hazelwood Central High School and we are in the process of building new libraries at Hazelwood West and Hazelwood East high schools. Our high schools are also receiving new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classrooms.
The facility upgrades were made possible through the Hazelwood First public engagement process that involved more than 1,000 staff members, parents and community members in the decision-making process.
This past school year, the Hazelwood West High School and Hazelwood Central High School robotics teams competed at the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship competition. The RoboHawks from Hazelwood Central High finished with a ranking of 13 out of the 100 teams in their division.
In addition, 11 HSD schools were among 312 Missouri public and charter schools that were recognized by state education officials for successful adoption and implementation of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support, a comprehensive approach for improving student behavior and academic performance.
This summer, more than 600 teachers, administrators and other educators attended our three-day Assessment Literacy Summer Institute. In addition, more than 750 parents and students participated in an informational session on Assessment Literacy.
Assessment Literacy seeks to inform students about themselves and their own learning. This process helps students discover exactly where they are in relation to the learning targets set by their teachers. With the support of teachers, assessment literacy helps students know what steps to take next in reaching the learning targets.
With state-of-the-art schools and a fully-accredited school district, HSD and the communities of North County are not in crisis. We are moving forward.
Grayling Tobias is superintendent and Cheryl D. Latham is board president of the Hazelwood School District.