Anne Barton-Veenkant

My name is Anne Barton-Veenkant. Education has been important in my own life. I have been in schools that served me as well as schools that didn’t, and even as a child, I knew it. It is now important to me that all our children have access to a great education. 

I’m in my 8th year as an elementary educator. I have worked in a traditional public school district. I and many of my colleagues worked really hard with our elementary students, but by high school only 13% of them were graduating. The system systematically failed our beautiful kids. 

I have now worked at KIPP in Austin, TX and St. Louis, MO for 6 years, working with a very similar population. Not only do they graduate from high school but over 90% of them go on to a 4-year college. Our kids defy stereotypes: our young children speak in complete sentences and use “big words” correctly, they are respectful and well-behaved, and most importantly, they know they are working hard to grow their brains and go to college from day one of kindergarten. 

I urge you, on behalf of our children, their future children, and the well-being of all of us, to expand charter schools in our state and protect high standards for schools and kids.

Lisa Smith

My name is Lisa Smith and I am here in support of Education Savings Accounts. School choice is paramount for all families. Every family story is different and unique. I’m a mother who wants the best education possible for my children. We live in a school district that’s been failing and unaccredited for nine years.

I have a child that had two terrifying incidents at his school during his first year in school last year. Those terrifying incidents still bother my son today. He was locked inside the school during a fire drill. I was not contacted by the teacher or school administration. My son told me about the incident when he got home. He was very terrified. A few months later my son was attacked inside the restroom at school by an older student who choked him and tried making him pull his pants down.

I was one of those parents that used to think children should go to school in their own community. But when you’re falsely banned by the school district for having concerns about your child’s wellbeing then you don’t have many choices to choose from. My only option at that point was to homeschool. I stopped working to homeschool for five months.

My second choice was to enter into the transfer program. Once I saw the difference in the school districts I was happy to know my children can get a better educational experience than the one they came to know. The transfer program has saved me from a lot of pain, stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights. School choice provides hope to low income families. It allows parents to access educational options that meet their child’s unique needs.

Families with low incomes are stuck in their failing neighborhood schools with no choice, no hope, and no future.

Lisa read her testimony to the Government Reform Committee in Jefferson City.

Robert & Paul Davis

My name is Paul Davis and I would like to share the success my child has experienced in the transfer program.

My son Robert has autism and was severely bullied in the Normandy School District. I tried to do everything I could to protect my son and resolve the issues we were having. I demanded he have a para. She was with him all day for the sole purpose of keeping him from being bullied.

Middle school was ugly. It was like a prison in there. They would stage fights to distract security from the real fight happening on the other side of the school. I had completely had it and was getting ready to file a Federal complaint for a violation of civil rights before the transfer program became an option.

Before Robert was struggling with his academics and was bullied on a daily basis. Robert was getting F’s in math at Normandy and is now getting A’s in trigonometry in Francis Howell. He also had a D in language arts in the 7th grade I can now proudly say he is a getting an A.

I want the world to know that the transfer program works. I had my doubts at the beginning of last year when I made the decision to transfer my son Robert to the Francis Howell School District but now that we are in our second year I can say that it has made all the difference for my son’s future. Before, every day was a struggle but now everyday is a success.

Last year was his first year at his new school and the initial transition wasn’t easy. Most of the communication between teachers and families is through an online parent portal and I don’t have the internet at home. I felt lost without direct communication. I had mixed feeling but this year has proven to me that we made all the right decisions.

I had to make a lot sacrifices to keep Robert in FHSD this year. When we weren’t sure we’d be able to return to FHSD I did what I had to do to make sure he could return and rented an apartment in the district. When they announced they would be accepting applications for new transfers for next school year I applied again to transfer so that I could return to my home in Normandy.

I always knew he was very smart and capable of learning and was so happy to finally see it happening! He just got his report card and I can proudly say he got a 3.5 GPA last quarter with a cumulative GPA of 3.05. Robert blossomed like a rosebush.

Every child deserves a quality education.

UPDATE December 2016: Robert was accepted into Washington University! Congratulations to Robert and Paul!

Kelly Bryant-Vaughn

Kelly Bryant-Vaughn 3

My name is Kelly and I have a daughter beginning her fourth grade year at the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools- The Spanish School.

I feel like my daughter has gained a lot of social skills being in a diverse environment. She is exposed to so many different cultures and races right in the heart of the city that she wouldn’t have experienced at SLPS. She loves to meet people of other ethnic backgrounds. She was able to interpret for me when we were on Cherokee street. Read More

Leola Calhoun

Leola Calhoun

My name is Leola Calhoun and I have a daughter who is in the first grade at KIPP: Wisdom and I am very concerned about the lawsuit being brought against the charter schools.

My desire to ensure a high quality education for my children started with my experiences growing up. I started in St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and had a terrible experience. Teachers would throw books and didn’t seem to care or show initiative. They didn’t even communicate when homework was due. They were obviously just there for the paycheck. Read More

Fred Wooten

My name is Fred Wooten and I have a son going into fourth grade at the St. Louis Language Immersion School – The Chinese School. He’s been there since Kindergarten.

I chose this charter school for the future advantages my son will have as far as the global economy and the Chinese influence all over the world. He’s going to have a real advantage since not many people can both speak and write Mandarin.

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Ty’Rek’s Story



Latasha is a hardworking mom who believes in the importance of education. Unfortunately, Latasha and her family reside in an unaccredited school district and the educational options for her children are limited by their zip code. Read More

Ryan Wessels and STL Real Estate

The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM) is an important organization in the Saint Louis community.  We became aware of CEAM through a business associate who helps people relocate to the Saint Louis area.  Through this connection we scheduled an appointment to hear more about the organization and how we could help our clients through the efforts of the CEAM Team.

During our meeting with CEAM, they informed us about the MSIP 5 scores which rates all of the public and charter schools in the Saint Louis metro area.  They took the time to educate us and answer all of our questions.  It was amazing to hear of their personal experiences and insights into specific schools.  With a better understanding of these ratings, our office is now better equipped to answer that question on every parent’s mind when moving from one house to the next, “How are the schools?”  This will truly help us service our clients better!

Dana Gray

dana gray

It is detrimental to the stability and safety of our neighborhoods and property values to have vacant properties, especially properties as large and central to our communities as public schools.  Reutilizing those vacant school buildings for educational purposes or other creative re-use is critical for the stability of the community. Charter or other schools should be allowed access to these buildings to provide additional quality education options.

Sara Feagans


My name is Sara Feagans and I am a member of CEAM’s Young Friends network because I feel that all students should have access to a quality education regardless of where they live or the income their families make.

As a former educator myself, I have been able to work for wealthy school districts in the county as well as a charter school in the city. I have had the opportunity to work in schools with many resources and access to great teachers and also in schools with little access to resources leaving students with a very different education than those in wealthier schools were able to receive. Having been able to see education from both of these angles, I have seen just how unfair and unjust it is to provide low income, and often minority, students with a lesser education than wealthier students.

The quality of education you receive should have nothing to do with the neighborhood you live in or the amount of money you make. All children should have equal access to a quality education. CEAM believes this as well and that is why I am a part of CEAM’s Young Friends network. Quality education should not just be a concern for parents, it should be a concern for everyone because it has lasting effects on our community, city, and state.

Gulcan Yala


I am Gulcan Yayla. I am studying at the Brown School of Social Work and doing my internship at CEAM. I am also a member of their Young Friends Network.

What do we do as Young Friends at CEAM? The answer does not have a limit. We can use any opportunity to learn about education policies in Missouri. We have meetings to discuss education policies, but we don’t have to wait for an event to be organized by CEAM – we can organize the events ourselves and invite others. We can also choose to attend a community service together, in this way we learn better.

I strongly believe that young adults should care about education policies and be involved in the conversations going on. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Look around, look at the news. You can easily see the changes in legislation affecting the education of millions of children. These children and youth are in return affecting everything you care about, or they will start changing the environment in which you live. Although education policies may sound “difficult to understand” at first, if you are not involved in the conversation now, you will witness how others are changing your world. Maybe even your child’s world…

CEAM’s Young Friends Network makes the difficult conversations easier. I feel empowered seeing other young adults who ask questions, care about children’s education, and who reimagine a quality and fair education system.
If you also like to ask questions, have an idea about organizing an event with other young friends, and want to learn from others, join us and become our friend!

Steven Shaw


I have learned this year that meaningful education reform begins with teachers. There are so many voices with an opinion about education–policy makers, parents, administrators, and community members–but none of these stakeholders has the ability to transform learning for students like teachers. If we want sustainable change that benefits the students, we need to first support teachers in their classrooms. This is why I am passionate about connecting teachers and elevating their voices in the reform conversation.

In schools, teachers are often stuck in their classrooms and work in isolation. They get very little time to collaborate with their peers and must use up their personal time to get better at their jobs. That leaves teachers no time to voice their opinions on the challenges that they face in the classroom every day. Still, new policies imposed on teachers only limit a teacher’s creative freedom and ability to help students learn. This is what leads to burnout and teachers quickly leaving the profession.

If people want to improve education, more must be done to work with teachers to empower them as the professionals they are. Outsiders need to listen to what educators need and value their opinions in the conversation on education reform. At the same time, teachers need to support organizations that already advocate on their behalf. It’s necessary to bridge the gap that separates teachers in their classrooms from the community at large. After all, teachers are the ones who have the true impact on students. Not policies, not standardized tests, and not new technology.

Its time to listen to teachers if we want lasting and meaningful change.

This is why educators need to join CEAM’s Educators for Progress movement to help ensure that educators are being supported and rewarded in order to ensure that every student in Missouri has effective teachers in their schools and classrooms.

Susan Sauer


As an active real estate professional in the St. Louis region, I am reminded every day that the importance of quality educational choices is a top priority not only for families seeking to buy or sell residential properties, but also for commercial interests seeking to locate in the area.  The presence of high quality schools not only fosters strong residential communities but reaches beyond the home and into the business community enabling businesses, educators and families to become partners in the success of our region. Read More

Nyesha Coleman

My name is Latasha Buchanan and I have two children that started school last year in the Parkway School District through the transfer program. They have both been showing great improvement since transferring, but today I want to share Nyesha’s story with you. Nyesha was in the Normandy School District from preschool through first grade.

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Habakkuk Cooper-Thompson

My name is Habakkuk Cooper-Thompson and I’m a freshman that attends a magnet school called the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience (CSMB) in St. Louis City. Prior to Collegiate my mom and I had a few experiences with school choice. I attended a private school however it was not the right fit for me. Next we moved on to public school however my mom still did not feel that I was getting a high quality education. At that point my mom pulled me out of school and home schooled me for a while. That’s when I started at KIPP Inspire Academy a St. Louis Charter school.

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DeAnne Toussaint

“My name is DeAnne and I would like to tell you my success story. Since transferring my children out of the Riverview Gardens School District, my children are happy, safe and part of a community that has welcomed them with open arms.

“My daughter Charlie is performing above grade level and my son Jayden is also doing very well with A’s and B’s. Both of my children love their school. Charlie participates in Girl Scouts and Jayden knows nearly every child at school and has a large group of friends. The school has been so inclusive that no one other than the principle and their teachers even know or can tell they are transfer students.

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Crystal Washington

When I was in the 1st grade, my family moved to Maryland Heights into a housing project. I began school in the Pattonville School District where I received an excellent primary education. We moved when I was in the 6th grade and I attended the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), Normandy and Ferguson-Florissant School Districts from 6th through 9th grade. Out of all the districts I attended, SLPS and Normandy were the worst. In the 10th grade I transferred back to Pattonville. I immediately noticed the difference in the instruction given by teachers. I noticed this as a child over 20 years ago. Even though I was getting a much better education I had learned behaviors at the other schools and I got suspended for 90 days for fighting and ended up a teenage mother.

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Shalonda Smith

I live in the Normandy School District and I have 4 children who were a part of the transfer program. They attended the Francis Howell School District. I believe in high quality education for my children and would like them to continue in their schools because of my children’s experiences with Normandy schools. We have lived in the Normandy district for approximately 4 years and my children were not getting the education they deserve. They had teachers who did not care, no school books, no homework, bullying, fighting, as well as my son went through half of the school year without his required IEP services. My children came home frustrated and not wanting to learn because they didn’t understand the assignments that were given.

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Shun-ta Washington

My name Shun-ta Washington and I am the parent of two transfer students. My oldest started in the transfer program last year as an 8th grader at Francis Howell and just started back this year as a freshman. My youngest just entered Kindergarten in Francis Howell this year.


I chose to transfer my oldest child when she was going into 8th grade knowing that these were critical years of education for her before college. When they threatened to end the transfer program and told me my children would have to go back to Normandy I knew I didn’t want my kids to be guinea pigs in an experiment for three years. I especially didn’t want my high-school student to compromise three years before college and then have to transfer her senior year to graduate from an accredited school or worse graduate from an unaccredited district.

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Hi my name is Jamilah Britton I have lived in both the Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts. As a graduate of Normandy I know first-hand that the issues in the district are not new. It has been a problem for generations and we finally have some relief from these poor performing districts. I am a mother of three great kids who deserve the best education possible and our receiving just that through the transfer program.

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“My name is Tyree Dabney and I believe education is the most important factor in determining a child’s future. It is also the only way towards creating an equal society.

“I personally experienced inequality in education. I attended St. Louis Public Schools from Kindergarten through 6th grade. Our family then moved to the suburbs of Chicago where I was able to attend some excellent schools. I had teachers that got me excited about learning and I was on track to be able to enter some great colleges.

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“My name is Jandi and I am the parent of a transfer student currently enrolled in the 4th grade in Ladue.

“Before the transfer program my son went to a small private school where they didn’t recognize he had a learning disability. They thought he just had behavioral issues and I saw he was beginning to be labeled as the “bad kid.” When he was evaluated and diagnosed with a disability, his school said he couldn’t come back. That same summer the transfer program became an option and I ran and applied on one of the last days. There was no way, no how, my child was going to Normandy especially after the Wellston merger. I knew the class sizes were very large. I knew what the student population was like from seeing the kids in the community. I didn’t want my son get labeled once again. I wanted him to get the help he needed.

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