For almost eight years the Proviso Township High School District has been run by two school boards, the elected board and the state-appointed Financial Oversight Panel. At tonight’s joint school board meeting the two will discuss how — and whether — to end the FOP oversight.
The district requested the appointment of the Financial Oversight Panel by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2008. At the time, the district had a deficit of $14 million. Nine districts (about 1 percent of Illinois school districts) have financial oversight panels. The panel is made up of retired school finance experts who volunteer their time. It is installed by the state for anywhere from three to 10 years.
In 2013, when ISBE bumped the panel to a “1H” designation, giving them the authority to hire and fire superintendents and negotiate teacher contracts, the clock started again. The soonest the FOP could leave would be in 2016.
Since the panel was installed, the two boards have experienced highs and lows in cooperation. The panel nixed the 2011 payment of $400,000 in legal fees for then-Board President Chris Welch to settle a libel lawsuit.
Welch criticized the panel in a spring 2012 letter to constituents and took a bus full of anti-FOP protesters to a Springfield meeting of the Illinois State Board Of Education.
As the district got its financial house in order, and achieved state recognition for a balanced budget, the district has asked for benchmarks to determine how they can move on from financial oversight.
The logistics of preparing board documents for two different meetings have frustrated staff. Also, the delay in getting approval for bills from both boards caused some school procurement contracts to be held up. Textbooks were delivered late in the school year last fall after a contract was delayed.
More recently, the two panels began holding joint meetings that allowed them to work on business together. They also had at least one combined retreat that enabled them to talk about what needed to be done to move the district into sound financial footing.
The agreement and where the district and FOP go from here may be discussed at tonight’s meeting.