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UPDATE: East St. Louis School Board Ousted by the State

Carol A. Daniel
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ST. LOUIS, Mo.(KMOX)–It was a unanimous vote Thursday afternoon to remove the East St. Louis School Board.

Before the formal request was made to the state board, before the motion was given and the vote taken,  Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Chris Koch spoke.

“This is absolutely not an action I am not taking lightly knowing this is the first time the state board would be working in such an action.”   Koch said academic performance is the reason for this action.  “I want to remind you that at the (East St. Louis)high school, 11 percent of the high schoolers meet or exceed federal standards while only 60 percent of the entire district meet or exceed federal standards (No Child Left Behind).  He said the intergovernmental agreement was in place and a lot of time has been spent on the ground in East St. Louis, addressing compliance, finances and academic improvement.  “But I feel this is absolutely necessary to bring this district forward.”  Koch has said in the past month that the East St. Louis School Board became almost impossible to deal with.

Prior to the vote,  several board members spoke up.

Dr. Vinni Hall, who began her career as a teacher in 1967, said, “The bottom line for me is this has been written about for years going back to when I was in college and God knows that was in the dark ages. This has been a troubled school community for many years.  It can’t go on, we’ve had generations and decades of children affected.  Nothing anyone has said(in Wednesday’s public comment period) is falling on deaf ears.  But she said, “Either we step up to the plate or we fail these children.  And I am not interested in failing these children.”

Another state board member, Dr. Andrea Brown of Marion, commented that the whole community has had a great deal of difficulty that started primarily when Monsanto left and there went jobs. “We as a board don’t have a lot of control over that aspect of the community but what we can do is to try to do what we can for the children.”

“We view this action as the end of the road,” said another board member, “We want to have impact as rapidly as possible. The key approach is to institute a new coherent operating board with significant ties to community as well as financial and educational expertise that can operate as a cohesive unit and enable us to move forward more quickly.”

State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico said, “This is a very serious decision but one that needs to be made because we can’t watch another year go by and do nothing and just put a band aid over the issue.”  He added, “The problems in East St. Lois won’t be solved with one action.  However, I think education is the ultimate intervention that can change the cycle.”

“This isn’t just a board change, we want this to be a sea change.  We want to see things happen there that benefit children. The level of the severity to the problem must be addressed.”

One board member says he hopes to get word out to the community of East St. Louis about the positive nature of this action calling it good news considering the track record.

Dr. Hall said, “The community will be privy to everything.  We have open meetings.  The community is never going to be denied their voice. We can only work together.  We can’t do this by ourselves and they can’t do it by themselves, we’ve got to work together.”

The state board will now appoint an independent authority.  That board will work to improve student performance and school improvement .  Dr Koch will be in charge of  establish performance criteria to determine measures of distict progress and eventual restoration of local control.

LOCAL REACTION

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks calls the ouster of the school board, disenfranchisement.  “I think it creates taxation without representation and destroys democracy.”

When asked to respond to state claims that only 60 percent met or exceeded standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law.  Mayor Parks disputes that saying individual schools are doing well saying the state superintendent was in the district last year commending the performance of Mason Clark Middle School.

The district’s failure to meet those standards for nine years triggered the state’s intervention.  Parks calls that figure misleading.

 

Updated: 12:40 p.m.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — The Illinois State Board of Education has voted to remove each member of the East St. Louis School Board. The 8-0 decision was made during a public hearing Thursday afternoon.

It will allow the state to install a new administrative entity to control the district. It’s the first time this has ever happened in Illinois.

The board of education had the authority to remove the elected school board members because district 189 had not met academic standards for nine years.

On Wednesday, State Superintendent Chris Koch, gave the board his formal request.

“Today I’m asking you to authorize me under the school code to direct the regional superintendent to remove the members of the East St. Louis school board and also authorize me to appoint an independent authority in its place.”

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — Today is the day that the elected East St. Louis School Board may be removed by the state.

The state reportedly has that authority because district 189 has not met academic standards for nine years. But during Wednesday’s meeting, much of the public input from residents of the other districts facing a similar fate was testy with one Chicago area parent calling the oversight panel low down, another called them arrogant dictators.

One patron told the board that he wanted to speak because he supports Democracy and he feels removing elected school board members means, “Our voice is being taken away.”

But later in the meeting, State Superintendent Chris Koch still gave the board his formal request.

“Today I’m asking you to authorize me under the school code to direct the regional superintendent to remove the members of the East St. Louis school board and also authorize me to appoint an independent authority in its place.”

The attorney for the East St. Louis School Board said removing the elected board is unconstitutional saying the board did everything the state asked them to. The final vote is expected this afternoon.

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