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State to oust East St. Louis school board

By James Ingram
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

After years of scandal, recent friction between the superintendent of East St. Louis schools and school board and an investigation into School District 189 finances, the Illinois State Board of Education has finally said, “Enough.”

According to spokesman Matt Vanover, State Superintendent Christopher Koch will ask the State Board to dissolve the ESL School Board at their June meeting.

This latest move comes amid growing friction between ESL Superintendent Arthur Culver and the current ESL school board.

The state of Illinois took control of ESL schools last spring, following numerous scandals and years of poor academic performance, and stipulated that the current school board could remain in place as long as they didn’t attempt to make decisions without the permission of the state.

That honeymoon ended recently when Culver recommended the board end their contract with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center as a cost-saving measure. The board disagreed.

Culver also asked for the immediate hiring of a risk manager. The board wanted to postpone that move until July.

Now, school board president Lonzo Greenwood and the gang are apparently out, pending official notification.

Once the board receives official notification, they will have a hearing to make an appeal for their jobs. But, more than likely, that will be a mere formality.

After their hearing, the State Board will, more than likely, select a group of five local citizens to be seated as school board members as the state feels that they are incapable of working with the current board, according to Vanover.

And if this isn’t enough, A. Courtney Cox, former U.S. Attorney and recent Illinois State Board of Education appointee, has completed an investigation into District 189 finances and submitted it to current U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton.

No one will comment on the results, which should be a major cause for concern among certain ESL school board members.

However, the silence speaks volumes about the probable endgame in this ongoing saga of nepotism, cronyism and “hook-ups” by numerous members of the outgoing board.

School board member Irma Golliday says she vows to fight her ouster, “because it was the people of East St. Louis who seated the board.” School board member Carl E. Officer has no plans to fight for his seat.

Mayor Alvin Parks, Jr., always eager to provide more material for “Saturday Night Live,” has likened the current dilemma to a conspiracy theory, saying, “It appears to be a takeover attempt of the East St. Louis community.”

Yet, for all the disgruntled parents, soon-to-be ex-school board members and paranoid mayor, no one in their right mind can deny that the city and school board, through their ineptitude, mismanagement and (in some cases) criminality, have literally handed the city of ESL over to the state of Illinois.

So, I say, “Good riddance.” Anything will be better than the horrendous education ESL children have received at the hands of some of the current school board members.

And if it is revealed in Cox’s investigation (as I suspect) that criminal offenses have been committed as well, this should be viewed as an opportunity to finally purge the ESL school system of corruption and greed.

Unfortunately, in a poor community like ESL, people often become so accustomed to sub-par standards and mediocrity that they accept it as the norm, with no hope for change or no vision for excellence.

This “spring cleaning” of the ESL school board, so to speak, should be viewed as the first step in resurrecting ESL schools and, hopefully, its future with the promise of improved educational opportunities for the children who ARE the future of ESL.

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