Unsettled in District 189

May 11, 2013 

Well, the East St. Louis School Board District 189 board members found a way out of a jam as you knew they would.

Instead of being removed from office as the state Board of Education intended and Illinois' law on failing districts specifies, they get to stay in office thanks to the settlement crafted in the friendly confines of the St. Clair County courthouse. Friendly to Democratic politicians, but not friendly to District 189 students.

Not only do the board members get to stay despite dismally failing district students, but in four years they could ask a judge to end oversight altogether. It shouldn't be too difficult to reach the requirements outlined in the agreement; the comparison will be with districts that aren't performing much better than District 189.

Any bets on what will happen in 2017?

The state tries to put a positive spin on settling, but this agreement whittles away at the authority of District 189 Superintendent Art Culver. He will have to continue working with board members who still see the district as a hiring hall rather than a place of learning. There will be "diagnostic review" by an outside firm to judge whether Culver has the district on the right track. Instead of Culver getting the final say in disputes with the board, state Superintendent Christopher Koch now will.

Culver was brought in to lead and improve the quality of education, but it will be difficult to be effective with all that second-guessing.

The East St. Louis school board waited out the financial oversight panel led by Richard Mark, and went back to business as usual as soon as it was gone. This settlement makes it likely that history will repeat itself.

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