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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Parents raise alarm over Rockwood School District eliminating crucial programming for students in need – KMOV4

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Some parents of one area school district are furious after their board of education voted to eliminate programs meant to help low-income students.
The Rockwood School District serves more than 20,000 students. Just last week, its board voted to end three programs specifically for Black students. Parents who talked with News 4 said their children and others feel isolated and silenced.
Shemia Reese is a mother of three Rockwood School District students. She praises the Catalyst Leadership program which helped her son.
“To see him use some of the skills he was taught in that program is amazing,” Reece said.
“I don’t feel like they serve all of our students,” board member Izzy Imig said on the October 6 Board of Education meeting. “So I vote no on all three.”
Shante Duncan’s, L.O.V.E Project, was first introduced to the district a decade ago. SistaKeeper Social and Emotional Learning, led by Tracie Berry-McGhee, has five years in the district. The third, Catalyst Leadership Academy and Circles, led by Tony Thompson, has been used by the district for the past four school years.
It was last Thursday when the Rockwood School Board voted to end that program and two others, which helped empower students through entrepreneurship, as well as social and emotional learning.
Reese also serves as co-president of the parent group Rockwood Real” This is a group focused on anti-racism. In partnership with the Rockwood Together group, a letter was drafted to the school board and district administration.
Some parents of the @rockwoodschools are upset after the board of education voted to eliminate programs meant to help students in need. These students are from low-income families in the City of St. Louis.

This letter was sent to the board and school administration. @KMOV pic.twitter.com/q008wrFEjZ
It reads in part, “Our district has been federally mandated to fund programs and services to address specific educational disparities affecting our Black students in Rockwood. Taking away access to these programs, which have successfully provided social, emotional, and academic support to students for many years in the district significantly restricts educational and social equity for our black students.”
“It’s not just about the Black girl or the Black kids, or the kids serviced by the VICC program,” Reese explained. “It’s about teaching them how to navigate in a world that looks different from them so these skills they learn will use them for the rest of their lives.”
One solution a board member proposed was giving teachers the responsibility to fill the void. Rockwood REAL Co-President Rachel Pereira said that isn’t feasible.
“Teachers are already not paid hardly anything, and you expect them to do more work and not be paid,” Pereira said. “Some of the schools right now don’t have a social worker.”
“It’s ridiculous because I feel people who have no idea what these programs entail, and have no real education on them because they are so new into these positions,” Pereira said. “They haven’t done the research, haven’t gotten feedback from teachers and students, and just eliminating them goes against everything our organization stands for. It’s incredibly unfair.”
The three programs helping low-income students were funded under VICC, the Voluntary Inter-district Choice Corporation. The desegregation programming provided helps 1,002 students who live in the city and attend school in the Rockwood district.
The district is paid $7,000 per student enrolled in the program.
It cost $86,000 to run the eliminated programs, which parents call a crucial resource for kids.
Some parents tell News 4 they believe Title 1 dollars and the VICC program is involved with funding these programs. The Rockwood School District said that’s not the case.
“No portion of DEED is funded through Title I or VICC funds, nor is there an obligation or commitment to do so,” Rockwood School District CFO Paul Northington explained. “Our Title I funds are primarily used for certified salaries and benefits for classroom intervention teachers (math and reading).  Also, a portion of Title I funds are designated for Non-public school student services.
“In regards to VICC funding, Rockwood and all other St. Louis area districts that participate in the program currently receive $7,000 per student,” Northington added.  “This amount serves to cover the cost to educate these students who are enrolled within the respective districts.  As you may know, the cost to educate students is well above the $7,000 we receive.  School districts that participate in the VICC program are not required to earmark these funds for any specific department or program.”
“The only people who end up hurt are our children, and that’s the big picture nobody sees,” Reese said. “We say we do things in the name of children, but the children are the ones who are hurt.”
You can read further about the VICC program here by clicking to head to the Rockwood School District’s annual budget.
News 4 reached out to the Board of Education for comment, including asking individual board members for an on-camera interview. We’re still waiting for a response.
Meanwhile, the Rockwood School District replied “No comment” to our request for an on-camera interview about the board’s decision to eliminate these programs.
The district’s next board meeting is Thursday, October 20.
Copyright 2022 KMOV. All rights reserved.

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