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February 1, 2002


Names General Counsel as Superintendent

SPRINGFIELD -February 1, 2002 -- The State Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent Ernest R. Wish at a special meeting today after he declined to end a consulting agreement with an outside client, it was announced.

"The state superintendent can work only for the school children and taxpayers of Illinois," said Ronald J. Gidwitz, board chairman. "We are satisfied that that Mr. Wish's consulting arrangement violates no laws, but the board feels there can't be any question in the public's mind about whether a state superintendent has divided loyalties," he said.

The Board also appointed its general counsel, Respicio Vazquez, as State Superintendent to serve until a permanent one is found. A replacement for Vazquez as counsel will be named.

The consulting contract in question is with Near North Insurance of Chicago, where Wish served as an unpaid member of the company's executive committee and as a paid consultant to the chairman, Michael Segal.

"This is an unfortunate but necessary step," Gidwitz said. "Ernie Wish has made an extraordinary contribution to this agency in two months' time. He is responsible for setting in motion a reorganization plan that will result in a more efficient operation and better service to school districts. Further, he has given the agency a new sense of what is possible to achieve. We are endlessly grateful to him for that work.

"At the same time, his prior commitment to the outside client makes it impossible for him to remain in this public position."

Miscommunication between himself and Wish lead to the issue remaining unresolved until now, Gidwitz said.

He outlined this chronology:

In late November, Wish told an ISBE attorney during a routine pre-employment interview about the existence of the consulting agreement.

In the context of drawing up a contract with Wish, General Counsel Vazquez brought the matter to Gidwitz' attention in mid-December. At that time, Gidwitz spoke with Wish and believed Wish had agreed to end the consulting arrangements.

Wish told him he intended to work "at least 60 hours" a week as superintendent, Gidwitz said, and Gidwitz took that to mean Wish would not have time to do outside work. In fact, Wish later said, he always meant to continue his consulting activities.

That became clear the first week in January when Vazquez attempted to complete the contract with Wish and found the consulting issue unresolved.

In subsequent days, Gidwitz, Wish and Vazquez discussed the matter numerous times, with Gidwitz setting today as the deadline for Wish to agree to end the consulting agreement or resign as superintendent. The full board accepted that action this afternoon.

The planned announcement of phase two of the agency re-organization plan will go forward as scheduled on Monday, February 4," Gidwitz said.

"The Board strongly supports streamlining the agency. We believe the reorganization will improve services to local schools. We are committed to moving full speed ahead toward our goals for helping all students achieve the Illinois Learning Standards," he said.

"Mr. Vazquez has been closely involved with the development of the reorganization plan and the Board has complete confidence in him and the agency's core management team to carry it out," he said.

Res Vazquez is the General Counsel of the Illinois State Board of Education. He represents the State Board of Education in all legal matters.

Mr. Vazquez is a graduate of DePaul University of Chicago where he earned his Juris Doctor and Bachelors of Science in Commerce and Business Administration. Mr. Vazquez background experience includes the following:

  1. 1987-88 he was an Assistant Attorney at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office;

  2. 1989-92 Mr. Vazquez served as Assistant Attorney at the Chicago Board of Education;

  3. 1992-1998 he served as Associate General Counsel at City Colleges of Chicago; and

  4. 1998-2000 Mr. Vazquez served as General Counsel at the City Colleges of Chicago.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777