Monday, March 14, 2016

Group seeks detachment
from East St. Louis district

A Fairview Heights-area group is attempting to cut ties to East St. Louis School District 189 and send more than 30 area children to Grant CCSD 110 and Belleville THSD 201 instead.

Organizers of the “Detach 189” group’s petition drive are calling for removing from District 189 the neighborhood known as French Village. Kevin Sheridan, one of the organizers of the Detach 189 group, lists academics as a reason for seeking the detachment.

The group aims to raise money for a petition drive to push for the detachment. Group leaders have encouraged Fairview Heights citizens in attendance at some of its recent meetings to sign petitions and to write to the governor’s office, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the District 189 office.

Organizers said the group also will support candidates for the District 189 Board of Education who don’t reside in East St. Louis to help accomplish their purpose.

The French Village neighborhood, with a population estimated at fewer than 500 people, has previously been the focus of similar detachment efforts, which date as far back as 1972. A push to severe ties to District 189 from 2000 to 2002 failed when an appellate court prevented the detachment.

But in a more recent case a smaller detachment was successful; the regional school superintendent in St. Clair County, Susan Sarfaty, said several Fairview Heights homes successfully detached from East St. Louis early in her tenure, which began in 2010.

The move to detach a portion of a school district is part of a process known as annexation, which is the incorporation of a portion (detachment) or all (dissolution) of one school district into another school district. Annexation is governed by Article 7 of the School Code and it requires:
  • Petition filed by voter signatures or school boards
  • Local public hearing conducted by regional board of school trustees
  • Regional board of school trustees approval
  • Successful referendum (for annexation of entire district)
In addition to these stumbling blocks, the courts have been known to overturn detachment efforts that were initially approved if, for example, the result is deemed to represent a serious detriment to a particular school district. One such decision was reached by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004 in a case involving Collinsville CUSD 10. The regional board of school trustees had allowed a petition to detach a portion of Fairmont City from East St. Louis District 189 and to allow annexation of that section onto the Collinsville district. But the state’s high court blocked the detachment.

The “Detach 189” group is not following a particular timeline, but participants say it could take months to complete. The unsuccessful detachment effort that began in 2000, for example, took more than a year and a half, ending in June 2002 with an appellate court ruling that rejected the reorganization.
District 189 declined to comment on the matter.