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Missouri school districts

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K-12 Education in Missouri
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Education facts
State Superintendent: Chris Nicastro
Number of students: 916,584[1]
Number of teachers: 66,252
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:13.8
Number of school districts: 572
Number of schools: 2,408
Graduation rate: 86%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $9,410[3]
See also
Missouri Department of EducationList of school districts in MissouriMissouriSchool boards portal
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Education policy project
Public education in the United States
Public education in Missouri
Glossary of education terms

Missouri is home to 572 school districts, 2,408 schools and 916,584 K-12 students.[4]

Quick facts

State school administrators

  • State Board of Education
    • Peter F. Herschend, President
    • Michael W. Jones, Vice President
    • Charlie W. Shields
    • Russell C. Still
    • Dr. O. Victor Lenz, Jr.
    • Joe Driskill
    • Dr. John Martin
    • Vacant


The following table displays the state's top 10 school districts by total student enrollment, average Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores and per-pupil spending per Average Daily Attendance (ADA).[5][6]

Student enrollment, 2011-2012 MAP index scores, 2012-2013 Per-pupil spending per ADA, 2012-2013
1.) Springfield R-XII 1.) Lindbergh 1.) Savannah R-III
2.) St. Louis 2.) Clayton 2.) Tarkio R-I
3.) Rockwood R-VI 3.) Nixa R-II 3.) Rock Port R-II
4.) Fort Zumwalt R-II 4.) Kirkwood R-7 4.) Fairfax
5.) North Kansas City #74 5.) Ladue 5.) Community
6.) Hazelwood 6.) Brentwood 6.) Van-Far R-I
7.) Lee's Summit R-VII 7.) Leopold R-III 7.) Mexico
8.) Parkway C-II 8.) Rockwood R-VI 8.) Wheaton R-III
9.) Francis Howell R-III 9.) Park Hill 9.) Southwest R-V
10.) Columbia #93 10.) Lawson R-XIV 10.) Exeter


See also: Demographic information for all students in all 50 states

The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Missouri as reported in the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.[7]

Demographic information for Missouri's K-12 public school system
Ethnicity Students State Percentage United States Percentage**
American Indian 4,182 0.46% 1.10%
Asian 17,267 1.88% 4.68%
African American 153,711 16.77% 15.68%
Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. students 1,470 0.16% 0.42%
Hispanic 44,581 4.86% 24.37%
White 680,249 74.22% 51.21%
Two or more 15,124 1.65% 2.54%
**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.

In the news

"Candy Man" stipend scandal in St. Joseph

Investigations into accounting and hiring practices

The St. Joseph School District faces investigations by the Missouri State Auditor, the United States Department of Education and the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to stipends issued by former Superintendent Fred Czerwonka. The former superintendent, appointed in July 2013, allegedly used a rebate from the district's insurance provider to distribute $270,000 in stipends to 54 administrators without board approval. District policy requires a report to the school board and a deposit of any excess funds including refunds from vendors. Czerwonka, district Human Resources Director Doug Flowers and school board member Dan Colgan also face accusations of using their positions to guarantee promotions within the district and raises for family members.

On January 20, 2015, both Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Rick Hartigan were placed on paid administrative leave. The board later voted in February 2015 to fire Czerwonka.

Missouri-Stipend Scandal.jpg
Learn more about the scandal in
the St. Joseph School District...
The story so far
The stipend scandal
The FBI probe
The rescinded suspension
The $2 million shortfall
The secret tapes
The ousted administrators
The state audit
The fallout begins
The superintendent axed
The firings continue
The board resignation
The video recap
The investigation spreads
The lawsuit settlement
Key figures
Superintendent Fred Czerwonka
CFO Beau Musser
COO Rick Hartigan
HR Director Doug Flowers
Trustee Chris Danford
Trustee Dan Colgan
State Auditor Thomas Schweich
State Sen. Robert Schaaf
St. Joseph School District
2014 school board election
2015 tax levy renewal
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Missouri State Auditor

Beau Musser involvement and suspension

The flashpoint for the mismanagement allegations was a school board meeting on March 24, 2014. Board member Chris Danford presented information she received from district residents about the stipends offered by Czerwonka. Beau Musser, the district's chief financial officer (CFO), also revealed that he received a list of stipend recipients from Flowers. Musser was placed on paid leave on March 28, 2014, after the superintendent presented him with several accusations of sexual harassment against district employees. The CFO claimed in a lawsuit against the district that Czerwonka offered to drop the harassment claims if he resigned from his position. During Musser's time as CFO, he found that the district could not account for 4,000 gallons of fuel, failed to follow bidding procedures for district vehicles and approved $189,000 in consulting fees without board approval.

A press release issued by the district in November 2014 revealed that Musser would be returning to work, with the transitional assistance of OMNI Employment Management Services, an HR consulting firm. In addition, documents obtained by the St. Joseph News-Press stated that the district will be conducting an investigation into whether the initial suspension of Musser by administrators was justified.[8]

On March 26, 2015, in an executive session, the St. Joseph Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to settle Musser's lawsuit against the district charging wrongful termination, breach of contract and slander. "We are relieved that we are at this point," said board member Chris Danford. Details are still largely unknown; the settlement won't be finalized until both sides sign off on the deal.

Secret tapes, superintendent fired

It was revealed in a January 2015 Ballotpedia report that CFO Beau Musser had secretly taped conversations from crucial meetings with Czerwonka and other district officials. Those tapes, which could prove to be important evidence, are being reviewed by lawyers involved in Musser's lawsuit, in addition to the FBI.

On January 20, 2015, after a closed door session, Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan were both put on paid administrative leave by a vote of four to one. Board members Kappy Hodges, Lori Prussman, Chris Danford and Brad Haggard all voted in favor of the two men being placed on leave. Dan Colgan was the only board member to vote against it. However, Martin Rucker was not present for the meeting and told News-Press he was working in Jefferson City and could not make it to the meeting. Dennis Snethen attended the meeting with members of the state auditor's office, after which he left and did not return for the vote about Czerwonka and Hartigan's leaves.[9] Both exited the building without comment. On February 20, 2015, the school board voted 6-0 in a closed executive session to fire Czerwonka. Colgan was the only board member not present at the meeting.

2015 financial audit report, "poor" rating

On February 17, 2015, a 53-page financial report was released by the Missouri State Auditor. Approximately 250 parents and community members attended its release at a new elementary school that opened in 2014. Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich (R), revealed his findings to the crowd: a widespread lack of financial control. Schweich pointed to stipends unknown and unapproved by the school board, financial mismanagement that is now speculated to date back as far as 2000. The total number of dollars involved in the stipend system could range from $25 million over eight years to $40 million over 14 years. In either case, says Schweich, "a staggering amount of money" is involved.

At the forefront, the audit points to two of the district's top administrators, former Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan, for adding thousands of dollars to their compensation without board approval and for other expenses charged to the district. For example, Czerwonka was given an additional $6,000 on top of his $190,000 salary for having a graduate degree. That degree is required for the position and was not listed anywhere in Czerwonka's contract. Hartigan’s base salary in 2014 was $97,700, however he received an additional $35,343 in stipends for being on the superintendent’s council, night duty, longevity and for something simply labeled "additional." According to Schweich, no one at the district could explain what this "additional" expense could be.

Schweich also rated the district’s performance as "poor." St. Joseph is the only Missouri school district to be rated that low by the state auditor’s office. According to school board member Chris Danford, the strain of this investigation is hurting the district's students. "We don’t have textbooks for everyone. We have larger classes. I mean, we could have done so much more for our students. They don’t get those years back." The audit also says the district has too many no-bid contracts, does not have an adequate system for tracking district property such as cell phones and tablets, and has too many employees with credit cards.

Allegations of nepotism

Nepotism is also a significant problem in the district, according to Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich (R). The audit singled out Human Resources Director Doug Flowers and school board member Dan Colgan, a retired St. Joseph superintendent. Doug's wife Tammy Flowers and Czerwonka's wife Wendy both received controversial promotions and raises in 2014. According to district sources, both women were recently interviewed by the FBI in their district offices.

In regard to Colgan, the audit criticizes the district for providing him with medical insurance for life when he retired in 2005. In 2014, the amount paid for Colgan's medical insurance was $4,600. Additionally, Colgan’s son, Mark, also manages the district’s warehouse. In 2014, he was promoted, along with a $16,226 raise. The audit says no documentation detailing Mark Colgan’s additional duties was created. The position also requires a master’s degree, which Colgan does not have.

The audit says the district "has not established adequate policies and procedures for the hiring, supervising and tracking of related employees."

Reaction to financial report

Following the release of the audit, acting superintendent Dr. Jake Long said the district is continuing to make improvements with regard to the auditor's recommendations. District officials say that many of the changes have been underway since April 2014, when they were alerted to some of the financial issues. Those issues could not be discussed previously because of auditor investigation confidentiality issues. According to Long, "[District officials are] not going to wait until the problem comes out to change it if it’s wrong and the wrong process to go about doing it.”

CFO Beau Musser commented on the tough decisions the district will have to face in regards to payroll and accounting, as a result of the audit. Musser said he is in favor of adequate payroll staff so that oversight is provided for those concerns. "We have a $120 million budget and we have one accounts payable clerk. Any organization our size would be wise to have a purchasing manager and have a lot more control," he said.

Board member Kappy Hodges stated the district will follow any budget recommendations set forth by the auditor and will also conduct a market analysis salary and expenditure study. Hodges thinks accountability is the answer: "I think we need to hold people accountable that made bad judgment calls that are more than just a simple mistake."[10]

A Ballotpedia report on the St. Joseph School District scandal.

Criminal investigation called for, proposed bill

In the wake of the audit's release, a Missouri state senator is calling for a criminal investigation by the Missouri attorney general of those involved in the scandal. State Sen. Rob Schaaf (R) from St. Joseph deems the actions uncovered by Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich "illegal and greatly disturbing." Schaaf said in a statement that he has asked the attorney general to "closely examine the documents the auditor has compiled and bring charges against those responsible for the mishandling of the funds within the St. Joseph public schools." He is also calling for the Governor's Office and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to demand $3.5 million in state aid be returned from the school district.[11]

In addition, Schaaf has filed legislation that would shorten school board terms from six years to three years. According to Schaaf, longer terms foster a cozy relationship between the board and administrators, which can prompt the lack of oversight and accountability uncovered by the audit. The bill would also allow St. Joseph voters to recall school board members.

Firings continue, Flowers demoted

A week after the St. Joseph board voted to fire Superintendent Fred Czerwonka, Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan was also relieved of his duties at St. Joseph on February 28, 2015. Hartigan had previously been in charge of all district vendor contracts. On the same day, the board demoted Human Resources Director Doug Flowers, offering him a teaching contract for the 2015-2016 school year. These three top administrators were roundly criticized in a report from the Missouri State Auditor. According to sources, all have been interviewed multiple times by the FBI as part of the ongoing investigation.

Colgan resigns

As a result of the overwhelming controversy surrounding him, school board member Dan Colgan resigned from his position on March 5, 2015. The resignation came after much speculation regarding his status, largely because as an elected member, Colgan couldn't have been ousted. There is no law that allows St. Joseph Board of Education members to be recalled by voters. Colgan sent a terse resignation letter to St. Joseph Board President Brad Haggard, calling his decision to resign difficult "as I dearly love the St. Joseph School District." The board will now take applications for the open seat. Board member Chris Danford says they hope to fill the open slot by the April board meeting.

Grand jury sends subpoena to West Plains School District

In late March 2015, the federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo. sent a subpoena to West Plains School District, also in Missouri, where Czerwonka served as superintendent from 2009 to 2013. West Plains Superintendent Dr. John Mulford confirmed he received the subpoena in the mail. "The FBI made it clear that the West Plains District is not being investigated," Mulford said. "The subpoena is for records for a former West Plains employee now in St. Joseph." At the same time of the request, the jury sent a fourth subpoena to St. Joseph, with Czerwonka being the link between the two. Sources say the latest subpoena in St. Joseph demands expense reports and time sheets for some top administrators and contracts from certain district vendors.

Financial repercussions

In December 2014, it was disclosed in a report by Ballotpedia that the district could lose up to $2 million in state funding in addition to the slew of federal charges facing them. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notified the district that it was disallowing reimbursement for more than half of the district's summer school classes because they did not follow specific guidelines. Some of these offenses included the class was not being held in a district building and that parents were charged a fee for the class. The district has since disputed some of the charges. To add to the mix, a significant part of the district’s property tax levy sunsets this year. The district stands to lose $6.5 million at a time when the district is already deficit-spending and eating into its reserves if voters don’t renew it. A recent poll indicated that if the levy were on the ballot today, 48 percent would vote against it, 39 percent would vote to renew it and the remaining 14 percent are undecided.

State law

Common Core

Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards on June 15, 2010. Full implementation is scheduled to be achieved in the 2014-2015 academic year. Under pressure from opponents to Common Core, however, the Missouri Legislature passed House Bill 1490, which was signed by Governor Jay Nixon on July 14, 2014. This bill will replace the Common Core standards by the 2016-2017 school year with new state standards, to be developed with recommendations from educators and parents in the state.[12][13][14]

School board composition

Missouri school board members are generally elected by residents of the school district, although some board members are appointed. Missouri school board elections typically follow one of these two methods, or a mixture thereof:

  • At-large: All voters residing in the school district may vote for any candidates running, regardless of geographic location.
  • District: Only voters residing in a specific geographic area within the school district may vote on certain candidates, who must also reside in that specific geographic area.

School boards typically consist of seven or nine members. Board members in most districts serve three-year terms, although board members in Kansas City and St. Louis serve four-year terms and board members in Independence and St. Joseph serve six-year terms.[15]

District types

Missouri contains multiple types of school districts. In addition to traditional school districts, the state also includes consolidated and reorganized districts, which were originally formed from two or more districts in the past. Consolidated districts are denoted with a "C" and a number in their legal name, while reorganized districts are denoted with an "R" and a number instead.

Term limits

Missouri does not impose statewide term limits on school board members.[16]

School board elections

Upcoming elections

See also: Missouri school board elections, 2015

A total of 16 Missouri school districts among America's largest school districts by enrollment will hold elections in 2015 for 35 seats. All of the elections are scheduled on April 7, 2015.

Here are several quick facts about Missouri's school board elections in 2015:

  • The largest school district by enrollment with an election in 2015 is Springfield Public Schools with 25,175 K-12 students.
  • The smallest school district by enrollment with an election in 2015 is Park Hill School District with 10,419 K-12 students.
  • Three districts are tied for the most seats on the ballot in 2015 with three seats up for election in each.
  • The other 13 districts are tied the fewest seats on the ballot in 2015 with two seats up for election in each.
School Board Election Trends Banner.jpg Spotlight Districts Banner.jpg

The district listed below served 260,721 K-12 students during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Click on the district name for more information on the district and its school board elections.

2015 Missouri School Board Elections
District Date Seats up for election Total board seats Student enrollment
Blue Springs School District 4/7/2015 2 7 14,131
Columbia Public Schools 4/7/2015 2 7 17,709
Ferguson-Florissant School District 4/7/2015 2 7 12,070
Fort Zumwalt R-II School District 4/7/2015 2 7 18,977
Fox C-6 School District 4/7/2015 2 7 12,333
Francis Howell School District 4/7/2015 2 7 19,626
Hazelwood School District 4/7/2015 2 7 17,772
Lee's Summit R-7 Schools 4/7/2015 2 7 17,825
Liberty Public Schools 4/7/2015 2 7 11,327
Mehlville School District 4/7/2015 2 7 10,967
North Kansas City Schools 4/7/2015 3 7 19,133
Park Hill School District 4/7/2015 2 7 10,419
Parkway Schools 4/7/2015 2 7 17,363
Rockwood School District 4/7/2015 3 7 22,503
Springfield Public Schools 4/7/2015 3 7 25,175
Wentzville R-IV School District 4/7/2015 2 7 13,391

Path to the ballot

To qualify for the ballot as a school board candidate in Missouri, a person must be:[15]

  • 24 years of age or older
  • A citizen of Missouri for at least one year prior to the election
  • A resident of the school district
  • A "resident taxpayer" of the school district

A person must not be:

  • A current employee of the school district, unless they are an independent contractor
  • Serving in another public office, unless they are a county administrator, county clerk or circuit clerk
  • A registered sex offender or a required to register as a sex offender
  • Someone who plead guilty or nolo contendere to or is convicted of a felony, unless the sentence or probationary period of the felony is completed
  • Someone who plead guilty to or was convicted of a crime connected with the exercise of the right of suffrage
  • A former candidate for public office who failed to file required campaign disclosures or to pay assessed fees from a previous election

The "resident taxpayer" clause is ambiguous regarding what constitutes "taxpayer" status. According to a pamphlet published by the Missouri School Boards' Association, it is possible but not certain that paying sales taxes in the district would qualify someone to meet that requirement. In the 1939 State ex Inf. Mitchell ex rel. Goodman v. Heath decision by the Missouri Supreme Court, the court ruled that paying property taxes would fulfill this requirement. In Columbia, Fort Zumwalt, Independence, Kansas City, Lee's Summit, St. Joseph and Springfield, board members are required to be "voters of the district" instead of "resident taxpayers."

The requirements for running as a school board candidate in St. Louis are more stringent. Candidates must be "residents and citizens" of the city both at the time of the election and for three years prior to the election. Candidates may not hold any other public office except for notary public, and candidates may not be involved or have a stake in any contract or claim against the board "either directly or indirectly."

The process of running for office as a school board candidate begins with filing a "declaration of intent" and a separate statement acknowledging that the candidate has received a written notice that they must file a personal financial disclosure statement and a copy of the summary of laws from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The latter two documents will be given to candidates when they file their declaration of intent. Candidates may file from the 16th Tuesday preceding the election to the 11th Tuesday preceding the election. The only exception to that timeline is for districts with boundaries that extend into Kansas City. The timeline for those districts begins on the 15th Tuesday preceding the election instead. Candidates must file their statements in person, although allowances may be made if a candidate is performing military service or has a disability preventing them from visiting the school district office.

Candidates may withdraw from the ballot at any time upon request before the district office has certified the candidate list. After certification and before the sixth Tuesday preceding the election, candidates may still withdraw from the ballot if they obtain a court order. There is no legal mechanism to allow a candidate to withdraw from the ballot after the sixth Tuesday preceding the election has passed.

The rules regarding write-in candidate filing requirements vary depending on the number of other candidates who filed. If no candidates filed for a position, write-in candidates are not required to file a declaration of intent. This is also true if fewer candidates filed than the total number of available seats. If neither of these circumstances are the case, then write-in candidates must file a declaration of intent with the appropriate election authority prior to the close of business on the second Friday preceding the election.[15]

Campaign finance

The type of personal financial disclosure statement that candidates are required to file depends on the policies of each school district. If a school district's annual operating budget is equal to or less than $1 million, candidates are not required to file a statement. The filing deadline for these statements is 14 days after the filing deadline for candidacy. If candidates fail to file a statement within 21 days of the deadline, their names will be automatically removed from the ballot.

State law places no limit on the total amount of contributions that a candidate may receive. Candidates may not receive more than $100 in cash contributions per contributor, and any contribution in excess of $5,000 must be reported electronically to the Missouri Ethics Commission within 48 hours of its receipt. Anonymous donations are capped at $25 per donor, and candidates may not receive more than $500 in total anonymous contributions or one percent of all contributions received in that calendar year.[15]

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, "2011-2012 Statistics of Missouri Public Schools," accessed August 6, 2013
  5. Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, "District and School Information," accessed August 6, 2013
  6. Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, "State Assessment," accessed July 8, 2014
  7. United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
  8. St. Joseph News-Press, "Firm to investigate Musser suspension," November 5, 2014
  9. St. Joseph News-Press, "Board again waives attorney-client privilege," January 29, 2015
  10. News-Press NOW, "District begins on long road to recovery," February 19, 2015
  11. St. Joe Channel, "State Lawmaker Calls for Charges in SJSD Investigation," February 18, 2015
  12. Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State," accessed June 12, 2014
  13. Missouri Learning Standards, "About the Missouri Learning Standards," accessed June 17, 2014
  14. Columbia Daily Tribune, "Governor vetoes teacher gun bill, signs Common Core reform measure," July 14, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Missouri School Boards' Association, "A Candidate’s Guide to Running for the School Board," accessed July 8, 2014
  16. National School Boards Association, "Survey of the State School Boards Associations on Term Limits for Local Board Members," accessed July 8, 2014