Consent decree settles lawsuit filed by District 189

News-DemocratMay 8, 2013 

The nearly year-old lawsuit filed by elected board members of District 189 after the Illinois State Board of Education attempted to take it over was settled Tuesday, with a St. Clair County judge vacating the preliminary injunction that was put into place last July 2 and putting in its place a consent decree.

Matt Vanover, spokesman for the state board of education, said "We entered into a consent decree with the local board. They may remain in a similar capacity that they had prior to the state board termination.

"They are still going to be an elected board, but the district superintendent will present recommendations on all policy-making decisions. If they do not approve his recommendations, it would go to State Schools Superintendent Chris Koch," Vanover said.

Koch, would then make the final decision, Vanover said.

Beth Sheppard, assistant superintendent for human resources and community relations, said "Every employee in the district will work very hard to support the local board and the state board in meeting the goals of the decree."

The decree is in place for four years and it can be extended for an additional four years if certain criteria, like accreditation, demonstration of professionalism, integrity and sound governance, are not met.

In setting forth the consent decree, St. Clair County Judge Stephen Rice said also that the local board must have a demonstrated record of compliance with state and federal law.

The district also must identify performance goals as outlined in the improvement plan and academic achievement that are equal to or exceed the average for both elementary and secondary schools in the district.

Minority, special education and economically disadvantaged students must be performing equal to or above the state's averages for such populations as measured by the district and state report cards.

District 189 must have an attendance rate that is commensurate with the average of the Brooklyn Unit District 188, Cahokia District 187, Cairo District 1, Doltan Districts 148 and 149, Ford Heights School District 169, General George Patton School District 133, Hazel Crest School District 152.5, Lindop School District 92, Madison District 12, Park Forest District 163, Pembrooke CCSD 259, Prairie-hills ESD 144, Rich Township HSD 227, Thornton Township HSD 205, and Venice CUSD 3.

Other aspects of the consent decree include having graduation and attendance rates in District 189 that are commensurate with the averages of the districts listed above.

Also the district's minority, special education and economically disadvantaged students also must have graduation and attendance rates for such populations as measured by district and state report cards.

The district must have reduced truancy and dropout rates that are commensurate with the above listed districts.

District 189 must effectively implement a staffing plan and have an outside audit of the district.

The state board agreed not to attempt to remove the local board while the decree is in effect unless the local board is not following the guidelines of the decree.

If the court finds that the exit criteria were not substantially met within the four years, the agreement will automatically extend for four additional years with the same terms.

At any time during the extension, any party, the Illinois State Board of Education or the local board, if they feel the district has substantially met the goals of the consent decree, can ask that the decree be terminated, Rice wrote.

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