January 08, 2014 - News analysis
In many respects, 2013 could be considered a year in which to expect the unexpected.
Just ask Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost, who was taken by surprise in July when the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District announced it would bus students to his school district for the 2013-2014 school year.
In June, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a state law that allows students of unaccredited school districts to attend any accredited school district in their county or an adjoining county, with tuition paid by the unaccredited school district.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, recommended unaccredited districts provide transportation to one district of their choice.
When Knost discussed the Supreme Court decision with Board of Education members in June, he said it was unlikely that Mehlville, which has roughly 11,000 students, would be chosen by the Riverview Gardens School District in north county, which has about 5,900 students, as its receiving district. The districts are 22 miles apart. However, the three members of the state-appointed board that oversees Riverview Gardens chose to bus to Mehlville at the board's July 9 meeting.
"I never thought for a minute that Riverview Gardens would select the Mehlville School District," Knost told the Call. "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."
But the hundreds of former Riverview Gardens students now attending Mehlville are adjusting well, Knost said. Some of the 216 students who started the year by transferring to Mehlville have returned to Riverview, leaving the district with roughly 200 transfer students. The after-school transportation the Mehlville Board of Education approved so the students could participate in extracurricular activities is working well, and the district will spend much less than the $76,000 approved by the board, according to Knost.
Given the unexpected decision by Riverview Gardens' state-appointed board and the warm reception extended to Riverview Gardens students by the Mehlville School District community, the Call designates this the No. 1 story of 2013.
No. 2 — New elementary should be built on Dressel site, committee says. A Lindbergh Schools committee studying how the district's aggressive enrollment growth should be addressed agreed in November to recommend building a new elementary school on the nearly 10-acre site of Dressel School, 10255 Musick Road.
The district closed on the $1.94 million purchase of the property in July 2011. The committee is scheduled to present its recommendation to the Board of Education next week.
No. 3 — County must pay trash haulers $5.9 million, judge rules. Given a chance to reconsider the damages St. Louis County will pay the trash haulers affected by the county's establishment of trash districts, Circuit Judge Barbara Wallace handed down a $5.9 million judgment in December.
Now that Wallace has ruled, the county will appeal the judgment, said county Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls, who added he is disappointed the judge awarded anything at all to the trash haulers.
No. 4 — Crestwood Court site up for sale. After some wild rhetoric this summer by one of the owners of the former Crestwood mall, Mayor Jeff Schlink announced in November the site would be put up for sale.
Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Centrum Partners LLC purchased the former Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood in 2008, and announced plans in June 2012 to redevelop the site into an open-air entertainment complex. In a series of emails this summer to city officials, Sol Barket of Centrum Partners announced he was withdrawing his redevelopment proposal and challenged Schlink to a debate. The proposal was never formally withdrawn and the debate never occurred. In July, Barket and Schlink agreed not to discuss the redevelopment proposal with the press for the next month.
With the former mall site now up for sale, look for more on this story in 2014.
No. 5 — Haefner raises possibility of Oakville incorporating or forming new county. Opposition to a senior apartment complex on Telegraph Road sparked renewed interest by residents in the possibility of incorporating Oakville as a city or forming a new county.
In December, nearly 50 people attended a meeting organized by Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, who raised both possibilities during her town-hall meeting in October.
Look for more on this story in 2014.
No. 6 — William B. Nottelmann Auditorium opens. A bit of history was made in the Mehlville School District in late October when the William B. Nottelmann Auditorium opened to the public.
The Nottelmann Auditorium is the first auditorium in the school district's history and is on the Mehlville High campus. It can seat 525 people and will be the home for musical and theatrical performances by students in all of the district's schools.
No. 7 — MSD stormwater fee unconstitutional, Supreme Court rules. Five years after the initial lawsuit, the Missouri Supreme Court in November agreed with lower courts that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District's monthly stormwater charges are unconstitutional, sending MSD back to the drawing board on how to fund future improvements.
Lincoln County Circuit Judge Dan Dildine first ruled against the fee in July 2010, after which MSD stopped collecting the charge and returned to its previous method of collecting stormwater taxes. MSD took in $90 million during the two years it charged for impervious area, compared to the roughly $22 million it had taken in each year through its flat-fee stormwater charge.
The Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' ruling that MSD did not have to return that money to customers.
No. 8 — Plans proceed for new Tesson Ferry County Library Branch. Over the objections of Green Park elected officials and some residents, the St. Louis County Library Board of Trustees is proceeding with plans to move its Tesson Ferry Branch County Library from Green Park to the southeast corner of Gravois and Musick roads, across from Grant's Farm.
Look for updates on this story in 2014.
No. 9 — Ryan defeats Klund in race for fire board seat. Incumbent Ed Ryan defeated challenger Mike Klund in the April election to retain his seat on the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.
Ryan, who has served as board secretary since 2007, termed his re-election a victory for taxpayers because they will continue to have representation on the MFPD board.
No. 10 — Lindbergh tops in state in academic achievement for fourth straight year. For the fourth straight year, Lindbergh Schools teachers led students to academic excellence, as the district once again ranked No. 1 in academic achievement among all K-12 districts in Missouri.
The ranking is based on student achievement data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.