APPEAL from the Circuit Court of White County; the Hon. HENRY
LEWIS, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE JONES DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from an order of the County Board of School Trustees of White County ordering that the entire territory of Mills Prairie High School District be attached to the Fairfield High School District. The effect of the order was to close and discontinue the operation of the Mills Prairie High School. Objectors brought an administrative review action and the circuit court affirmed the Board's order. Objectors appeal and we reverse.
Section 5-32 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, § 5-32) provides that:
"If any school district other than a non-high school district shall for 1 year fail to maintain within the boundaries of the school district a recognized public school as required by law, such district shall become automatically dissolved and the property and territory of such district shall be disposed of in the manner provided for the disposal of territory and property in Section 7-11 of this Act."
Section 7-11 of the School Code provides that:
"If any school district has become dissolved as provided in Section 5-32 the county board of school trustees shall attach the territory of such dissolved district to one or more districts and, if the territory is added to two or more districts, shall divide the property of the dissolved district among the districts to which its territory is added, in the manner provided for the division of property in case of the organization of a new district from a part of another district.
The county board of school trustees shall give notice of a hearing on the disposition of the territory of such school district by publishing a notice thereof at least once each week for two successive weeks in at least one newspaper having a general circulation within the area of the territory involved."
This section further provides that at the hearing the county board shall hear evidence on school needs and after considering the educational welfare of the students shall make the attachment or attachments provided for in this section.
Authority for the County Board of School Trustees to take the action specified in section 7-11 exists only if the district involved has failed for 1 year to maintain a recognized public school as required by law.
Section 2-3.25 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 122, § 2-3.25), gives the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Illinois the power "[t]o determine for all types of schools conducted under this Act efficient and adequate standards for the physical plant, heating, lighting, ventilation, sanitation, safety, equipment and supplies, instruction and teaching, curriculum, library, operation, maintenance, administration and supervision, and to grant certificates of recognition to schools meeting such standards by attendance centers or school districts; * * *."
Plaintiffs-objectors do not contend that the County Board of School Trustees did not conduct its hearing in accordance with section 7-11 or that its attachment of the Mills Prairie High School District to the Fairfield High School District was an improper attachment, providing that the trustees had authority to act under section 7-11.
Plaintiffs maintain, and it is the central issue in this appeal, that the defendant County Board of School Trustees did not have jurisdiction for the reason that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction had not made a definitive finding of non-recognition and communicated such in a proper manner to the Superintendent of Educational Service Region, White County. Appellee, on the other hand, argues that it did not lack jurisdiction, that no formal order of non-recognition is required, that failure to grant recognition automatically vests a board with not only the authority but the duty to make an annexation.
An examination of the record supports the contention of the plaintiff that no definitive finding of non-recognition was made and communicated to the Superintendent of Educational Service Region, White County, by the ...