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LOCAL

03.02.2016 • WEdnEsday • M 1

sT. LOUIs POsT-dIsPaTCH • A3

St. Louis’ school boards meet to discuss tax plan BY ELISA CROUCH st. Louis Post-dispatch

ST. LOUIS • Members of the elected and state-imposed school boards came together Tuesday in a rare meeting to discuss the tax referendum that would bring about $28 million to St. Louis schools. For the first time in more than a year, members of the two governing boards — the one that is in power and the one that is not — shared a table inside the central office of St. Louis Public Schools to discuss what might be needed to sell a 75-cent tax increase called Proposition 1. Superintendent Kelvin Adams sat among them

County dismisses community outreach oicial BY STEVE GIEGERICH st. Louis Post-dispatch

CLAYTON • The lawyer

St. Louis County tapped last year to head its newly formed Oice of Community Empowerment and Diversity was let go Monday following an investigation that found she was conducting private business on county time. Annette Slack was replaced on an interim basis by Ethel Byndom, the coordinator of community empowerment. County Executive Steve Stenger said Tuesday that Slack was “terminated for cause.” Stenger established the office as an outreach program to assist North County residents with housing, social services, public health, education and other issues. Slack did not return a call seeking comment. Betty Thompson, a colleague in the empowerment office, disputed the contention that the county had reason to fire Slack. Thompson, an active supporter of Stenger in his 2014 campaign, charged that Slack’s dismissal was connected to oice politics and racial mistrust. “Slack is a good role model, and to dismiss her like that and not give her an opportunity to defend herself is not fair,” said Thompson, who resigned Tuesday morning. Thompson said Slack chose to be fired rather than accept an invitation from the county to resign. The issue, according to Thompson, was a misunderstanding about legal work Slack performed for a relative, and the grading of papers for a part-time position as an adjunct Missouri Baptist University professor. Internal documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch show that Slack used a county computer to prepare a syllabus and exam questions for a course in “Human Resource Management.” The computer hard drive also revealed graded student papers. The documents, uncovered during the county investigation, included court papers, letters Slack wrote on behalf of law clients and correspondence she drafted for her church — including a contract for artists that performed at a Christmas pageant. Sources said that Slack identified herself on her county telephone extension as an attorney and not the manager of the Community Empowerment Oice. The county adopted a policy last year prohibiting employees from working a secondary job without the express permission of ranking county officials. Byndom is a former St. Louis regional director for the Missouri secretary of state. She also served as an intake oicer and investigator with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. She currently sits on the executive board of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP.

and answered questions about how the district would spend proceeds from the tax, one-third of which would go to charter schools after the second year of its collection. The proposal will be on the April 5 ballot. The last time city voters passed a tax increase for schools was 1991. Adams presented an information sheet that showed teacher salaries in city schools to be lower than in any district in the region, resulting in continuous turnover year after year. Millions of dollars stemming from the 1999 settlement of the desegregation case are close to being fully spent, which

means revenue must be found to support preschool for 2,300 children. Many schools don’t have necessary security, Adams added. He also sees a need for character education and programs to keep children on track for graduation. But members of the elected board, removed from power in 2007, asked if Adams could provide more specifics. Bill Haas, an elected board member, said the tax would be an easier sell to voters if district staff would commit to spending a certain percentage on specified areas. Adams took notes. Katie Wessling, another member of the elected

board, asked if a smaller increase might have a greater chance of passing. “For the most part, people are going to say, yes we support it, or no we don’t,” said Rick Sullivan, president of the Special Administrative Board. “We had no way of knowing, will enough people say yes to 40 cents? Would enough people say yes to 50 cents, or 60?” The 75-cent tax increase would raise property taxes an additional $142.50 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. It needs 51 percent of votes to pass. The meeting was to provide information to the elected board. The seven members continue to meet

most months at various schools around the district. They vote on resolutions, but have no control over district operations. Often times, the communication between the two boards amounts to nothing more than elected board member Bill Monroe assailing the SAB during citizen comments at its monthly meeting. But on Tuesday, Monroe mostly listened. “This dialogue is good,” said Susan Jones, president of the elected board. The elected board on Thursday will discuss whether to endorse the tax question. On March 15, the members will vote and determine to what, if any, extent they’ll

be involved. “I would hope they, like every other citizen we get to tell our story to, will support it,” Sullivan said. Last month, a letter advocating passage of the tax went out to 150 city leaders. District staff made the mistake of putting the letter, signed by Richard Gaines of the SAB, on district letterhead. It was paid for by Friends of St. Louis Public Schools, and a corrected letter was mailed. A complaint was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Adams said. District staf is working to address it, he added. Elisa Crouch • 314-340-8119 @elisacrouch on Twitter ecrouch@post-dispatch.com

Two robbers get 60 years in deadly shootout BY JOEL CURRIER st. Louis Post-dispatch

ST. LOUIS • Two men who stormed into a St. Louis bar in 2014 and triggered a deadly shootout were sentenced Tuesday morning to 60 years in prison. St. Louis Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan followed terms of a plea agreement by sentencing Derreaun Davis, 21, and Corey Wade, 30, both of St. Louis, to two consecutive life sentences — or up to 60 years in prison — with the possibility of parole. D a v i s a n d Wa d e pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree mur-

REWARDS

Davis

Wade

der and 31 other counts of assault, attempted robbery and armed criminal action stemming from a robbery attempt that turned into a shootout at Pooh’s Corner, at 6023 Virginia Avenue in the city’s Carondelet neighborhood. The watering hole is popular with St. Louis police oicers. Police said that Davis, Wade and another man

entered the bar about 10:55 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2014, ordering people to the floor. One of the robbers fired a shot into the ceiling. A retired St. Louis officer who was having a drink at the bar shot a n d wo u n d e d Dav i s and Wade. A third suspect was later arrested but never charged in the crime. During the gunfire, authorities say one of the three robbers shot bar patron Diana Lawrence, 63, in the back of the head. Lawrence, of St. Louis, died the next day. Three other people in the bar, including the retired

officer, were injured in the shootout. In the plea agreement with Davis and Wade, prosecutors dropped f i rs t - d e g re e m u rd e r charges, which could have meant life with no parole. At Tuesday’s sentencing, Lawrence’s relatives and friends spoke of their grief over Lawrence’s death and fear that remains since the shooting. “It destroyed me,” said Billie Wilson, who was in the bar the night of the shooting. “I’m not the same person.” Davis’ uncle, Rayshaun Williams, said more than one person made bad

choices to use guns that night, referring to the former police officer in the bar. Williams said he thinks gun laws need to be stricter to deter people from making poor choices involving guns. “In this case, there are no winners,” Williams said. “We lost my nephew. They lost their family member.” “Pooh” was a nickname for the bar’s original owner, but the name stayed and gave rise to the tavern’s slogan: “Police Oicers Oicial Hiding Spot.” Joel Currier • 314-340-8256 @joelcurrier on Twitter jcurrier@post-dispatch.com

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