Ladue-Frontenac Patch Editor Jim Baer recently sat down with Ladue School Superintendent Marsha Chappelow to talk about items of interest as we approach the start of the school year. Among the topics: the future of the in , the new Early Childhood Center opening there, and of course, budgets.
Patch: August marks a new cycle of education, new school year with a lot of new students coming on board. How optimistic are you about the new school year?
Marsha Chappelow: I’m excited. I just returned from the new () LEEC, and that can build excitement right there. Anytime you see an updated educational facility that's going to let teachers do an even better job of teaching just because the environment works with them, that's good. I am very excited about the other staff members seeing that facility.
When we have convocation, we are allowing time for the staff members to review that facility. We will be spending a couple of hours over there. You have one year to be new, and we have to balance that with getting ready to move in. We are going to use the facility starting Sept. 12.
Patch: In the grand plan, will the center become more regional than just serving Ladue?
Chappelow: Right now, we are starting a waiting list. We think there will be a waiting list next year. We offer a good program, but our facility (on Clayton Road) was lagging a little bit. We needed to match the program to the facility so things should really take off. In the past, they have tried to go with residents first, but they will open it up to area enrollment with residents and non residents. There is a difference in fees.
Patch: Any plans to use the Westminster campus this school year?
Chappelow: There really are not. We have negotiated a change in our lease with Westminster. We are going to take over the facility on Jan. 1 of 2012. The facility is still there, so I am not going to say if we have a problem with a field here, we will call over there, and we might use it, if they are not (using it). I don’t know if all their fields will be ready to use a.
In January, the facilities committee will look at some decisions to decide which fields to use for which sports. We might have the opportunity to do more of that in the spring of 2012.
We’re already had a lot of inquiries from groups who want to use the gymnasium. If we take over the facility Jan. 1, we will have a lot of renovations. Like any cities, (Creve Coeur) we will have to follow codes and that will take some time.
Patch: Any plans for the old facility?
Chappelow: The board is starting to look at that. We’ve already had calls from people who want to lease that building. We’ve taken some people on tours, and we’ve had a development company contact us. We are going to do a 10-year review of our facilities, and we want to look to see what our numbers are going to look like. And we might have needs for another piece of property. We could sell that property and look at something else. This is not the best market to be selling property right now.
Patch: As Motivator in Chief for the District, how do you make sure your teachers are fired up and ready to go?
Chappelow: Part of it is, teachers always look forward to summer, and that’s not a bad thing. If they’ve had a good time with their families and have done some traveling, they should come back and be excited about their subject area. The beauty of a small district is everyone knows everyone else. They are excited about seeing not only their colleagues but their friends. As a staff, we want to motivate and inspire but at the same time, we want our team to have fun.
Patch: How satisfied are you with the budget, and is your financial house in order at this time?
Chappelow: I feel good about the budget starting out the school year, as we know it now. We did make about $5 million in reductions, but it's more in line, and we are not going into our fund balance as we have the last two to three years. The concern has to be for the future.
We’ve done some projections, and if we stick with the faculty we have, some getting 1-percent raises, other salaries frozen, expenses going up, transportation costs going up, and carry that out, we are still going to have problems for the next five years. The economy is not coming back soon, and we’re going to have some long-term problems, and we’re going to have to deal with that.
We’re going to have school in the Ladue School District no matter what we have to operate on. The question is: Is it the kind of education the parents in this community expect and want? And that’s what we are going to follow.
Planning is a really big word for us right now. People want to know which facility is next. We have older facilities, so we have to put money into those facilities. If your educational environment is that much out of date, there are some things you simply cannot offer your students.
We should be concerned about that in the academic areas of our high school. Clayton has redone their high school. Webster Groves is doing the same. Kirkwood has done changes to their high school. We are not out of line. All of those high schools were built around the same time.
The planning with our curriculum is key. You have to plan for technology, and technology is a huge cost for schools. And it's not going away. Twenty five years ago, you didn’t have to worry about that in a budget.
The key for Ladue’s success for the future is: How much planning can we do? We have to be more proactive than we've been in the past.
We will do some surveys and focus groups to see what people want for a 21st-century education. We’re even going to do some focus groups in upper elementary. We’re going to collect some data, see what folks think, survey our faculty, things like that.
There are just so many hours in the day. We need to determine which subjects we should be teaching our kids.
Tomorrow, Chappelow answers questions about transfer students, reducing the size of classrooms, technology in the district, and launching a personal Twitter account.