January 09, 2013 - News analysis
When the Mehlville Board of Education voted unanimously in late November to approve tuition-free, full-day kindergarten, Superintendent Eric Knost termed the vote historic.
"For us to be able to offer what we feel is needed and appropriate for the curriculum without tuition is historic," Knost told the Call, "and I would say it's historic because in years past these kinds of decisions were attempted to be made with a ballot."
Tuition-free, full-day kindergarten will begin with the 2013-2014 school year.
In a letter to the editor published Dec. 13 in the Call, Board of Education President Venki Palamand wrote the board's action to approve full-day kindergarten will give students the "Gift of Time."
"The approval of tuition-free, full-day kindergarten, or FDK, will give hundreds of children per year more instructional time in the classroom. In a 174-day school year, this works out to 500 more instructional hours per year, or the equivalent of 87 more days in Given the impact tuition-free, full-day kindergarten will have for hundreds of children each year, the Call has designated its approval the No. 1 story of 2012.
No. 2 — Lindbergh tops in state for third straight year. For the third year in a row, Lindbergh Schools leads the state in academic achievement, ranking No. 1 among all K-12 districts in Missouri.
Lindbergh students' scores on Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, tests surpass state averages of 55 percent proficient or advanced in both communication arts and math. In communication arts, 78.5 percent of Lindbergh students scored proficient or advanced, and in math, 83.9 percent of students scored proficient or advanced.
One-hundred percent of Sperreng Middle School students scored proficient on the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, ranking No. 1 in the state for that particular test.
In addition, Lindbergh elementary schools all ranked in the top 50 among Missouri's more than 1,000 elementaries statewide.
No. 3 — Proposed redevelopment of Crestwood Court up in the air. Centrum Properties, which owns Crestwood Court along with Angelo Gordon Co., last summer unveiled preliminary plans to redevelop the mall into a unique open-air entertainment and retail venue — a one-of-kind experience in the metro area.
Since then, Centrum's $121 million proposal has faced a rocky road as aldermen voted in October to reject a resolution naming Centrum the preferred developer. In November, Mayor Jeff Schlink broke a 4-4 tie to approve the resolution when it was reconsidered.
In December, aldermen deadlocked 4-4 on the selection of a planning consultant for the mall project and Schlink declined to break the tie.
Look for more on this story in 2013.
No. 4 — Auditorium, tennis courts under construction in Mehlville. The Mehlville School District broke ground this fall for the construction of a long-awaited auditorium on the Mehlville Senior High School campus and a tennis court complex on the Bernard Middle School campus.
Both projects are being funded without a tax-rate increase.
No. 5 — Sunset Hills voters approve sales-tax extension. Sun-set Hills voters in August approved a permanent extension of the city's half-cent, capital-improvement sales tax, which allowed the city to retire roughly $450,000 in outstanding bonds.
Without approval of the sales-tax extension, Proposition 1, the half-cent, capital-improvement sales tax would have ended in 2016 when the bonds were retired. The tax generates roughly $875,000 per year for capital improvements.
Retiring the outstanding bonds saved the city roughly $41,000 in net interest expense and created a cash surplus of more than $375,000, which benefited the city's 2013 budget.
No. 6 — Petree Eastman departs Crestwood as city administrator. Former Crestwood City Administrator Petree Eastman, who served from Oct. 17, 2011, through March 9, 2012, departed the city with seven months' salary under the terms of a settlement agreement approved by the Board of Aldermen.
Eastman told the Call she and city officials are "bound on confidentiality" in regard to the circumstances of her departure and the settlement agreement. In May, two residents addressed the Board of Aldermen with concerns about Eastman's settlement agreement.
No. 7 — Green Park mayor resigns. Longtime Green Park Mayor Tony Konopka resigned in August, citing health reasons.
Konopka was elected to a third, two-year term as mayor in April 2011. Konopka was elected mayor in 2007 after serving four years as a Ward 2 alderman. He previously served on the city's Board of Adjustment and formerly was the city's street commissioner.
In October, city officials and residents honored Konopka for his service to the city. Roughly 50 residents jammed into City Hall for the Oct. 15 tribute to Konopka.
Former Ward 1 Alderman Bob Reinagel was appointed interim mayor and is seeking the post in the April 2 election.
No. 8 — St. Louis County rehires convicted felon. A convicted felon was the best candidate for the vice president of real estate and community development position with the St. Louis County Economic Council, according to county officials.
Dean Burns, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to transferring nearly $30,000 of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, funds to his own company in 1994, was hired in July by the Economic Council — to a position he first held in 1996.
Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, told the Call Economic Council officials said they looked "all over the country" and the "most qualified person they could find for this job is a convicted felon."
"That just simply can't be," Stenger said. "I question the truthfulness of that statement. I think what they're trying to do is put perfume on a pig."
Stenger was among those calling for Burns' resignation. Burns resigned in late July.
No. 9 — Mehlville Fire Protection District completes construction of new firehouse. Mehlville Fire Protection District officials conducted an open house in April for the district's new No. 3 Firehouse at 4811 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
The new firehouse is similar in design to the district's No. 2 and No. 4 firehouses, but also includes a training tower and a walkout basement. The No. 2 Firehouse at 5434 Telegraph Road was completed in 2009 and the No. 4 Firehouse at 13117 Tesson Ferry Road was finished in early 2011. All of the new firehouses have been paid for with cash and have no legacy debt associated with them.
No. 10 — Longtime Lindbergh Schools officials retire. The Lindbergh Board of Education voted in August to accept the retirements of two longtime district administrators — Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane and Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services Rick Francis.
Lanane served as CFO since 1993, while Francis had been in charge of personnel services since 2002.
"The good news in Lindbergh is almost always one person hands off their department in pristine condition. They bend over backward in transition because they take great pride in that their successor will have everything they need to be successful," Superintendent Jim Simpson told the Call. "So it's really an exciting time and a sad time. We're sad to lose incredible leaders in Pat and Rick, and they are amazing leaders. But we're also excited to grow new ones to their caliber …"
The board named two capable successors. Charles L. Triplett is the assistant superintendent of finance and chief financial officer and Brian McKenney is the assistant superintendent of personnel services.