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District 113A Board to Show 'United Front' in Case Against Financial Oversight Panel

A presentation will be made by Superintendent Tim Ricker and Board President during the Illinois State Board of Education meeting Sept. 27-28.

Superintendent Tim Ricker and Board President Mike Aurelio will begin working on a presentation this week to dissuade state education officials from placing the school district under financial oversight.

During a special meeting Tuesday night, District 113A board members discussed issues and concerns related to the possibility of a state-appointed financial oversight panel, which Ricker said will be recommended for the school district at an Illinois State Board of Education meeting later this month.

Ricker that ISBE Superintendent Chris Koch and Chief Financial Officer Linda Riley Mitchell are planning to forward a recommendation for an oversight panel, which—through legislation—places school districts under state oversight when they are certified in financial difficulty and unable to sustain a state-approved financial plan.

In a phone conversation with Ricker last week, a request was made by ISBE Division Administrator for Business Services Deb Vespa that District 113A send representatives to the state board meeting—scheduled for Sept. 27-28 in Bloomington, IL—in order to present information on the district's financial history and amended financial plan, among other things.

"We want to be detailed enough to get our points across and explain what trying to accomplish at same time also show unanimous front as to what trying to get done," Ricker said.

All seven school board members agreed Tuesday night that financial oversight would not be in the best interest of District 113A, and that the presentation to the state should reflect that the district has taken the steps necessary to restore financial stability in the coming years.

Ricker outlined several points that the presentation should cover, including the district's financial history, amended financial plan, deficit reductions, tax anticipation warrants and academic achievement. The district's position that a financial oversight panel would not be in the their best interest should be woven throughout the discussion, he said.

The district will be given about 15 to 20 minutes to present information to ISBE officials. Ricker said presentations are typically made by the superintendent, business manager and one or more board members.

When District 113A addressed the state board in 2009 before being certified in financial difficulty, the presentation was made by Ricker and then Board President John Wood.

Aurelio said he would like to join Ricker and Business Manager Barbara Germany in speaking on behalf of the district. He also recommended Board Member Al Malley, who is the current chairman of the district's finance committee, and Board Member Kevin Doherty, who he said has "intimate knowledge" of the district's financial history.

Having Doherty and Malley attend will show "a united front" to the state board, Aurelio said, and will allow the district to put together "the very best presentation that it can."

Upon the suggestion of Malley, the board agreed to have Aurelio speak on behalf of the board during the presentation, with Malley and Doherty present to answer questions.

It is imperative that presentation goes off "flawlessly" and that board members demonstrate that they are "on the same page and going in the same direction," Ricker said.

"We have to show that the people who are representing the school district are on same page and have same level of knowledge of what the plan is and what the long-term outlook is," he said.

Ricker, Germany and Aurelio will begin working on the presentation immediately and will have a draft completed by the next school board meeting Sept. 20. In the meantime, Ricker said he would also continue talking with Vespa to set up an informal meeting with state officials to avoid the recommendation altogether.

The ISBE meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27-28 in Bloomington, IL. Ricker said Vespa is still unsure about which date the school district will be asked to make its presentation.

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