Best Thing to Happen to St. Louis This Year - 2007
The state takeover of the St. Louis Public Schools
Readers' Choice: Cardinals' World Series Victory
Fed up with his unruly teenager, Dad finally takes away the car keys. That's what the Missouri State Board of Education essentially did, metaphorically speaking, when it voted 5 to 1 in March to strip the failing St. Louis Public Schools of its accreditation and replace the fractious and churlish school board with a three-person appointed committee to run the city's 93 public schools. While it's unclear how many of the district's 35,000 students went out to celebrate the news, the move was a long time coming. The roots of the takeover germinated four years ago, when a newly elected slate of school board members led by ex-St. Louis mayor Vince Schoemehl unloosed a communitywide firestorm by bringing in former Brooks Brothers CEO William Roberti as interim superintendent. By the time Roberti's reign ended in 2004, the district's cumulative debt had reached $25 million, 21 schools had been shuttered and more than 1,400 staffers laid off. (At one point during the raging debate over school closings, then-board member Rochelle Moore placed a voodoo curse on Mayor Francis Slay.) On it went, year after dysfunctional year. In all, a parade of six superintendents have come and gone since 2003 (including one, Floyd Crues, who took an abrupt medical leave from the $220,000-a-year post and hasn't been heard from since). Yep, it was time to take away the keys.