Singer excited for future of St. Louis College Prep

St. Louis College Prep Board President Steve Singer said he is excited to help lead the school into the future.

Singer was elected as board president in January after having served on the board for three years, but he is no stranger to the intricacies of education.

Singer has seen his three daughters succeed in area schools and served for nine years on the Clayton School District Board of Education.

That experience eventually lead him to his current position at St. Louis College Prep.

“Over the years, I became friends with one of the teachers who taught my daughters, Bill Mendelsohn,” said Singer, noting that Mendelsohn is now the UMSL Director of Charter Schools and Partnerships. “He mentioned that he had some charter schools looking for board members, and after looking at several of them I was excited by what St. Louis College Prep was doing and decided to join their board.”

Singer said that he is proud of the tremendous progress he has seen the board make over the past three years.

“We have really made some very significant changes during that time,” said Singer. “The first major change is that we were able to move to much better building for the school’s future. When I came on the board and Executive Director Mike Malone told us that we needed to buy a building I could not believe we were going to do that, but we did.”

Singer said he is also very proud of the way the board itself has improved over the past three years.

“When I came on we would only have two to three people show up to the board meeting,” he said. “There was no oversight. There were no functioning committees. We have really made a tremendous turnaround in that.”

Similarly, Singer said he was excited to see how the school’s academic leadership team has grown and improved in recent years.

“I am really pleased with the progress that we have made in building a first rate, stable group of school leaders,” he said. “Prior to Principal Lauren Chaney coming on board, we went through a lot of principals. No progress in education can happen when your school leadership is turning around like that.”

Singer said that stabilizing the leadership had also contributed to greater teacher retention at the school.

“We have also made tremendous progress on finances,” added Singer, noting that the board was focused on building surpluses to cover future expenses. “Most public schools have a bonding authority where they can issues debt to pay for buying and building new buildings or for major maintenance and technology upgrades. We do not have that authority so we have to take money from our operating budget and develop a surplus so we can cover debt service as well as having money for contingencies. Financially, you cannot compare where we are today to where we were just a year ago, let alone three years ago.”

But even with all the progress the school has made in recent years, Singer said he is excited to be leading the board as it helps the school make even greater improvements in the years to come.

“We have a lot of positive things to happy with and still a lot of challenges to address,” said Singer. “The big challenge now is that we have to translate those successes into test scores and greater evidence of getting our kids up to grade level.”

The board is in the middle of a planning process to refocus our efforts on truly making SCP a college prep school. We are working on how we develop a program and all of its intricacies that really brings the kids in and makes them ready for college by bringing them up to and above grade level by the time they are seniors. That is the main focus of the board and the administration.”

Singer said other key areas of focus included growing development and fundraising efforts for the school and increasing the size of the board.

“We also would love to get more parental involvement in the school,” added Singer. “We would love to see an active parent teacher organization. That would be a big plus.”

When Singer is not helping St. Louis College Prep, he serves asPresident of RDR Investments LLC, a consumer collections database company. He has a BA and MA in Economics from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

SCP staff brings Kagan principles to classrooms

Thanks to a generous UMSL mini-grant all instructional staff at St. Louis College recently received two days of intensive Kagan Professional Development focused on improving cooperative learning in the classrooms.

Principal Lauren Chaney said that the skills learned in the workshops have already started to be implemented in our classrooms in the first week of Cycle 4.

“The professional development opportunity to introduce Kagan Cooperative Learning to our staff during PD week was such a great experience,” she said. “Teachers are able to bring some of the strategies that we learned at Kagan straight into the classroom on Day 1! Scholars will be working in teams, holding each other accountable and process information more with classmates! This was a great opportunity which we will continue to grow from going forward!”

The training, held in O’Fallon, MO, featured two workshops.

The first workshop, Accelerating Achievement, focused on strategies to encourage participation by each student in a group learning project, provided guidance for helping students develop a circle of peer encouragement, support, and tutoring, helped teachers master structures designed to address the 5 dimensions of accelerated achievement, all of which will lead to boosted test scores.

The second workshop, Higher Level Thinking Skills, explored the 15 most fundamental thinking skills and jump-start critical and creative thinking.

Improving the use of group work in all of our classrooms will ensure that every scholar is involved in and benefiting from the learning process leading to greater knowledge retention and better performance on tests.  This workshop was specifically designed to give instructors tools to help the student improve their creative and critical thinking skills - a key aspect of the rigorous learning environment required to ready our scholars for college success.

 

SCP makes it Round 4 of Brackets For Good

Thanks to a bevy of generous supporters, St. Louis College Prep had its best showing ever this year in the Brackets For Good competition, a friendly March Madness inspired competition between St. Louis area nonprofits.

In total, St. Louis College Prep raised over $4,000 in the competition, making it to Round 4 (the Engaged 8) and more than doubling the amount raised during the competition last year.

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Leadership league fighting cancer through Pennies for Pasta campaign

The SCP 8th Grade Leadership League is working to raise over $500 for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society through a Pennies for Pasta fundraiser. 
Last year, the school was able to raise close to $800 during this annual campaign.
All money raised goes to providing access to blood cancer treatments for youth in the St. Louis region. 
The Pennies for Pasta campaign will start on Monday, April 3, and will run for about 3 weeks. 
The advisory who raises the most money during the campaign will be rewarded with an Olive Garden catered lunch. For more information please visit http://www.studentseries.org/

Seventh graders visiting museums next week

The entire 7th-grade class will have a chance to tour both the Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis Art Museum next Wednesday as part of an educational field trip intended to reinforce material being studied during Cycle 4.

"Right now we are reading Akata Witch which takes place in Nigeria," said Kate Leenarts. "So we will be taking them to the art museum which has a really great first-floor African display. The kids will be looking at some of the masks and different tribal artifacts to give us additional background knowledge for the book.

"The history museum currently has an exhibit about the civil rights movement here in St. Louis, and that has been an on going topic all year in both social studies and ELA as well as in some of our service learning projects," sad Leenarts.

She said the scholars would each have a clipboard with some guiding questions and activities for each of the exhibits.

"I am hoping the art museum will be more like a scavenger hunt where they are finding different pieces," she explained. "The civil rights exhibit will be more about big guiding questions for the scholar to consider as the read and watch the displays. Then we will hopefully do some sort of group discussion about it when we get back."

SCP track team readies for first season

Coach Richard Long is excited about St. Louis College Prep's first-ever track team.
"We have a really good foundation right now and have a number of students who ran track previously in 8th grade and 9th grade or who ran cross country in the fall," he said.
The team will participate in its first meet of the season on April 6 at the PHL Relay held at Gateway STEM High School  (5101 McRee Ave., St.Louis). The event kicks off at 4:15 p.m.
Long said both the girls and boys track teams have been working hard to prepare for the season, with after school practices 4 days a week since the beginning of March.
"We are using the track here at the school," he said. "It is a 200-meter track so it does us justice. It not about where you are at, but about what you do in that space.
"This year we are focused on running, running, running," he added. "We will be competing in everything from the 100 to the 3,200 and all of the relays. We do not have the equipment to participate in field events right so we are just focused on the track portion."
The teams have spent most of their time focused on running form and getting used to competing on a track.
"We will focus on weight training next year," said Long. "We are still at the Freshman, JV level this year so I just want the to accustomed to the track before we start throwing things on them. We do general core work during practice to get their core strength up."
He said the school has built their season of 5 meets around of theory of accessibility for both the athletes and their families.
"Most of the meets are at Gateway, which is only 8 minutes from the school so the families can actually come to them," he said. "All of the meets start after 4 and they usually run for 3 to 4 hours, so that family time to come out even if they don't get off until later. We want as many people as possible to come out and support our scholars."
Long said he has already seen some standout runners in the practices.
"Kobe Cole ran cross country in the fall and has kept running so he is in pretty good shape," said Long. "Kalind Anderson was actually a Junior Nationals qualifier in 8th grad so I am excited to see what he can do this year."
On the girls team, Long said he will be watching Amya Jones and Alexis Mangrum.
"Alexis is new to track but she has really strong abilities," he said.
Although he has high hopes for the team, Long said they will not be able to participate in state competitions this year, but he hopes that is something they work toward for next year.
"I have had them all set their own personal goals for the season and I want to see them meet those goals," said Long. "We are also going to be getting the state numbers so they can compare themselves and see where they will be next year. They can see if they would have made it to the conference or district or state level and that will give them something to look forward to for next year." 
The team includes Kalind Anderson, Bakari Dorsey, Dakiah Barner, David Chandler, Marcus Strohmeyer, Braiden Cole, Kobe Cole, Amya Jones, Alexis Mangrum and Opal Strohmeyer.

Fairley joins SCP staff

St. Louis College Prep middle school science students have a new teacher for Cycle 4, as Ameerah Fairley joins the school's instructional staff.
"I love teaching science because it is so relatable to real life," said Fairley. "I love that ah-ha moment that kids have when they think it is so hard, but I break it down to where they can understand it. When they have that moment, it really makes me love my job."
Failey has been creating that moment for St. Louis area students for the past 8 years, starting her career as a high school science teacher with St. Louis City Public Schools. 
"I started off teaching biology, human anatomy and physiology, and chemistry," she said. "Then I moved to Central Middle School in Riverview Gardens and found I absolutely loved teaching on the middle school level.
But after three years at Central Middle School, Fairley decided she was ready for something new.
"I kind of felt like there was nowhere for growth there," she said. "I wanted something different, so I started doing research on St. Louis College Prep and finally put in an application and here I am.

"I am here to do my magic," she added.

Outside of school, Fairley enjoys spending time with her 7-year-old son and her husband but has also formed a new non-profit aimed at mentoring teenage girls.

"It is called The Princess Perspective," she said. "My first name means princess in Arabic, the perspective part of it is about understanding that each of our ideas about being a princess will not look the same for everybody. We focus on educating the whole girl, dealing with physical issues, mental stability, and spiritual outreach. We also community service and we just took them on a college tour during spring break."

Fairley said she brings that entrepreneurial spirit to her classroom as well.

"I like to have fun in my classes," she said. "For example today in my classes we are going to have a competition over the vocabulary that they will have a test on on Monday. They will be able to earn bonus points toward the vocabulary test so it is a win-win situation. We get to have fun, we learn and we get to apply the words.

A St. Louis native, Fairley earned her Bachelor's degree from a private HBCU, Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., before returning to the area to get Master's Degrees in teaching and education administration at Lindenwood University.