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08/12/87 Education Officers v. Education Officers

August 12, 1987

APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT VIRDEN L. TROTTER ET AL., PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS

v.

EDUCATION OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD OF CANTON UNION SCHOOL, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES NO. 3-86-0731



512 N.E.2d 115, 158 Ill. App. 3d 848, 111 Ill. Dec. 211 1987.IL.1165

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Fulton County; the Hon. Harry Bulkely, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE STOUDER delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and WOMBACHER, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE STOUDER

Canton School District No. 66 is a special charter school district organized pursuant to an Act adopted by the Illinois General Assembly in 1869. The District's board of education, which has always been an elected board, consists of five members. The appellants, individual residents of the Canton school district, filed a petition with the secretary of the board of education of Canton Union School District No. 66. The petition, which was filed pursuant to section 32-1.5 of the Illinois School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 32-1.5), requested that a proposition be submitted to the voters of the district to elect a board of education of seven members. The proposition was to be included on the ballot of the November 4, 1986, election.

The appellees, Larry Sprague, Verlyn K. Vaugh, and James F. Watts, filed objections to the petition. Each of the three objections was identical, except for the names of the objectors.

A hearing before the education officers of the electoral board of the Canton School District No. 66 was held on the petition and objections. The officers held the petition to be invalid and stated that no certification of any special referendum should be made at the November 4, 1986, election. The officers stated that section 32 -- 1.5 was not applicable because Canton has always had an elected board, and section 32 -- 1.5 only applies to those special charter districts which have a managing board. The officers further stated that if such a proposition was passed, the effect would be to "recall" the entire elected board. The officers felt that such a measure was not intended by the drafters of the Illinois School Code.

The appellants then filed a petition for judicial review with the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, Fulton County, Illinois. The circuit court denied the appellants' petition for review. The appellants have appealed.

On appeal, the appellants contend that article 32 and section 32 -- 1.5 of the School Code are applicable to special charter school districts which have boards of education elected pursuant to provisions of their special charter. The appellees contend that since the election has passed, the appeal is moot. Both parties have raised additional issues. However, for the purposes of this appeal they need not be addressed.

The appellees' argument will be addressed initially, followed by the appellants' contention.

Illinois recognizes the public interest exception to the mootness rule. The exception states that even though a case may be moot in the normal sense, if the question is of substantial public interest, the case will be retained and the question decided. (Hill v. Murphy (1973), 14 Ill. App. 3d 668, 303 N.E.2d 208.) In the instant case, the appellants obtained a large number of signatures in support of the petition. The petition sought to place a referendum upon the ballot of the November 4, 1986, election. The petition requested the voters to approve a proposition to elect a board of education of seven members, pursuant to the provisions of section 32 -- 1.5 of the School Code. The statute was quoted in the body of the petition. The Canton Union School District consists of public schools whose policies are administered by public officials. Thus, because of the amount of public interest in having the question decided, the case falls within the public interest exception to the mootness rule.

The appellants contend that article 32 and section 32-1.5 of the School Code are applicable to special charter school districts which have boards of education elected pursuant to provisions of their special charter. The appellees contend article 32 and section 32-1.5 are only applicable to school districts which have managing boards and are seeking to change to an elected board, and later, wish to increase their number. The appellees further argue that the appellants are not without a remedy. The appellees contend that section 10-23.7 of the Illinois School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 10-23.7) provides for parties who wish to add additional members to an elected school board. Section 10-23.7 provides that "[a] district may, and upon petition of 10% of the voters residing in such district, shall order submitted to the voters of such district the question whether Article 10 of the School Code shall be adopted." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 10-23.7.) If article 10 is adopted, a seven-member school board would be elected in the Canton Union School District. Section 10-10 provides:

"All school districts having a population of not fewer than 1,000 and not more than 500,000 inhabitants . . ., and not governed by special Acts, shall be governed by a board of education consisting of 7 members . . .." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 10-10.

Although the appellees are correct in arguing that article 10 provides for a seven-member school board, this is not an exclusive remedy for school districts seeking to add additional board members. The Illinois School Code, article 32 and section 32-1.5 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 32-1.5), provides for the changing of a managing board to an elected board. The article also sets forth ...


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