For Immediate Release
July 22, 2011

State Board of Education hires former federal prosecutor to investigate operations in East St. Louis School District

U.S. Attorney’s office applauds move to increase transparency for district of 7,300 students

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today it has launched an investigation of all aspects of operations at the East St. Louis District 189, hiring a former federal prosecutor to lead the investigation. The ISBE, using District 189 funds, hired Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard to conduct the investigation after consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s office and amid growing public concern about the possible mis-use of public resources. Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, A. Courtney Cox, a partner at Sandberg Phoenix, will lead the investigation.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s office and Sandberg Phoenix to ensure that every dollar in East St. Louis is spent with the best interests of the district’s students in mind and that any misspent federal or state funds are recovered for our taxpayers,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch.“ I am confident this will be a thorough, top to bottom review, and the investment will help us continue to turn around the East St. Louis District.”

The investigation will include but not be limited to looking at an inventory of all contracts for goods and services, all employees of the district, including their personnel files and all documents relating to their hiring, their qualifications and credentials, an inventory of all consultant agreements, a review of all income and expenditures, an inventory of all property owned, grant applications and interviews with current and former employees.

“I applaud the efforts of the State Board of Education to bring greater accountability to the East St. Louis School District,” said current U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Steve Wigginton. “Courtney Cox is a highly qualified attorney who will leave no stone unturned and will complete this task with integrity and professionalism. It’s important for all of us to work together for the students of East St. Louis.”

As part of this arrangement, the ISBE has retained Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard for up to $100,000 per year. The East St. Louis School District, not the State of Illinois, will cover the costs.

In May, the East St. Louis District entered an intergovernmental agreement with the ISBE that cedes control of the district to the state’s education agency for at least three years in order to improve academic performance and establish financial stability. The district’s longstanding failure to meet performance standards triggered the State’s intervention.

Jed Deets, a former St. Clair County Regional Superintendent and superintendent in the Cahokia and Grant school districts was named the district’s Interim Superintendent as of July 1. He will likely be the first administrator to serve as interim superintendent in East St. Louis this school year as the state searches for a permanent superintendent to step in by July 1, 2012.

Persons with information regarding possible waste, fraud or financial mismanagement within the school district are encouraged to confidentially provide this information by contacting Mr. Cox directly at P.O. Box 475, Carbondale, Illinois, 62903. Information may also be shared directly with Mr. Cox by e-mail at