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October 17, 2003

State Superintendent supports Venice Financial Oversight Panel’s removal of school board

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller today voiced his support for the Venice Financial Oversight Panel’s action to remove incumbent members of the Venice CUSD #3 (Madison County) school board effective immediately. During a special meeting today, the FOP rejected the school board’s proposed district budget because it was not in balance and under authority granted by statute took the unprecedented step of removing the school board members. The district board had previously received two deadline extensions to produce a balanced budget for submission to the FOP.

In a statement released today, Schiller stated his support for the FOP decision.

“The Venice Financial Oversight Panel has taken a hard but necessary step today under law with the removal of the Venice School District Board of Education. The challenge of restoring academic and financial order to the Venice schools is a huge one, and the State Board of Education will continue to work with the FOP, the Regional Office of Education and the community in trying to see what long-term solution can de developed for the Venice district. We want to assure parents and others that throughout this process the FOP members and ISBE will keep the welfare of the students as their first priority.”

The panel’s action comes three months after the State Board of Education appointed the Financial Oversight Panel to develop emergency assistance for the struggling district. Under state law, the financial panel is empowered to provide oversight and approval for additional borrowing by the district. It has the authority to approve or disapprove spending decisions made by the local school board. In addition, the panel can recommend special legislation – such as creation of a School Finance Authority or even dissolution of the district – to address the situation.

According to ISBE officials, the FOP was formed in July when it was learned that the school district had previously not maintained financial records for FY02 and FY03 and failed to file its annual financial report with ISBE for FY02. The district also failed to meet its last teacher payroll at the end of the FY03 school year and was unable to pay its adult education staff. In addition, the district has not paid its special education co-op or provided special education services for students.

The FOP panel members - who serve without pay – are: Rudolph G. Wilson, Assistant Provost for Cultural and Social Diversity at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; Mary C. Kane, an investment banker with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc.; and Mike Blacharczyk (Blah-HAR-check), Director of Special Education for the Belleville Special Education Cooperative. Wilson serves as the FOP Chair.

Venice is the seventh district in Illinois history to operate with an FOP. Mt. Morris, the first district to have an FOP, has since annexed to another district. East St. Louis School District 189 in St. Clair County has operated with an FOP since 1994. Round Lake School District 116 in Lake County and Hazel Crest School District 152 ½ in Cook County each operated with an FOP but have since been placed under the oversight of School Finance Authorities. The State Board created a Financial Oversight Panel in December 2002 for Livingston School District 4 in Madison County, and an FOP was appointed for Cairo Schools in February of this year.

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