by Trisha Howard
St. Louis Public Schools will no longer participate in teacher training at a center affiliated with the Church of Scientology, the district’s superintendent said Wednesday.
The district’s teachers union had complained that several schools had sent teachers to training at the center in Spanish Lake, called Applied Scholastics International.
Superintendent Creg Williams said that he wasn’t familiar enough with the center’s program to judge its worth, but he didn’t want its training to distract from professional development that the district already provides its teachers.
“I want to make sure we’re focusing on the initiatives we already have in place, and that’s not one of our initiatives,” Williams said. “The district has had its hands in so many programs and activities. You can’t focus that way.”
Applied Scholastics International opened its teacher training center here in July 2003, relying on methods developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and the founder of Scientology.
The principals of Fanning and Long middle schools sent some of their teachers to the center this fall to learn about teaching strategies, district officials said.
Some of those teachers took their concerns to the union, Local 420, which in turn raised the issue with the School Board. Byron Clemens, the union’s first vice president, said several teachers were uncomfortable attending workshops at the center.
An Applied Scholastics spokeswoman could not be reached Wednesday for comment The Scientology Web site describes Applied Scholastics as “a separate and autonomous charitable program that is independent of the churches of Scientology.”
School Board member Bill Purdy called for an investigation of the program last week, citing the union’s concerns. He also visited the center.
The center’s directors told Purdy that the training programs “were not connected to the Church of Scientology,” he said. “But all of the materials they sent home with me, on every cover, it says, ‘Based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard.’ It’s right on the cover. You draw your own conclusions.”