Supporters celebrate Gordon Parks victory

The doors are opening again at Gordon Parks Elementary School today, after a circuit judge ordered the state to renew its charter.

In May, the state Board of Education surprised the Midtown school when it revoked its charter because of low scores on state performance tests. A state judge later issued a temporary order putting the state board’s decision on hold until the resolution of this hearing.

“It was David versus Goliath,” Sister Berta Sailer said at a press conference yesterday afternoon. “David won as usual. We won and our children won.”

Sailer, of Operation Breakthrough, was instrumental in getting the school that serves at-risk students started.

Following yesterday’s decision, President Doug Curry said the school will reopen on August 21 and enrollment for kindergarten through second grade classes will begin immediately. He said his goal is to enroll 90-100 students this August. The school previously served 240 K-5th grade students.

Mortgage banker James Nutter joined Curry and Sailor at a press conference to celebrate the victory.

“This will have a positive impact because Gordon Parks wouldn’t be beaten,” Nutter said.

Circuit Judge Daniel R. Green took the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State School Board to task for the way it revoked the school’s charter.

“After consideration of all the evidence, the court finds that the actions of DESE and the State Board in denying the charter application of Gordon Parks were unlawful, unreasonable, arbitrary and involved an abuse of discretion,” he wrote in his decision.

read the court decision

Curry said following the decision he has sent a letter to Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro asking the state not to appeal the case, saying “our children will suffer from prolonged litigation.” The state said yesterday it has not determined if it will appeal.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” the Missouri Department of Education said in an emailed statement. “The Missouri Constitution vests supervision of public instruction in the State Board of Education. Charter schools are public schools. The Department believes charter schools have a viable place in public education. However, they all need to be high quality schools. Irrespective of what other services they provide, their most important functions are teaching and learning and the success of the children they serve. We hold all schools in Missouri accountable to the same high standards.”

Curry said the court battle with the state had cost “hundreds of thousands, up to a half million dollars, funds we would rather have directed to the children.”

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