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School administrators to help shape
new Department of Education    
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Former State Superintendent Michael Bakalis to chair task force

[FEB. 12, 2004]  CHICAGO -- In moving forward with his plan to shift responsibility for overseeing Illinois' schools to a new Department of Education, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed a 39-member task force of school administrators Monday to help guide the process of structuring the new agency and developing policies for improving service to local schools.

"We've heard the cry for more accountability in our education system, and now we're making critical changes that will help us better serve the needs of students, parents, teachers and administrators. The input of this distinguished panel of experienced school managers will be critical in helping us address the real problems and obstacles that are hampering education in Illinois," Blagojevich said in introducing the task force.

The governor named former State Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Bakalis as the chairman of the Education Accountability Taskforce. Dr. Bakalis taught at the junior and senior high school levels and was a professor at Northern Illinois University before joining the school's administration. He is currently on the faculty at Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Dr. Bakalis was the last person elected to the state's highest post for schools and helped push for a change in the early 1970s that established the Illinois State Board of Education with an appointed superintendent. He has joined Blagojevich in calling for reform.

"Back in 1970, I thought it was in the best interest of the state to have an independent board of education. But over the years, that independence has allowed the board to grow into a sizable bureaucracy that answers to no one," Bakalis explained. "With something as critical as education -- an issue that directly impacts our state's social and economic success -- it's imperative that we establish a clear line of responsibility."

Blagojevich tapped several other prominent school administrators to serve on the task force. Among them are Glenn "Max" McGee, another former state superintendent of schools and current superintendent of Wilmette School District 39; Leonard Dominguez, former deputy mayor for education in Chicago and current chief officer of Pilsen Community Cluster, a pilot collaboration between 12 schools and several community groups in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood; James Rosberg, superintendent of Belleville School District 118 and the Illinois Association of School Administrators' 2004 Superintendent of the Year; and Bruce Dennison, superintendent of the Bureau-Henry-Stark County Regional Office of Education and president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.

During his State of the State address in January, Blagojevich proposed moving responsibilities from the State Board of Education to a new Department of Education that would be directly accountable to the governor. His plan comes in response to growing frustration over the bureaucratic burden placed on local school districts and educators, and the lack of ideas for reform coming out of the state's current education authority. [See related LDN article: "Blagojevich commits to reform Illinois education system."]

According to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, Illinois ranks 16th in the nation for total amount spent per child on education but only 40th in total education spending that is used for classroom instruction.

The task force announced Monday will work with the governor's office throughout the upcoming year to develop specific proposals to help Illinois improve its ratio of total education funds spent on instruction and will assist in designing a Department of Education that responds to the needs of local school districts in their effort to educate students.

The group will be encouraged to develop new ideas for ways in which the new Department of Education can accomplish the following:

  • Help reduce costs not related to instruction and focus more resources directly on education.
  • Improve communication and responsiveness between a Department of Education and local school districts.
  • Reduce existing mandates, bureaucracy and rules that tie the hands of school districts.

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The complete Education Accountability Taskforce membership list follows:

  • Dr. Michael Bakalis
  • Dr. Carlos Azcoitia, Chicago Public Schools, Spry Elementary
  • Armando Almendarez, deputy chief education officer at Chicago Public Schools
  • Dr. Lawrence Baskin, superintendent of Glen Ellyn Community Consolidated School District 89
  • Dr. David Behlow, superintendent of Oswego Community Unit S.D. 308
  • Dr. Richard Berg, superintendent of Mattoon Community Unit School District 2.
  • David Bonnette, superintendent of Riverside School District 96
  • Dr. Ellen Bueschel, interim superintendent of Rockford School District 205
  • Brent Clark, superintendent of Belleville Township High School District 201
  • Georgia Costello, St. Claire County Regional Office of Education
  • P.E. Cross, Hamilton-Jefferson County Regional Office of Education
  • Arthur Culver, superintendent of Champaign Unit 4 School District
  • Dr. Bruce Dennison, Bureau-Henry-Stark County Regional Office of Education
  • Leonard Dominguez, former Chicago deputy mayor for education and current chief officer of the Pilsen Community Cluster
  • Ralph Grimm, superintendent of Canton Union School District 66
  • Dr. Kenneth Hendriksen, superintendent of Mount Zion Community Unit School District 3
  • Dr. Ed Hightower, superintendent of Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7
  • Kyle Hlafka, superintendent for Staunton Community Unit School District 6
  • Dr. James Hudgens, superintendent for Marion Community Unit School District 2
  • Dr. Robert Ingraffia, superintendent for Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education
  • Dr. Frances Karanovich, superintendent of Macomb Unit School District 185
  • Dr. Elizabeth Lewin, superintendent of Carbondale Elementary School District 95
  • Dr. Ralph Marshall, superintendent of Hononegah Community High School District 207
  • Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall, president of the Illinois Math and Science Academy
  • Dr. Glenn "Max" McGee, retired state superintendent of schools and current superintendent of Wilmette School District 39
  • Dr. Robert McKanna, superintendent of Community Consolidated School District 15 (Palatine)
  • Dr. Elmer McPherson, superintendent of Decatur School District 61
  • Dr. Connie Neale, superintendent of Elgin School District U-46
  • Dr. Robert Nielsen, superintendent of Bloomington School District 87
  • Marian Nipper, superintendent of Ewing-Northern Community Consolidated School District 115
  • Dr. James Rosborg, superintendent of Belleville School District 118
  • Dr. Darlene Ruscitti, superintendent of DuPage County Regional Office of Education
  • Dr. Thomas Ryan, superintendent of Community Consolidated School District 168 (Sauk Village)
  • Delbert Scranton, former superintendent and current business manager for Quincy Public School District 172
  • Dr. Barbara Suelter, superintendent of United Township High School District 30 (East Moline)
  • Dr. Randolph Tinder, superintendent of Forest Park School District 91
  • Dr. Joe Wojtena, principal of Libertyville High School
  • Dr. B.J. Wolf, superintendent for Rock Falls Township High School District 301
  • Ellen Wrzeski, superintendent of Woodstock Community Unit School District 200

[News release from the governor's office]

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