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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2003

State Superintendent Appoints Three-Member Oversight Panel for Venice School District

SPRINGFIELD - State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller today appointed the three members of the Financial Oversight Panel (FOP) for financially struggling Venice CUSD #3 (Madison County). The panel will help develop an emergency assistance and recovery plan for the troubled school system.

The Venice School Board voted unanimously June 18 to petition the State Board for a Financial Oversight Panel and emergency financial assistance. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved that request June 25.

The panel members - who serve without pay - are: Rudolph G. Wilson, Assistant Provost for Cultural and Social Diversity at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; Mary C. Kane, an investment banker with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc.; and Mike Blacharczyk (Blah-HAR-check), Director of Special Education for the Belleville Special Education Cooperative. Wilson will serve as the FOP Chair.

"I am very pleased that these individuals have agreed to help the Venice district address its financial problems, which are considerable," said Schiller. "They bring to this hard job a combination of experience and tough-mindedness that will be necessary to help this district provide quality education for its children."

Under state law, the financial panel is empowered to provide oversight and approval for additional borrowing by the district. It has the authority to approve or disapprove spending decisions made by the local school board.

The panel can also recommend an Emergency Financial Assistance grant from ISBE of $66,250 ($250 per student) and an Emergency Financial Assistance Loan of $265,000 ($1000 per student). The loan would have to be approved by the General Assembly and the Governor. Neither request has yet been made.

In addition, the panel could recommend special legislation - such as creation of a School Finance Authority or even dissolution of the district - to address the situation.

The Venice district qualified for state oversight for a number of reasons. According to ISBE officials, the school district previously maintained no financial records for FY02 and 03 and has not filed its annual financial report with ISBE for FY02. The district also failed to meet its last teacher payroll and was unable to pay its adult education staff. In addition, the district has not paid its special education co-op or provided special education services for students.

Venice is the seventh district in Illinois history to operate with an FOP. Mt. Morris, the first district to have an FOP, has since annexed to another district. East St. Louis School District 189 in St. Clair County has operated with an FOP since 1994. Round Lake School District 116 in Lake County and Hazel Crest School District 152 ½ in Cook County each operated with an FOP but have since been placed under the oversight of School Finance Authorities. The State Board created a Financial Oversight Panel in December 2002 for Livingston School District 4 in Madison County, and an FOP was appointed for Cairo Schools in February of this year.

FOP Panel Information

Rudy Wilson, Assistant Provost for Cultural and Social Diversity with Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, also holds rank of Associate Professor of Secondary Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He has been chairperson of the English Department at Claremont and was Master Teacher of English for the State of California. He served for 18 years on the Edwardsville School Board and 6 years as President. He has served as President of the Piasa Health Care and as Chairperson for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at SIUE.

Wilson has been recognized for his leadership and contributions in many areas. He is the recipient of the SIUE's Teaching Excellence Award, The Hudlin Award for Humanistic Teaching and the Great Teacher Award, Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award, The Kimmel Leadership Center Aware for Faculty who contribute greatly to the community and was named Educator of the Year by the St. Louis American newspaper.

Mary C. Kane is employed as an investment banker at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. She is responsible for initiating, and currently leading, Stifel's Public Finance Office serving central and southern Illinois. She worked for Southwestern Illinois Development Authority as its Executive Director. In this position she guided the issuance of over $150 million in economic development bonds, the establishment of a multi-bank Community Development Corporation providing loans to small businesses and the acquisition of land for the MetroLink Light Rail.

She has been executive Director of a not-for profit economic development and regional promotion group comprised of major business, industry, labor, government and education leaders of the southwestern Illinois counties of Madison and St. Clair. She has also been the Director of Administration and Community Development Director for Madison County. Kane's honors include the Albert Cassen Community Leadership Award, St. Louis Women of Achievement, and 15th Anniversary Community Leadership Award in St. Louis.

Mike Blacharczyk is Director of Special Education for the Belleville Special Education Cooperative, a position he has held for the past 10 years. Blacharczyk has a strong background strong in special education, business administration and educational administration. He was a previous Director of Special Education and Assistant Director of Special education for Madison County Region II for 16 years. Blacharczyk has been a supervisor for special education in Collinsville and a special education teacher in Belleville School District. He also has experience with negotiations of union contracts, public speaking, and construction.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777