A group calling for a portion of Fairview Heights to leave East St. Louis School District 189 collected signatures Saturday to move their effort forward.
The group is calling for the part of Fairview Heights, commonly referred to as French Village, to detach from District 189 and become part of neighboring Grant District 110 and Belleville High School District 201.
Group organizers collected about 80 signatures at a meeting Saturday.
Patty Nelson, one of the committee members pushing the effort, said additional petition signatures were collected in the days leading up to the meeting.
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“I think everybody agrees they’re tired of their property taxes getting so high and going to the East St. Louis School District, and we have nothing to show for it,” Nelson said. “Things have not gotten better; they’re getting worse, and we need everyone’s help and participation.”
The group also hopes to raise money for the effort, and encouraged those in attendance of the Saturday meeting to send in complaints about the district to the governor’s office, the school district office and the state board of education.
The meeting, at the Jones Banquet Plaza, had attendance from Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky, St. Clair County Board chairman candidate Rodger Cook, County Board member Carol Clark and Fairview Heights aldermen.
“As mayor, I’d like to see the children of Fairview Heights go to school in Fairview Heights,” Kupsky said.
Kevin Sheridan, one of the organizers of the “Detach 189” movement, said District 189 has squandered money.
“They’re not giving kids a decent education, proof is in the pudding. It’s all in black and white. It’s all in writing,” Sheridan said. “The test scores are failing grades, and failing children, and the district is behind all of them. The district had its chance to make improvements. They have not made improvements in 30 years.”
Parts of Alorton, Belleville, Brooklyn, Centreville, Caseyville, Fairmont City, Madison and Washington Park are in District 189.
Because the detachment process is long, Sheridan said the group would also support candidates for the District 189 Board of Education who did not reside in East St. Louis.
It’s not the first time the French Village area has tried to detach. Efforts go back as far as 1972, and there have been sporadic efforts since, some successful.
A previous effort to leave the district in 2001 and 2002 failed when an appellate court prevented the detachment.
“I think this time around, we’re going to have a much better chance of achieving our goal,” said Norm Miller, a group organizer. “It’s not going to be easy, we have a lot of work to do.”
Brenda McNeil owns property in the area and is a landlord.
“I find it challenging to rent to people with children because of the fact they don’t want their children to be in the East St. Louis school district,” McNeil said.
Tommie Randolph came to the meeting and signed the petition supporting the detachment process.
“Our taxes are too high,” Randolph said. “Why would I want to be in a school district with higher taxes? … I’m in the same city as people in the Belleville district. If I’m in the same city, I should have the same benefits.”
Tiffany Baldwin is the school board president for District 110.
She was not on the board during the previous detachment efforts, when the population issues were different and the school district needed extra space.
“Now we have a bit of excess capacity,” Baldwin said.
The District 110 board would look at how many kids would potentially come in, Baldwin said, and consider, “how many kids we could take versus how much additional revenue would be needed from the housing values and taxes to support that.”