For Immediate Release
September 30, 2011

New Superintendent named to lead East St. Louis School District

Former Champaign School Chief to guide district improvement under state watch

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today former Champaign Unit District 4 Superintendent Arthur Ray Culver has been named to serve as superintendent for East St. Louis District 189 during the state's oversight of the district. Culver replaces Interim Superintendent Jed Deets, a longtime Metro East educator and school administrator who filled the role since July and will remain a part of the new administration.

“Art Culver's willingness to embrace a challenge, his leadership and experience implementing systematic change in the Champaign district will be a great asset to the East St. Louis district,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “Art has the experience and desire necessary to work with all partners in East St. Louis and put the district on a new path so that students can succeed.”

Culver has spent more than 30 years in public education as a teacher and administrator, including the past nine years as superintendent for the 9,500 student Champaign Community Unit School District No. 4 in Champaign. Under Superintendent Culver's leadership, African American elementary math and reading scores improved by 30 percent and 26 percent respectively while the Champaign district worked to meet the mandates of a Federal Consent Decree.  African American middle school scores improved by more than 50 percent and 26 percent respectively in math and reading, and enrollment of African American students in Honors and Advanced Placement courses tripled during this same time period.

These and other improved outcomes for African American students led to the successful settlement of the 10-year-old Federal Consent Decree in July 2009. Academic achievement also improved for all students in the Champaign district at the same time the achievement gap was being narrowed for African American students. The graduation rate for all students improved from 89.6 percent to 95.7 percent while the Illinois state average has only moved from 86 percent to 87.8 percent. The 2010 graduation rate for African American students in Champaign was 93.9 percent compared to the state average of 78 percent.

In addition to the settlement of the Consent Decree and the improvements in academic achievement for all students, Superintendent Culver led Champaign schools in restoring financial stability after 10 years of overspending the budget prior to his leadership. He helped pass the largest referendum for facilities funding in district history and increased the number of competitive grants earned from approximately $350,000 to more than $1 million last year.

“We are very pleased to find a candidate with Superintendent Culver's credentials and experience. He has a proven track record that he can raise achievement while successfully managing the budget and operations of a large district,” said Board President Alonzo Greenwood. “We feel fortunate to hire someone with Arthur’s experience and reputation, and he has already shown us that he is committed to improving outcomes for our children.”

In 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called upon Culver to be a part of a “Blue Sky” Turnaround team to provide innovative ideas regarding school reform. He has also served on the Illinois Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB), a group that advocates for improved foundation funding for all districts and equitable funding for districts with high enrollments of low-income students.

Prior to leading the Champaign district, Culver was a superintendent in Longview, Texas and has worked in various other Texas districts as an administrator, teacher and coach. Mr. Culver earned his Bachelor of Science Degree at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and his Master of Education at the University of Houston. He completed all coursework required for a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Cultural Studies at the University of Houston.

“I am honored to be selected to serve the students and families in East St. Louis and I am committed to creating positive changes for the students and staff in District 189,” said Culver. “Many of our children come from economically disadvantaged homes, but they are rich in intelligence, ability, and the will to succeed. This is all that we need to become a premier district in Illinois.”

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 failure to meet standards for nine years under the federal No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) triggered the new arrangement with the state.