How did East St. Louis-area schools improve their financial health?

In a year, Brooklyn School District 188 made some changes that helped it move off of the Illinois State Board of Education’s financial watch list.

The state board analyzes school finances every year to identify which school districts are in or are moving toward financial difficulty by giving them a score. If they’re on the low end of the scoring range, they’re considered high risk and are put on the watch list.

Those scores are based on “financial indicators,” like how much school districts spent for every dollar they received in the previous fiscal year.

Superintendent Henrietta Young said one of the changes District 188 made that improved its financial health was replacing teachers who were retiring at the top of the pay scale with teachers who earned less money.

“We also changed our contract language so that we were reducing the amount of money paid for sick days upon staff leaving the district,” she said.

Another effort to reduce costs in the district was combining several grade levels into one classroom, Young said.

District 188 moved from the watch list, which is the lowest of the four financial health categories, to the second-lowest. That means the state board will continue monitoring District 188 closely.

About four miles away, East St. Louis District 189 is in the highest financial health category for the third consecutive year. This comes after, in 2012, a state-appointed financial oversight panel stepped in because of years of deficit spending in District 189.

The district improved its financial health five years later by eliminating excess personnel and vendor contracts, according to District 189 spokeswoman Sydney Stigge-Kaufman.

In another effort to reach financial stability, Stigge-Kaufman said school leaders also sought “supplemental funds,” including grants, and used working cash bonds.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes