State takes over East St. Louis School Board

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by Maggie Crane / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:53 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 21 at 10:08 PM

EAST ST. LOUIS, Il. (KMOV) -- In an unprecedented move, the state of Illinois is taking over the East St. Louis School Board.  Citing generations of academic failure, financial crisis and a culture resistant to change, the state says every board member must go.

The state board hopes for major changes, starting by raising achievement rates for more than 7,000 students in the district.

The East St. Louis School Board doesn't plan to go quietly.  The group plans to file a lawsuit on Friday.

Carl Officer is one of seven East St. Louis School Board members the state has voted to evict.  It's never been done before in Illinois, and Officer calls it "taxation without representation."

"I'm duly elected by the people, the taxpayers, and none of [the state board members] were elected to anything," Officer said.

For the past year, the district has been working with an Intergovernmental Board and a superintendent appointed by the state.

"[The State Board] has got a horrible track record, and they are as much to blame for the problems here," Officer said.

Consider this:  during the past school year, only 60 percent of all students in the East St. Louis School District 189 met or exceeded state standards.  The number of high school students meeting standards is appalling -- just 11 percent.

The state says something has got to change the tide of what leaders call chronic academic and fiscal failures in the district.  The state also cited several examples of board members treating the district as a patronage haven for themselves and family and friends.

Parents and some district employees welcome the change.

"I think the state could do a little better than what they're doing," Shronda Smith, parent of an East St. Louis Schools student, said.

"It's probably a good thing," Brandy Simmons, another parent, said of the takeover.  "They might get better teachers."

The state hopes to have a new five-member independent authority set up by July First.  A spokesperson for the state board told me people who are familiar with or live in the community will make up the board.

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