Sent: Friday, December 19, 2003 2:15 PM
To: Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 12-19-03
Good afternoon.


Since many of you will be departing for your holiday break, this will be my last message to you this year. In the spirit of the season, I wish all of you a restful break and a prosperous New Year.


On Thursday at its monthly meeting the Illinois State Board of Education adopted its 2003 Condition of Education report. The report is a snapshot of the current face of education in Illinois, as well as a blueprint of what is needed for continued success and greater achievement. It will be available for distribution next week, and will also be available online. I encourage you to read it over your break because it also offers a preview of some of the funding options for the FY 05 recommended education budget proposal.


In the report, the board also addressed the need for additional revenues to adequately fund education. To that point and several others in the Condition of Education report we will be sending out opinion pieces statewide soliciting public support for sufficient education funding. As I did last week, I ask all of you to keep an eye on the Op/Ed pages of your local newspapers. Please start thinking of examples in your districts that corroborate how limited available state funding adversely affect your ability to keep up with the increasing daily costs of providing staff, transportation and quality programs to your students. I would appreciate you sending a letter to the editor to illustrate the need for funding reform in education.


I also want to keep all of you abreast on the release of the school report cards. Today the list of 450 schools that have been identified as having discrepancies in their Adequate Yearly Progress status will be available on our website. We have contacted these schools to make them aware of the process available to them. Many of you were concerned about incorrectly being tagged “not making AYP” and to that end we are also purging the AYP status from the report card information for those identified schools. We will be posting the individual report cards, reflecting that change, in the weeks to come.


Our board suggested that we offer regional meetings to receive insight on the coding errors that resulted in the current situation, in hopes that we can prevent these difficulties next year. Many of you have already advised us of your suggestions but I want to know that if you think regional meetings would be fruitful, please let me know and I can advise staff to organize an appropriate schedule before next year’s assessments begin.


I appreciate your continued support and look forward to working with you over the year to come.


Robert E. Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education


Also in today’s message:

·        Regional Certification Office Closing

·        Changes in Current Open Meetings Act Law Effective January 1, 2004

·        Newsclips


Regional Certification Office Closing

The Chicago Regional Certification Office will close at the end of this month. This is the result of the budget cuts made earlier in the year, and it will mean that all services provided by that office will now be provided by the Certification and Professional Development Department in Springfield. More details will be forthcoming as soon as transition plans are completed.


Changes in Current Open Meetings Act Law Effective January 1, 2004

The Open Meetings Act has been recently amended and changes in the law are effective January 1, 2004.  Public Act 93-523 requires public bodies to make and maintain audio or video recordings of their closed meetings.  It also establishes procedures for making the minutes and recordings of closed meetings available to the public and the courts.  Further, the new law sets our procedures for the destruction of such recordings.


Current law requires public bodies to keep written minutes of all meetings, whether open or closed.  The minutes of open meetings must be made available to the public within 7 days of approval of the minutes by the public body.  Minutes of closed meetings can be made available after the public body determines that confidential treatment is no longer necessary.


The new law changes the requirements for maintaining the minutes of closed meetings.  Beginning January 1, 2004, public bodies must make a verbatim record of a closed meeting in the form of an audio or video recording.  This verbatim recording may be destroyed 18 months after the closed meeting, as long as the public body approves the destruction of the recording and also approves the written minutes of the closed meeting.  These minutes shall be available to the public only after the public body decides that it is no longer necessary to maintain them as confidential in order to protect the public interest or an individual’s privacy.  The public body may also release the recording of the closed meeting for the same reasons.


Unless the public body releases the recording, the verbatim record of a closed meeting is not available to the public or subject to discovery in any administrative proceeding except in a civil action brought to enforce the Open Meetings Act.  In the case of such an enforcement action, the court may, in chambers, examine the verbatim record, if appropriate.  In the case of a criminal proceeding, the court may, in chambers, examine the recording to decide what portions, if any, must be made available to the parties for use as evidence in the prosecution.  Generally, therefore, recordings are not available to the public body unless the court orders disclosure for discovery purposes or the public body consents to disclosure.


If a case for noncompliance under the Open Meetings Act goes forward, the court or hearing officer, for purposes of discovery, may delete any information from the minutes of the closed meeting that is protected by the attorney-client privilege.  All the other privacy and confidentiality provisions of State and Federal law apply to the recording and the minutes.


December 8, 2003