APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION
528 N.E.2d 1336, 174 Ill. App. 3d 301, 124 Ill. Dec. 228 1988.IL.1294
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Roger Kiley, Jr., Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA and RIZZI, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE FREEMAN
Plaintiff-appellant, Bromberek School District No. 65, appeals from the circuit court's affirmance of the administrative decision of defendant Ted Sanders, the State Superintendent of Education (Sanders), approving a petition to consolidate two elementary school districts. On appeal plaintiff contends that: (1) Sanders lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition to combine school districts; (2) Sanders' decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; (3) Sanders' decision was erroneous as a matter of law; (4) the petition to combine school districts failed to comply with statutory requirements; (5) the initial hearings on the petition before the regional superintendent of education for Cook County were conducted in violation of the Open Meetings Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 102, par. 42); and (6) the regional superintendent of education had a personal interest in the outcome of the hearings and should have recused himself from conducting the hearings.
For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court which affirmed the administrative decision granting the petition to consolidate.
The record indicates that 158 of the 827 registered voters of Bromberek District 65 signed a petition pursuant to article 11B of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 11B-1 et seq.) to combine its school district with Lemont District 113. Lemont District 113 is located in southwestern Cook County and comprises 25 square miles. Bromberek District 65 is located in Du Page County just north of the Cook County-Du Page County line and comprises approximately six square miles. The two districts are contiguous. Both District 113 and District 65 are located within the boundaries of Lemont Township High School District Number 210.
A hearing on Bromberek's petition was held before Richard Martwick, the regional superintendent of education for Cook County (Martwick), in early 1986. Martwick recommended the consolidation. Defendant Sanders issued an administrative decision approving the consolidation.
At the start of the hearing before Martwick, Bromberek District 65 requested that Martwick recuse himself as the hearing officer. Bromberek asserted that the claimed benefits of consolidation all would accrue to the Cook County portion of the territory involved, and since Martwick is an elected Cook County official, the affected residents of Du Page County would have no recourse at the ballot box regarding the decision on the consolidation petition. Martwick denied the motion for recusal. The Bromberek district then filed a motion to dismiss the petition, alleging the petition was defective in that: (1) article 11B had been repealed by implication and the proposed consolidation must be considered in accord with the 1985 School District Reorganization Act (the Reorganization Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 122, par. 1502-1 et seq .); (2) the hearing on the petition violated the Open Meetings Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 102, par. 42) since it was conducted on a legal holiday; and (3) the petition failed to reflect the maximum tax rates to be levied by the proposed consolidated district, as required by the Reorganization Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 122, par. 11B-3). Martwick denied the motion to dismiss.
The parties then presented the following evidence at the hearing. Both District 65 and District 113 provide courses for kindergarten through eighth grade. District 65 has one school building, while District 113 has two, one for kindergarten through fourth grade and another for fifth through eighth grade. District 65 has a student enrollment of 104 and employs seven full-time teachers, one part-time teacher, and one administrator who serves as both superintendent and principal. The number of students per classroom ranges from 8 to 16. District 113 has a student enrollment of 919 and employs 32 regular classroom teachers, some special education teachers, and three administrators, including a superintendent and a principal for each of the two school houses. The number of students per classroom ranges from 21 to 30. All of the students attending the elementary schools in District 113 and District 65 go on to public high school in Lemont District 210.
Both districts provide educational programs which comply with State requirements. District 113 presented evidence to indicate that it provides the following programs and staff not offered by District 65: a gifted student program in math and language arts; Title I reading and math for all grades year-round; full-time teachers in speech, psychology, and special education; a full-time nurse; and a hot lunch program.
District 113 has an equalized assessed valuation of $81,229 per student, or a total of approximately $74,649,816. District 65 has an equalized assessed valuation of $159,276 per student, or a total of approximately $16,564,663.
C. Thomas Reiter, superintendent of District 113, testified that if the consolidation were effected, Bromberek students in kindergarten though third grade, in addition to seventh, eighth and possibly sixth grade, would be bused to the schools in Lemont. Lemont students in fourth, fifth, and possibly sixth grade would be bused to the Bromberek school. Reiter and Thomas Linhardt, one of the two principals in District 113, testified that they favor the consolidation. Thomas Meade, the ...