The Illinois State Board of Education voted 7-1 to consolidate the Christian and Montgomery County Regional Office of Education into the regional office to the south (Bond, Fayette, and Effingham counties) Monday, Nov. 25, at their meeting in Chicago.
The consolidation will take effect June 1, 2015.
"This is the absolute worst possible public relations scenario I've seen in my life," Montgomery County Board Chairman Roy Hertel said. He was at the meeting in Chicago and spoke against the action that was ultimately taken.
After a public act signed in June 2012 forced the number of regional offices of education in the state to be reduced, the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) presented a plan eight months ago to meet the public act requirements that also left the Christian/Montgomery Regional Office of Education intact.
However, Regional Superintendent Marchelle Kassebaum found out just last week that State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch was going to recommend that the state board of education adopt a different map that realigned some of IARSS-proposed districts and consolidated Christian/Montgomery.
"Everyone who testified except one person did so in favor of the map that was presented (by IARSS)," Hertel said of the state board of education meeting in Chicago. "I don't think there was a regional superintendent in that room who agreed with what they did."
In his presentation to the state board, Dr. Koch said the map presented by IARSS "is merely advisory in nature."
State board members who agreed with his recommendation were Chairman Gery Chico of Chicago, Vice Chairman Steven Gilford of Evanston, Secretary Dr. Vinni Hall of Chicago, James Baumann of Lake Bluff, Dr. David Fields of Danville, Melinda LaBarre of Springfield, and Curt Bradshaw of Naperville.
The lone dissenter was Dr. Andrea Brown of Marion.
Hertel said he has requested transcripts from the two previous Illinois State Board of Education meetings under the Freedom of Information Act.
He will ask the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office to review those transcripts and hasn't ruled out asking the county board to take legal action.
In the meantime?
"We'll just continue to do our best to help educate kids," Kassebaum said. Many of the employees in her offices in Hillsboro and Taylorville are grant funded, like those who work in the truancy program, substance abuse program and the 15 who work in the birth-to-three program.
Kassebaum said she was grateful for the support expressed by Rep. Wayne Rosenthal and Sen. Andy Manar, members of county boards in Montgomery and Christian counties, and superintendents in school districts in both counties.