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SLU-Sponsored Charter School Earns 10-Year Renewal

The Missouri State Board of Education voted unanimously to grant Saint Louis University’s sponsored charter school, City Garden Montessori Charter School, a second 10-year charter term on Friday, Dec. 1. It is the first time the board has ever granted a decade-long renewal to a state chartered school.

University leaders meet with students and staff at City Garden Montessori Charter School

University leaders including President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.,  and Jonathan Smith, Ph.D.,  meet with staff, faculty and students at SLU's sponsored charter school, City Garden Montessori Charter School. Submitted photo

City Garden has consistently been one of the highest-performing charter schools in St. Louis and is recognized as a high quality charter school under Missouri law. Schools can receive the designation by receiving 85 percent or more of the total points awarded on the state's annual performance review for three out of the last four school years and by maintaining a graduation rate of at least 80 percent, meeting its performance contract obligations and being determined to be organizationally and fiscally viable under state law.

“Saint Louis University’s 10-year sponsorship of City Garden Montessori School embodies the kind of engaged relationship we strive for with our community partners,” University President Fred Pestello, Ph.D., said.  “Their anti-bias, anti-racist educational framework echoes SLU’s commitment to justice throughout our community.”

Pestello also spoke about SLU’s continuing commitment to the sponsorship and its place in carrying out the University’s Jesuit mission.

“Having their charter renewed for another 10 years is a testament to City Garden’s educational and organizational success,” he continued, “and it means we can help City Garden deepen and broaden its impact on St. Louis in the years to come.  I am incredibly proud of City Garden for its accomplishments, and I am grateful that SLU has the privilege of serving as their sponsor into the future.”

City Garden was the first charter school sponsored by SLU.  In the mid-2000s, faculty and staff from the University’s School of Social Work and Office of the Provost worked with alumna, Trish Curtis (A&S ’73) and a set of founding school parents and teachers to develop City Garden’s inaugural charter. 

Curtis, who was recognized as a 2015 Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame inductee by the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, had been successfully operating City Garden Montessori pre-school for many years. She shared a vision with others to grow that operation to include a K-8 public charter school.  Their shared goal was to establish a diverse Montessori elementary school that would draw students from the surrounding community and help to stabilize and revitalize the Shaw, Botanical Heights, Forest Park Southeast, Southwest Garden and Tiffany neighborhoods.

City Garden opened under its original charter in 2008 in the basement of the Tyler Place church at 2109 Spring Street in the Shaw neighborhood.  In 2012, it moved into a newly-renovated facility on Tower Grove Avenue.

Nearly 43 percent of City Garden’s students are eligible for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program, and approximately 50 percent are students of color.  The school has implemented an anti-bias educational framework – a key element of the school’s affinity with SLU, and one of the primary reasons for the University’s ongoing sponsorship of the charter school.

Beginning with 53 students in grades K-3, today, City Garden now educates 231 students through the eighth grade. Its graduates now attend public and private high schools across the area, including Saint Louis University High School, Nerinx Hall Academy, Rosati-Kain High School, Cardinal Ritter High School, St. Mary’s High School, and Christian Brothers College Preparatory Academy. Many of these graduates have received academic scholarships to attend those schools.

Through sponsorship of City Garden, SLU is contributing to educational equity in the City of St. Louis. Sponsorship requires that SLU serve in an accreditor-like role as an agent of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure City Garden complies with statutory requirements for charter schools.

As part of its sponsorship, SLU has sought to leverage the intellectual, educational, and community outreach resources of the University to support City Garden. This includes partnerships with the School of Education, the Center for Service and Community Engagement, the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, the School of Social Work, the Department of Psychology and other parts of the SLU community.

SLU faculty and staff have also found City Garden to be a high quality educational option for their children. 

“I choose City Garden because it is a racially and socioeconomically diverse school in the city where my children receive a great education,” said Kira Hudson Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, who sends her two sons to City Garden.  “Their commitment to anti-bias and anti-racism is unparalleled, and I'm proud their charter was renewed as a high quality school.”

University leaders and City Garden Montessori staff members

(From left) David Blank, City Garden's director of finance and operations; Nicole Evans, Ph.D., principal of City Garden; Steve Sanchez, Ph.D., SLU assistant provost; Christie Huck, City Garden executive director; University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., Sheila Manion, SLU vice president of development; Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.; Bob Sweeney, City Garden director of development and public affairs; and SLU alumna Faybra Hemphill, City Garden director of racial equity curriculum and training during a SLU tour of the school. Submitted photo

SLU also sponsors the Grand Center Arts Academy on North Grand Boulevard.

For more information about City Garden and the Grand Center Arts Academy, click here or contact Martha McGeehon, director of charter school sponsorship, or call 314-977-2232.

Saint Louis University is a world-class Catholic, Jesuit institution educating nearly 13,000 students on two dynamic, urban campuses - in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, the University will is now celebrating its bicentennial.
With a legacy of innovative academics and research, compassionate health care and faithful service, Saint Louis University attracts a diverse community of scholars who push intellectual boundaries in pursuit of creative, meaningful ways to impact the world, striving to serve a higher purpose and seek a greater good.