Festus on Top Again in JeffCo MAP Test Scores

21 Oct

It is time once again to review the performance of Jefferson County schools on the most recent standardized tests.

The following table ranks our 11 school districts by average MAP test score across the four subjects. I have highlighted the best score in each subject in gold, the second best score in silver, and the lowest score in red.

As you can see, Festus once again had the best average, with Fox in second, Windsor third, and Jefferson in fourth. The numbers indicate the percentage of students who scored proficient or better in a subject.


MAP scores for JeffCo schools, 2016

Here are the JeffCo MAP top three districts from recent years, with links to my reports:

2015: Festus, Fox, Windsor

2014: Fox, Festus, Windsor (I did not average out the subject scores at the time, but I did so now in order to get these rankings for 2014, ignoring the APR number)

2013: Festus, Fox, Jefferson

As you can see, there has not been much change in the top spots in recent years. One noteworthy change over time is that Crystal City was 4th in 2013, 8th in 2014, 9th in 2015, and last this year. Jefferson went from 4th to 7th and back to 4th in the past three years. Sunrise and De Soto moved up a bit this year while Hillsboro and Grandview moved down.

In the Post-Dispatch‘s rankings of area districts in the article linked above, Festus was #10 in the STL region in both math and English. “Statewide, 62.9 percent of students met the threshold on the English portion of the MAP test, and 48.6 percent were proficient or advanced in math.” Most JeffCo districts were above these averages, but a few were not.

The state’s APR scores will come out in a few weeks, which will incorporate these scores plus attendance and graduation rates. I will report on the scores when they are available.


From the Post-Dispatch article (where you can also see results by individual school):

But legislative requirements have resulted in three versions of the reading and math tests in the last three years, making it all but impossible to compare proficiency rates over time.

However, this should not prevent us from comparing schools to each other, since each school is doing the same tests in any given year. As the article also states: “Schools and district scores can accurately be compared against one another, and against the statewide proficiency rates.”

Rock Ambulance Chief Wanted to Oust Board Member

18 Oct

In the Leader‘s coverage of the abrupt “retirement” of Rock Ambulance chief Margie Sammons (which had NOTHING to do with the seizure of her phone and iPad, she claims), the paper glossed over some of the incriminating statements in Sammons’ text messages:

Some of the messages referred to what appeared to be an effort to remove Dan Meyer from the Rock board. He is one of the three remaining members on the board and has been critical of Sammons.

Other text messages supported former board members Charles Groeteke and Paul Horn, who ran unsuccessfully for election to the board in April.

The Leader gave no further information on this, but I will, since it seems rather significant. I have in my hand the Sammons text messages I will save the election stuff for another post and talk today about the move to oust Meyer.

The back story here is that last year it was discovered that, for the 3rd time, Rock Ambulance had let its state narcotics license expire, which is a no-no when you are delivering the type of drugs paramedics do. This happened in early 2015 but was first made public in April 2016. It was discussed at the April 20 Rock board meeting and reported in the April 21 Leader. Board member Dan Meyer was not happy with the coverup and with the failure to take responsibility, and he made this known at the meeting (video here). This seems to have spawned the attempt to get him kicked off the board, along with his general disruption of the rubber-stamp culture on the board (reminiscent of what existed at Fox C-6).

Here are some text messages from former Rock Ambulance board member David Broach to Sammons (Sammons’ messages are on the right in the dark bubbles). This exchange is dated April 28 (right click > view image to see a larger version):


April 28 exchange between Sammons and David Broach

The statute in question at the beginning there is this one, RSMo 321.0017. It says:

no employee of any fire protection district or ambulance district shall serve as a member of any fire district or ambulance district board while such person is employed by any fire district or ambulance district

What Sammons and cronies were trying to argue is that, since Meyer is also on the Rock Township Fire board, he is an employee of Rock Fire, and thus can’t also be on the Rock Ambulance board. This is clearly a bastardization of the statute, as evidenced by the fact that Mark Bishop, the attorney for Rock Ambulance who is mentioned in the right column, was apparently not interested in making a move.

Here is an exchange with former board chairman Steve Ott, who resigned as part of the early October mass exodus in which three Rock board members resigned after the chief departed. State Senator Paul Wieland, (R-22nd district), is mentioned here and a few other times in the text messages. His father, Don, was another board member who resigned (the third member to resign was Anita Clark). Here’s Ott on April 26:


April 26 exchange between Sammons and Steve Ott

It’s a bit hard to read, and partially cut off, but Ott is reporting that the law does not prevent Meyer from being on both boards. Sammons asks if a law can be quickly passed to make it illegal. So as you see, Sammons wanted to go all the way to Jefferson City to get rid of Meyer. According to a search of the Missouri Legislature web site, no bills to this effect were introduced in the 2016 session.

In the most colorful exchange on the topic, Sammons talked to David Tetrault, CEO of the St. Francois County Ambulance District and a board member of the Region 4 board of the American Ambulance Association (AAA). I presume that Sammons knows him from her time as the 2015 president of the Missouri Ambulance Association (MAA). As you will see, Tetrault got quite worked up, though I’m not sure why this is so important to him (warning: language inappropriate for children):


April 28 exchange between Sammons and David Tetrault, part 1

I highlighted the juicy parts. The YouTube video referenced on the left is the one I linked to above of the April 20 board meeting. Some of the discussion above is about the narcotics license lapse (the stuff about BNDD – the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs). You can also see where Sammons wants to get the MAA attorney to push the Meyer issue. Tetrault correctly realizes that whoever files a complaint against Meyer will have their name released, and apparently none of them wanted to take responsibility for the hit job. Here is part 2:


April 28 exchange between Sammons and Tetrault, part 2

Note: some of the messages repeat between columns. It looks like Tetrault was not only working legislators, but also working the Leader to try to get Meyer removed. And in the middle there, it looks like he is employing AAA resources towards this matter. I can’t imagine that AAA bylaws allow this or its leadership supports this.

The Jason White guy mentioned above is apparently the president of the Missouri EMS Agent Corporation (MoEMSAC), which is involved in Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance providers.

As we see here, Chief Sammons was willing to abuse her power, enlist her cronies, and use her taxpayer-provided phone to eliminate a critic because she didn’t like being called out about the narcotics license lapse and didn’t like her iron grip on the district to be threatened. In a future post, I will talk about Sammons’ attempts to help her pals win the 2016 Ambulance board elections.

Glenn Boyer Blocked Again from State Commission

9 Oct

I would argue that, as Governor, Jay Nixon has not done much for us in his home county (to which he will not be returning when he leaves office). One thing he seems determined to do, though, is get outgoing Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer onto a state commission. However, he is now 0 for 2 in that effort.

After going outside of the legal framework to appoint Boyer to the state veteran’s commission, but being blocked by local senator Paul Wieland (as explained here), Nixon appointed Boyer to the Public Defender Commission (PDC). However, the director of the state’s public defenders, Michael Barrett, then said that due to the obvious conflict of interest, his office could no longer represent any defendants in Jefferson County courts. This is obviously untenable, so Boyer resigned. He admitted this was part of the reason, but also cited medical issues (unlike Rock Ambulance chief Margie Sammons, who said her recent retirement had NOTHING to do with all the controversy surrounding her).

(I should note here that members of the vets commission and the PDC do not receive a salary).

Bad Fit

It seems to me that putting a current/former sheriff on the PDC makes no sense. Boyer’s career has been all about busting perps and not letting things like civil liberties get in the way of that effort. But now he’s supposed to turn around and stick up for indigent defendants who have a constitutional right to effective representation in court? Recall that Nixon had a big dustup with Barrett in August over funding for public defenders. Barrett used a state statute to appoint Nixon as attorney in a criminal case, but Nixon was able to fight off the summons. After this, Nixon appointed three new members to the PDC. Is he trying to stack the board to get Barrett fired? Boyer would have been a good hatchet man to enact political revenge, while at the same time claiming he is above politics.

Looking at the current makeup of the commission, it includes two former prosecutors and a career law enforcement official. One man who was appointed alongside Boyer is a former sheriff of St. Charles County, and the man replacing Boyer was a police detective. An outgoing member of the board has been active in public defender issue, and one of the new appointees has some experience in criminal defense. There is also one member who has apparently had nothing to do with criminal justice. So it seems experience with legal defense is pretty limited on the PDC

I’m not seeing anything online that questions the heavy police/prosecutor makeup of the PDC, but it seems like something that legal reform advocates would question. It is clear that there is a crisis in the public defenders office of insufficient funding and overworked attorneys. Maybe a PDC less inclined towards the prosecution would work harder to address this long-running problem.

Is Jeff Roorda Campaigning for County Council?

27 Sep

Update: As of 10/6, I am seeing some Roorda signs along the roads of the 4th district.

November’s showdown for the district 4 seat on the county council features two familiar faces in JeffCo politics; former councilman and former Rock Ambulance board member Charles Groeteke on the GOP side and former state representative Jeff Roorda on the Democrat side.

Interestingly, I have not seen any evidence of a Roorda campaign. I have seen no signs, no website, no ads. I haven’t even seen a website smearing his opponent, like the one that popped up during Roorda’s 2012 race for state representative. Have you seen any of this, or seen him in any parades? Let me know in the comments. He has been on CNN a few times recently to defend cops involved in shootings. He has become CNN’s go-to guy for this duty. He also has a book coming out just after election day about what he calls the “war on police.”

One thing Roorda has been doing, however, is raising money. As of the beginning of this month, he had raised over $32,000, mostly from lawyers and unions, compared to $8,000 for Groeteke. But Roorda has only made about $7,000 in expenditures (not including over $8,000 in loan repayments to himself and his old candidate committee). The expenditures were mostly putting on a golf tournament and giving charitable gifts to police and veterans groups from the campaign account. He spent a mere $200 on signs. Groeteke has spent about $3,300, including $2,100 for printing and mailing.

There are 41 days until the election. Roorda could start campaigning yet, though it is getting kind of late, but he has the money necessary to launch a late blitz. He has a fundraiser on Friday.

Fundraising Idea

I have a suggestion for Groeteke for raising some money. Every time Roorda goes on CNN, his critics launch an avalance of anti-Roorda messages on Twitter (see here). What Groeteke could do is put up a fundraising page, and when these tweet storms are happening, put out his own tweets that say “Hey, I am running AGAINST JEFF ROORDA in November. Help me defeat him!” with a link to the fundraising page. I bet he could get some contributions out of this. I would downplay Groeteke’s GOP ties on the website, though, since Roorda’s opponents are mostly members or supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and probably not big fans of the GOP.

Critchlow Update

25 Sep

Here’s what’s up in Critchlow land:

-You may recall that in mid-July, JeffCo prosecutor Forrest Wegge punted the Dianne Critchlow case to the US Attorney for possible federal charges after a 6-week investigation. That was 10 weeks ago – still no word from the feds.

-The Critchlow home in Arnold is still for sale – the price has plummeted 5.6% since being listed in June to $462,000. Maybe the Fox district could buy the house, and the four families on Chemin de la Vallee and Glenn Drive in Barnhart that are embroiled in a Dunklin-Fox boundary dispute could all take up residence. Or maybe Dunklin should buy it, since they’ve been getting the tax dollars from these families all these years without having to educate their kids.

-Jamie Critchlow has a trial date on October 28 for his challenge to the Dept. of Revenue’s revocation of his drivers license for failure to consent to a breathalyzer test. This relates to his May 30 arrest for DWI and leaving the scene of an accident, which is separately winding its way through the JeffCo court system. The judge for the DOR trial is Travis Partney, who is running for a full term to finish the term as judge on the November ballot. He was appointed to the position by Governor Nixon back in March. Before that, he worked for the JeffCo prosecutor’s office.

Dunklin R-5 Asks Again For Tax Hike

21 Sep

Dunklin school district put a $0.62 tax hike on the ballot in August (Proposition Blackcat Pride) to fund renovation and new construction of district buildings. The proposition, which needed only a majority, failed, with 52% of voters saying no. Undeterred, as government bodies usually are, Dunklin is back, having put the same proposition on the November ballot (quite a quick turnaround). They probably think the higher November turnout will get them the votes they need to pass this. Here is a list of what Dunklin wants to do with the money. It includes the expansion of Pevely Elementary and a new bus garage.


For comparison purposes, here is a list of the 2015 tax rates for every JeffCo school district in dollars per $100 of real estate valuation, from greatest to least. This comes from the Jefferson County web page.

  • Dunklin: 5.3662 (if tax passes)
  • Windsor: 4.8429
  • Grandview: 4.7466
  • Dunklin: 4.7462
  • Crystal City: 4.7416
  • Hillsboro: 4.7025
  • Fox: 4.6767
  • Northwest: 4.6026
  • Jefferson: 4.5967
  • Sunrise: 4.4968
  • De Soto: 4.3258
  • Festus: 3.74

Note that the Blackcat Pride ballot language says the proposition will raise the district’s operating levy t0 4.6962. This number does not include the district’s 0.67 debt service fund. Add that in and you get the total potential tax rate of 5.3662 listed above.

Get What You Pay For?

It is interesting to see that Festus, by some measures the best school district in the county (when they aren’t suspending Trump sign holders!), has by far the lowest tax rate. However, the districts with the next lowest rates, De Soto and Sunrise, are not very good districts. Windsor, another top district in the county, has the county’s highest rate.

Dunklin, which is right now the 3rd-highest taxing district, is not a great district. If this tax passes, it will have the highest tax, and will be the first district in the county to break the $5 per $100 valuation mark.

Ride Sharing Coming to JeffCo, Perhaps

9 Sep

Uber, the ridesharing service that lets you hail a ride with a smartphone app (and find a passenger if you are an Uber driver) is active in St. Louis City and County, but not here in JeffCo (specifically, you can get dropped off in JeffCo but not picked up). However, there is a new rideshare company that might start operating here in the near future.

The company is called Curvesides, and the company’s Missouri manager says that it will be active in the county when “100 riders who would love to drive” have signed up. The company is apparently live in St. Louis already.

Uber in STL charges riders a base fare of $1.75, plus $1.50 per mile, and Uber drivers get to keep about 80% of that. Curvesides says its drivers will pay the company a flat $60 per week, unless they make less than $300 in a week, in which case drivers pay 25% to the company. As for fares, Curvesides will charge a base fare of $6.75 (for 2 miles) plus $1.35 per mile. Curvesides will apparently not charge surge fares like Uber does when it is busy. Surges can increase fares by 2x or more during periods of high demand (like after a major concert).

Ride sharing is an alternative to taxis for getting home from the bar, going to the airport, or any other time you need a ride. Curvesides would have to reach a saturation point where you can get a ride any time of day within a few minutes in order to be a useful option. Uber has reached that point in St. Louis.

For those who want to make some extra money, ride sharing is a way to work whenever you want and wherever you want, independently. For Curvesides to be a worthwhile money-making opportunity, it will have to have a large rider base, to make it worth the effort for drivers. It does not appear to be close to reaching that point, even in St. Louis.


Details about the service seem a bit vague, judging by the two websites I have linked above. One thing to consider, if you want to be a driver, is insurance. Your regular auto insurance company would frown upon you doing ride sharing, and probably drop you if they knew you were doing it (though some companies offer ride sharing riders to their policies). Uber covers you if you are heading to pick up a passenger, or transporting one, but if you are just driving around with the app on, waiting for a customer, you are not covered.

Curvesides reps say that “we have 1.5 million dollars of commercial insurance which will pay for what your insurance wont, unless your at fault then it becomes like all other insurance.” Their website, though, says “Curvesides has a  Million Dollar Commercial Liability insurance policy.” This is something you may want to get more information on if you want to be a driver.

The company has a Missouri specific Facebook page for drivers. They seem to be fairly responsive if you have questions.

I am a bit skeptical of the long term prospects of this venture, but check it out if it is something that interests you.

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