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08/10/87 the Board of Education of v. the Regional Board of

August 10, 1987

UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 2 OF SALINE COUNTY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE REGIONAL BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF GALLATIN, HARDIN, POPE AND SALINE COUNTIES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CARRIER MILLS-STONEFORT COMMUNITY

513 N.E.2d 41, 160 Ill. App. 3d 59, 111 Ill. Dec. 795 1987.IL.1146

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Saline County; the Hon. C. David Nelson, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS, P.J., and KASSERMAN, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WELCH

This is an appeal from an administrative review (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 3-101 et seq.) decision of the circuit court of Saline County affirming the decision of defendant regional board of school trustees of Gallatin, Hardin, Pope and Saline counties (regional board). The regional board approved a petition by defendants Mark Guard and Jan Guard for detachment of their property from the Carrier Mills-Stonefort Community Unit School District No. 2 of Saline County (the Carrier Mills district) and annexation of their property into the Harrisburg Community Unit School District No. 3 of Saline County (the Harrisburg district).

On May 1, 1985, defendants Mark Guard and Jan Guard petitioned the regional board to detach approximately one acre of real estate owned by the Guards and including their residence from the Carrier Mills district and to annex it to the Harrisburg district. A map accompanying the Guards' petition indicated the land in question was adjacent to the existing boundary between the two districts. The regional board held a hearing on the petition on August 6, 1985.

Mark Guard testified as follows: He lived about four miles from Harrisburg and a mile and a half from Carrier Mills; neither of his two children, ages four years and four months, had yet started school; he worked about halfway between Harrisburg and Marion, leaving for work at 10:30 p.m. and returning home at 7:30 a.m.; his work schedule had been this way since January and it was subject to change, but he did not know when; before January he was on the day shift; he attended a college located about 50 miles north of his residence; his present schedule thus required he be absent from home from 4 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. twice a week; he never lived anywhere but Harrisburg except when he and his wife moved to their present address four years ago; the rest of his family lived in Harrisburg; he was a Jaycee in Harrisburg, socialized in Harrisburg and was a member of a Harrisburg church; his four-year-old attended a Harrisburg nursery school; the children's longtime trusted sitter lived in Harrisburg; the Guards had no significant contacts with the city or the people of Carrier Mills; it would be difficult to transport the children to activities in Carrier Mills because it would be out of the way for the Guards; a Harrisburg school bus passed the Guard home every day; when the Guards bought the property they thought it was in the Harrisburg school district; he was of the opinion that his children would get a better education in Harrisburg because of a better opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, both because there were more extracurricular activities and because it would be easier to transport the children there on the Guards' schedules; he had not investigated the curriculum of either school district.

Jan Guard testified: She worked at Angelo's, her father's restaurant in Harrisburg, and as a bookkeeper at a Harrisburg liquor store; her father recently had heart surgery, and Mrs. Guard took care of the business for him; Mrs. Guard had no relatives in the Harrisburg area besides her parents; Mrs. Guard would pick up and deliver the children most of the time, and her schedule at the restaurant was irregular and demanding; it would be difficult to arrange to pick up the children at the Carrier Mills school or at the school bus stop due to her schedule; she had lived in Harrisburg almost all her life until moving to her present home. Mrs. Guard's testimony regarding the relative advantages and conveniences of having her children attend school in Harrisburg was essentially similar to Mr. Guard's; she had not investigated the Harrisburg school curriculum.

Larry Hyde, principal at the Carrier Mills grade school, testified at length regarding the advantages of the curriculum at the Carrier Mills school and compared it to some extent to the programs at Harrisburg. According to Hyde, the student-to-teacher ratio was about 23-to-1 and kindergarten classes ran from 8:10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the early class and from 11 a.m. to 3:13 p.m. for the late class.

Dr. Charles Johnson, superintendent of schools at Carrier Mills school district, described the Carrier Mills school programs and extracurricular activities at length. According to Johnson the high school's student-to-teacher ratio was 15-to-1. Johnson testified that in the last preceding year, for the first time, the district did not have to borrow any funds and ended the year with a surplus of $85,000; the district did not expect to borrow in the current year; this was unusual for a Saline County school district. Among the exhibits in the record is a summary of the financial effect anticipated with respect to the two school districts should the Guards' petition be granted; it indicates the tax loss to the Carrier Mills district and the tax gain to the Harrisburg district in the 1984-85 school year would be $256.14, and that the Harrisburg district was expected to operate "in the red" and the Carrier Mills district "slightly in the red or at a break even point." The report also indicates the total assessed valuation of the Harrisburg district was $59,945,702, and total assessed valuation for the Carrier Mills district was $11,382,118.

After hearing the evidence, the regional board considered the petition in closed session in the presence of an attorney and the regional superintendent of schools for Gallatin, Hardin, Pope and Saline counties over the objection of counsel for the Carrier Mills district. The regional board returned to open session and, by unanimous vote of the members present, granted the Guards' petition.

The board of education of the Carrier Mills district sought administrative review in the circuit court of Saline County, alleging the decision of the regional board was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and that the board violated the Open Meetings Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 102, par. 41 et seq.) by deliberating in closed session and in the presence of an attorney and the regional superintendent of schools. The circuit court concluded the decision of the regional board was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that while the regional board "may well have" violated the Open Meetings Act by ...


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