School District Reorganization Interviews
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School District Reorganization Interviews
John Alexander of Virden, Illinois, proprietor of the bookstore Books on the Square in Virden. Alexander was a vocal advocate for the consolidation of the Virden and Girard school districts, serving as chairman of the Committee of Ten, which examined the issue. A referendum was put to the public in April of 2009 and passed, eventually leading to the creation of the new North Mac school district.
John Ashby served as the interim Superintendent for Bluford/Webber, Illinois schools during a time when the district was considering a new school reorganization method, the Elementary Hybrid Method, which would combine the Bluford district with Farrington and Webber Townships. Although the Farrington school district voted down the referendum for elementary schools merging, all three schools approved the high school merger. Mr. Ashby discusses the challenges inherent in this new reorganization model, including non-uniform school boundaries, and a complicated taxing program.
Dr. Frank Beck is a scholar at Illinois State University who has done extensive studies on school closure issue, examining the demographic, economic, and educational causes of school closure, the most important and leading trends leading to closure, the results of school closure, and what if any benefits may a closure cause a county, district, or community.
Dr. Doug Blair is a life-long educator and was a school superintendant when the Olympia, Illinois School District was created in 1967. He discusses the many issues of school consolidation and reorganization both as a participant, and as a career educator.
Keith Bolin is a Bureau County farmer with a lifetime of experience in his community's schools, serving on the Manlius Board of Education in the 1990s, and advocating the consolidation of several tiny school districts into the new Bureau Valley School District #340 established in 1995.
John Capasso is a career educator who began his career at Chenoa, Illinois. Later he became the high school principal at the nearby Minonk-Duna-Rutland High School. When the district reorganized with Toluca and Wenona, creating the Fieldcrest Community Unit School District #6, Dr. Capasso became the Assistant Superintendent. He later became Superintendent, and in 2001 he became Superintendent of Leroy, and a year later, at Prairie Central. This interview explores the consolidation of three school districts into the Fieldcrest Community Unit School District in 1982, and later the annexation of Chenoa into Prairie Central in 2004.
Linda Chapa-LaVia, the Illinois state Representative and Democrat from the 83rd District, shares her views in this interview on the often contentious issue of school district reorganizations and consolidations in Illinois's rural communities. As chair of the Education Committee, she oversaw the discussions on IL House Bill 1216 in 2012, which examined the appropriate number of school districts, their optimal enrollment, and locations where reorganization would be appropriate.Linda Chapa-LaVia, the Illinois state Representative and Democrat from the 83rd District, shares her views in these interviews on the often contentious issue of school district reorganizations and consolidations in Illinois's rural communities. As chair of the Education Committee, she oversaw the discussions on IL House Bill 1216 in 2012, which examined the appropriate number of school districts, their optimal enrollment, and locations where reorganization would be appropriate. Her work led to the creation of the Classroom First Commission, which was chaired by Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.
Robert Clifton is a teacher and school administrator from Dallas City, located in west central Illinois. He discusses the school consolidation process, using his own experiences in the reorganization of three unit districts - Dallas City, LaHarpe and Carthage - into three elementary districts and one high school, that being Illini West.
Dan Cox, Superintendant for the Jasper County School District #1, discusses in detail the multiple challenges he faces in managing a geographically huge school district, covering 462 square miles. The district was reorganized in 1971.
Dr. Cliff Crone is a career educator, from working in a one room country school to Indian Prairie School Dostrict. He discusses the creation and expansion of Indian Prairie School District #204 from three small K-8 school districts into one of the largest K-12 districts in Illinois.
Don Daily discusses his career as an educator in Illinois, and especially his involvement as a school superintendent in the consolidation of two school districts into the new Monmouth-Roseville School District, formed in 2006.
John Dee was a superintendent for many different schools in Illinois. From 1983 to 1996 he worked for the Illinois State Board of Education. During that time he was responsible for school facilities, life safety code, and reorganization studies, a subject he discusses in considerable detail.
Karen DeFevers is a long-time resident of Virden, Illinois who served on the Virden School Board, and was also very active in the consolidation of the Virden and Girard school districts into the North Mac School District. Later, she was involved with a school construction referendum initiative that was unsuccessful.
Dr. JoAnn Desmond started her educational career as a teacher, then moved to administrative work, and served as a superintendent in the Frankfort School District from 1990 to 1995. In 1995 she moved north to a suburban district and became the superintendent of the North Shore District #112. The new district included a diverse population, including a military base and a large Hispanic population.
Dr. Norm Durflinger serves as Director of Illinois State University's Center for the Study of Educational Policy. His many years as a teacher, principal and superintendant of schools in central Illinois give him an in-depth understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with school reorganization and consolidation initiatives.
Roger Eddy, a career educator who served as District Superintendent of the Hutsonville, Illinois school district, was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2002, lays out the various types of school reorganization possible in Illinois, and the incentives and challenges of school districts consolidating and reorganizing. Eddy serves on the House Committees on Education and Appropriations.Roger Eddy, a career educator who served as District Superintendent of the Hutsonville, Illinois school district, was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2002. He lays out the various options for school district reorganization in Illinois, and the incentives and challenges of school districts consolidating and reorganizing. Eddy serves on the House Committees on Education and Appropriations. He also served on the Classroom First Commission, which was chaired by Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.
Dixie Gage was a teacher and counselor with the Carlinville School District, and later served on the Girard Board of Education, where she was a central figure in the eventual consolidation of the Girard and Virden school districts. The new North Mac Community Unit School District # 34 was approved by the voters in 2009.
Dr. Lynne Haeffele served as the Policy Director for Education in Lt. Governor Sheila Simon’s office. In that capacity she served as the Chief of Staff for the state's Classroom First Commission, which executed a year-long study on the topic of education, including school reorganization challenges in Illinois.
Jennifer Hamilton, Superintendent of the dual school districts #17 and #505 located in Ohio, Illinois, shares information on how such small school districts provide quality education for its students. She discusses the school’s financial condition and the programs which are offered at the school, as well as those available through cooperative agreements. Hamilton talks about the challenges faced by small-sized schools, along with the important role the schools provide for the community and village of Ohio.
Dr. Amber Harper, Superintendent of Leepertown, Illinois schools since 2003, talks extensively about the challenges her school district faced because of school reorganization issues. These included transportation expenses, building concerns, high student costs and limitations imposed due to state regulations and laws. One consequence of such challenges was sponsorship of Illinois House Bill 0606 by local legislators.
Jerry Harrison is a career teacher and educator who in 2011 was named the Illinois Education Association representative to the Classrooms First Commission, created by the Illinois state legislature and headed by Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon. This Commission was given the task of looking at reorganization and efficiency options for school districts, which Mr. Harrison discusses at length.
Ava Harston was a member of Governor Pat Quinn's Classroom First Commission in 2011-2012, which worked on school district reorganization and district efficiency issues. Ava was selected to represent the Chicago Teachers Union on the Commission.
Dale Hastings discussed the reorganizations that took place since 1987, leading to the establishment of Milford Area Public Schools District #124, a unit district of 222 square miles in east-central Illinois. Dr. Hastings also reviewed the district's successful high school building referendum that will allow the district to replace a 115 year old high school. In addition, he talked extensively about the challenges facing a rural school district.
Linda Hoffman is an opponent to school consolidation. She was involved with the 2011 referendum to consolidate the East Alton, Wood River-Hartford elementary school districts and the East Alton-Woods River Community High School District. She served as president of the Save Our Schools Citizen’s Committee, which worked to block the consolidation of the schools.
Brenda Holmes, a career educator, taught history and government for thirteen years following graduation from college. She then received a legislative internship and worked on the staff for the Illinois Senate Republicans. Later, she worked for the State Board of Education and served as First Deputy for Education for Governor Rod Blagojevich. She was involved with the 1985 Educational Reform Act which called for school district reorganization in Illinois.
Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes, who hails from Plainfield, served on Governor Pat Quinn's Classroom First Commission in 2011-2012. She sponsored a bill that allowed five neighboring school districts to work with Aurora University to create an elementary school/middle school Math-Science Academy.
Fred Huddlestun, a successful Jasper County, Illinois farmer, began serving on the Jasper County School Board in 1995. In 1997 he took over as President of the expansive rural district, and in that role helped the county's residents cope with a series of school consolidations which saw the number of attendance centers shrink from ten schools to four.
Dr. Calvin Jackson is a career educator who, during the time he was a principal in Girard, Illinois, helped that district consolidate with nearby Virden, Illinois in 2009, while also serving as a key resource person for the process.
Dr. Mike Jacoby, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, discussed how Illinois's existing school funding model was changed into a new Evidence Based Model, using 27-30 criteria on what schools need to provide for a quality education. Jacoby also reviewed the old school funding model and the creation of Vision 20/20, which eventually built support for the effort to legislatively pass a new school funding model.
Crystal Johnson is the Superintendent/Principal in the Rossville-Alvin #7 School District, and has had the experience of guiding the district through the difficult process of deactivating a high school within the district. She also discusses a non-binding referendum that appeared on the ballot in 2011 on the possibility of reactivating the high school, with the Board of Education having the final say on the issue. Dr. Johnson was interviewed again in 2018, this time discussing the creation of a Cooperative High School involving the Bismarck-Henning School District and the Rossvill-Alvin school district. This is only the second such cooperative arrangement in Illinois.
Gene Jontry served as a school administrator for decades, starting as a teacher, then a principle in Chenoa, Illinois before becoming the school's superintendent in 1967. In 1989 he helped guide the school through a major reorganization when he took on the role as superintendent for Octavia as well. Years later, he became regional superintendent for Livingston County. Gene discusses the dynamics of school reorganizations and consolidation as he has experienced them through his long career.
Steven Kelley, a career banker, served as a member of the Thompson School Board of Education from 1989 through 1996, the Citizen of Ten Committee in 2004, the West Carroll Board of Education, and the Regional Office of Education Board of Trustees. He was an active supporter for the merger of the Thompson, Savanna, and Mount Carroll Unit Districts into the West Carroll School District.
Robert Leininger was the long-serving State Superintendent for Illinois from 1988 to 2004. One of the most contentious and ongoing challenges Leininger dealt with during his tenure was the subject of school reorganization and consolidation, which was governed by the 1985 School Reform Act.
Senator Dave Luechtefeld taught in Okawville, Illinois for thirty-three years before being elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1994. He served on Governor Pat Quinn's Classroom First Commission in 2011-2012, working on the "Within District Efficiency" Subgroup. The Senator discusses reorganization challenges that southern Illinois districts face.
Rep. Rita Mayfield discusses her 2019 school reorganization bill (HB 3050), which calls for the creation of a School Efficiency Commission which would make recommendations regarding the number of school districts that are needed in Illinois. Following a review, the commission would recommend which districts should reorganize, which would then lead to a school reorganization ballot question for residents in those school districts. The Commission would recommend what unit districts would be formed as well as suggested tax levy rates. The legislation seeks to avoid duplication, reduce administrative costs, improve student educational opportunities, lower the property tax burden, and provide a net cost savings to the state. Rep. Mayfield outlines the recommended steps to achieve these goals and also discusses the new Evidence Based School Funding model being used in Illinois.
Dr. Glenn 'Max' McGee is a career educator who served as the Illinois State Superintendent of Schools from 1998 through 2001. During that time, school consolidation issues was one of the thorniest subjects he dealt with, which he discusses at length during this interview.
Dave Meister is a career teacher and school administrator who in 2009 was involved with the creation of Illinois's first Cooperative High School. He also served on a six member board made up equally of Crestwood District #4 and Paris Union.
A career educator with extensive experience in the Mt. Vernon school district, and later as chair of the Education Administration Department at Eastern Illinois University, discusses the many challenges faced when school districts consider thorny issues such as deactivations, annexations, reorganizations or consolidations.
Joanne Osmond, a successful businesswoman who has served over twenty years on school boards in Antioch and Lake Villa, Illinois, discusses her involvement with an attempt to create a unit District for Lake Villa township, which would have impacted twenty-three school districts, and directly affected six districts. The referendum was eventually defeated.
Dr. John Palan discusses how Grant Park Community Unit School District #6, a small district with fewer than 600 students located near the south suburbs of Chicago, has managed to remain independent. He covers the challenges and successes found in this size of school district while also reviewing his role as a former dual district superintendent.
Dr. Kay Pangle has been a regional Superintendant of Schools for the Illinois counties of Kankakee and Iroquois since 1994. During her tenure, the district has dealt with numerous reorganization initiatives, and Dr. Pangle discusses the various reorganization options while detailing specific cases dealing with the towns of Sheldon, Milford and Crescent City.
Dr. William Phillips is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Illinois in Springfield. He has conducted over 40 reorganization studies for school districts in Illinois who were going through the painful process of reorganization or consolidation of rural school districts. He shares his considerable insights into the process during this interview.
Dr. Max Pierson served for thirteen years as Superintendent in the Gridley, Pontiac-Esmen, Cornell, and Savanna school districts, and later went on to serve another thirteen years in the Education Department at Western Illinois University. He has published numerous studies on Illinois school reorganizations, including works on school financing and legislative issues pertaining to reorganization.
Shannon Price of Bushnell, Illinois became involved in the "Just VOTE No" group seeking to block a three-way consolidation of the Bushnell-Prairie City, Avon and Abington school districts which was under consideration in 2012. She continues her involvement in the Bushnell-Prairie City schools, and testified before Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon's Classroom First Commission, advocating for local control of schools.
Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a Democrat from Evanston, Illinois has served in the State Legislature for over twenty-two years. In addition to serving as an Assistant Majority Leader, he is the sponsor of a school reorganization bill, Senate Bill 3494. Senator Schoenberg discusses that bill, and reorganization challenges in general for his North Shore district.
Stephanie Seemiller was elected for two terms to the Arthur, Illinois Board of Education, and later served as the President of the Board of Education. This interview explores her role as a parent as well as a Board member regarding the two Reorganizations of Lovington and an upcoming one with Atwood-Hammond. She covers the two referendums which passed, along with a successful county-level sales tax referendum.
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon served as Governor Pat Quinn's chief advisor on educational issues, and chaired the Classroom First Commission, which studied the challenges faced by many of the state's school districts on reorganization and consolidation issues. The Commission issued 23 recommendations in June, 2012, in which they addressed a far-ranging number of concerns.
Regional Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth discusses school reorganization, especially that of Regional Office of Education (#47), which resulted from the reorganization of schools in Whiteside, Lee, and Ogle Counties. This included two recent reorganizations. One used the consolidation method; while the other used dissolution-annexation. Sondgeroth also talks about the shared services that were achieved because of the reorganizations, which allowed smaller districts to give greater opportunities to their students and to create economic efficiencies. Sondgeroth also examines recent reorganizations in Illinois that have reduced Regional Offices from fifty-eight to thirty-five.
Jim Staff is a career educator who has worked a lifetime in rural Illinois school districts. He taught at Vandalia High School from 1952-1959, and became Fayette County Superintendent in 1958 when he was only 29 years old. In 1979 he became a Regional Superintendent when Bond and Effingham counties were added to his area. Over the years, he presided over multiple annexations, detachments and reorganizations, many of which he discusses during the interview.
Dr. John Van Pelt has spent the past thirty-five years working in education in both Iowa and Illinois, and has often dealt with school reorganization over the course of his career. While serving as principal of a school in Shellsburg, Iowa, he experienced the impacts of school reorganization first-hand when his school was reorganized with the larger community school of Vinton, Iowa.
Janet Vass lives in Dallas City, Illinois and is a Board Member for the Illini West school district. Earlier she was a member of the Committee of 10 which recommended the creation of a conversion district for the Illini West school district. The unit districts of Carthage, Dallas City, and La Harpe then became K-8 districts. This interview covers the six years that the conversion school has existed and explores some of the challenges facing a conversion district as well as the successes.
Dr. Norman Walzer is a scholar of government affairs and a former director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs. His studies focus on demographic, socioeconomic, and governmental changes in rural communities, and the challenges that such changes may pose to rural school districts.
Superintendent Scott Watson discusses the deactivation of Rossville-Alvin (RA) High School followed by a successful referendum which led to the creation of Illinois's second cooperative high school, Bismarck-Henning and Rossville-Alvin Cooperative High School (BHRA). Topics explored include transportation responsibilities for the new district, board of education responsibilities for a cooperative high school, state incentives, school enrollment, union status, and community acceptance. Scott discusses the referendum that led to the creation of the Cooperative High School, and the introduction of an agriculture program following the reorganization. He also explains why the two districts decided to reorganize using a cooperative high school method as compared to other reorganization methods.
Duane White was a parent involved with the consolidation of the Abington, Avon and Bushnell-Prairie City school districts who was opposed to the consolidation initiative. White talks about that involvement, including his service on the Building and Grounds Committee of the Committee of Ten. He also was a member of the "Just Vote No" citizen's group.
Travis Wilson began his career in education in Arthur, Illinois, becoming the principal and athletic director, and later the school district's Superintendent. Wilson reviews the referendum that led to the annexation first of Lovington in 2011 and Atwood-Hammond in 2013. Included are the strategies used for the referendum and for bringing the school districts together after the referendum.
Brandon Wright of Monticello, Illinois is a lawyer who specializes in school district reorganization issues and initiatives. He has worked with both the Anna-Jonesboro High School District and the Regional Office of Education on detachment and annexation issues. Wright also teaches 'school law' courses at Southern Illinois University.
Kent Young has served as Superintendent of the Nauvoo-Colusa school district since 2006. Since becoming Superintendent, he has been involved in a number of reorganization and consolidation attempts, and in 2008 helped guide the district through a successful school deactivation and merger with the Warsaw Junior and Senior high schools.