Massey v. Normandy Sch. Collaborative, ED 102793

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtROY L. RITCHER, Judge
Citation492 S.W.3d 189
Parties Janine Massey, et al., Respondents, v. Normandy Schools Collaborative, et al., Appellants.
Docket NumberED 102793
Decision Date07 June 2016

492 S.W.3d 189

Janine Massey, et al., Respondents,
v.
Normandy Schools Collaborative, et al., Appellants.

ED 102793

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, DIVISION ONE.

FILED: June 7, 2016


Chris Koster, James Robert Layton, P.O. Box 899, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102, for Appellant Missouri State Board of Education, State of Missouri, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Dorothy White–Coleman, Susie M. McFarlind, 500 North Broadway, Suite 1300, St. Louis, Missouri 63102–2110, for Appellant Normandy Schools Collaborative.

Melanie Gurley Keeney, Celynda L. Brasher, 34 North Meramec, Suite 600, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, Robert Allen Useted, Daniel Leo Human, 1 North Brentwood Blvd., Suite 800, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, for Appellant Ritenour School District.

Melanie Gurley Keeney, Celynda L. Brasher, 34 North Meramec, Suite 600, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, Cindy Reeds Ormsby, Darold E. Crotzer, Jr., Angela Bullock Gabel, 130 South Bemiston Ave., Suite 602, Clayton, Missouri 63105, for Appellants Francis Howell School District and Ferguson–Florissant School District.

Melanie Gurley Keeney, Celynda L. Brasher, 34 N. Meramec Avenue, Suite 600, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, for Appellant Pattonville School District.

Joshua M. Schindler, Richard Gray, 141 N. Meramec Avenue, Suite 201, St. Louis, Missouri 63105, for Respondents.

ROY L. RITCHER, Judge

Defendants Normandy School Collaborative (“the Collaborative”)1 some of the

492 S.W.3d 191

“receiving districts” to which Normandy students transferred or wished to transfer (“Receiving Districts”), the Missouri State Board of Education (“State Board”), and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) (collectively referred to as “Appellants”), appeal from the trial court's February 11, 2015 judgment (“Judgment”), granting permanent injunctive and declaratory relief to the parents, guardians, and student plaintiffs (“Plaintiffs”) who had filed suit against the defendants, Pattonville School District, Ritenour School District, Ferguson–Florissant School District, and Francis Howell School District,2 because the students wished to attend a transfer school pursuant to Section 167.131, RSMo 2000,3 for the 2014–15 school year but were denied that opportunity when the State Board voted to grant a waiver, giving the Collaborative new accreditation as a state oversight district such that it was not subject to the requirements of Section 167.131. The trial court's Judgment was based on the grounds that the State Board had not legally accredited the Collaborative and students residing within the boundaries were eligible to transfer to accredited schools in the same or adjoining counties pursuant to Section 167.131, and the Collaborative was required to pay the costs of tuition and transportation. We affirm the trial court's Judgment.

I. Background

For the December 18, 2014 hearing conducted prior to the ruling on appeal, the parties filed a detailed “Stipulation of Facts between Plaintiffs and all Defendants regarding Plaintiffs' Petition for Permanent Injunction.” Accordingly, the facts are not in dispute.

From 2008 through 2012, none of the Missouri School Improvement Program's (“MSIP's”) student achievement results for mathematics and communication arts (i.e., English) were met in the Normandy School District. These results were generated from scores attained from the standardized “Missouri Assessment Program” (“MAP”) tests of students from the third to the eleventh grades. A district must meet at least one MAP standard to be even “provisionally accredited,” which was the Normandy School District's classification for many years leading up to this point. The Normandy School District was deemed “provisionally accredited” in April 1996 as determined by a “First Cycle MSIP 1990–1996,” as well as in March 2001 as determined by a “Second Cycle MSIP 1996–2001,” and in April 2006 as determined by a “Third Cycle MSIP 2001–2006.”

On September 18, 2012, the State Board classified the Normandy School District as unaccredited, as of January 1, 2013. Six months later, the Missouri Supreme Court decided Breitenfeld v. Clayton School District, 399 S.W.3d 816 (Mo.banc 2013), which ended litigation over the application of Section 167.131, to allow students who reside in an unaccredited school district to transfer to accredited school districts in the same or an adjoining county. The transferring home school district is responsible for the cost of the child's education, according to Section 167.131. The Missouri Supreme Court's prior decision in Turner v. School District of Clayton, 318 S.W.3d 660 (Mo.banc 2010), upheld the statute and clarified that accredited school

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districts had no discretion to deny admission to a transferring student from an unaccredited district, if so chosen by the student. Id. at 662–63.

Given the Normandy School District's “unaccredited” status, for the 2013–14 school year, approximately 930 district students transferred pursuant to Section 167.131 to the schools of defendants Pattonville School District (“Pattonville”), Ritenour School District (“Ritenour”), Ferguson–Florissant School District (“Ferguson–Florissant”), and Francis Howell School District (“Francis Howell”), among others. Most students (approximately 430) transferred to Francis Howell, while the rest transferred to seventeen other school districts in St. Louis County and adjoining counties for the 2013–14 school year. Among these students were the children of parent Plaintiffs in this action, which children successfully completed their 2013–14 school year. In October 2013, DESE issued a news release stating that state education officials would be holding meetings in November and December of 2013 to discuss the accreditation status and potential options for the future of the Normandy School District. In February 2014, the State Board directed the Commissioner of Education to establish a Normandy Transition Task Force to consider options and develop recommendations for the governance and operation of the Normandy School District in the event of a lapse. By the end of the 2013–14 school year, 786 students had completed Intent to Return forms to transfer again from the Normandy School District for the 2014–15 school year. Additionally, approximately 74 new families also applied to have their children transfer during the 2014–15 school year.

According to the Missouri Code of State Regulations' rule that addresses the MSIP, 5 C.S.R. 20–100.105(2), DESE must annually review the performance of all school districts in Missouri as a means of guiding DESE in determining those districts in need of improvement and in determining the level of intervention, if necessary. The State Board must assign to each school district one of four classification designations: unaccredited, provisionally accredited, accredited, and accredited with distinction. 5 C.S.R. 20–100.105(3).4 The rule also addresses the means by which the State Board can change the designations. Specifically, an unaccredited school district could become accredited if it “demonstrated significant change in student performance over multiple years.” 5 C.S.R. 20–100.05(5)(B).5

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In February 2014, the State Board directed the commissioner of DESE to establish a Normandy Task Force (“Task Force”), comprised of numerous education experts and community leaders, to govern and operate the Normandy School District. The Task Force's “Guiding Principles” were such that “Normandy residents should have access to a unified district of high-quality schools that hold students to high expectations.” On May 12, 2014, the Task Force issued recommendations relating to “governance structure, advisory committees, system components, community partnerships, educators and leaders.”

On May 20, 2014, the State Board adopted a resolution that “lapsed” the Normandy School District as of June 30, 2014. The resolution established the Collaborative as of July 1, 2014, “within the existing boundaries of the Normandy School District,” retaining and exercising all authority previously granted to the State Board of the unaccredited Normandy School District. Pursuant to Section 162.081.3(2)(b), the State Board gave the Collaborative the authority to take any actions necessary for its operation, subject to the advice and consent of the State Board. The May 20, 2014 meeting minutes did not mention an effort to change the accreditation status of the Collaborative.

On June 16, 2014, the State Board addressed the accreditation status of the Collaborative. Its meeting minutes, approved July 22, 2014, listed under “Consideration of Classification Determination for the Normandy Schools Collaborative,” state that the State Board voted unanimously to grant “a waiver under Mo.Rev.Stat. Section 161.210,” giving the Collaborative a “new school status as a state oversight district.”

In announcing the creation of the Collaborative, the State Board indicated that a Normandy Joint Executive Governing Board will “within ninety days of appointment, implement a school improvement plan” and “provide quarterly reports” to the State Board. The announcement also indicated that “the waiver status shall be reviewed based upon the benchmarks...

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