Illinois' regional offices of education are moving forward with consolidation efforts. Some superintendents are continuing with their merger preparations now that the state has approved downsizing plans.
Last week, the state board of education approved a new map that reduces the number of regional superintendents and their offices from 44 to 35. These elected officials, along with local governments, had started the process, but missed a key deadline. That left it in the hands of the state to finalize the cost-cutting plan.
Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Whiteside County, which will see its office absorbed by the one that serves Lee and Ogle Counties. Sondgeroth says he's pleased the state endorsed a merger they were hoping for. But he says it doesn't eliminate all the concerns being raised at the local level.
“County officials are asking if we will able to inspect all the schools,” Sondgeroth said.
That's one of the many duties performed by these offices. Sondegroth says that's why it's important for the new operation to secure as many grants as possible, so it can maintain current levels of service. He also says they've done things like chosen a centralized location for GED testing, so that travel distances remain fair.
Chris Dvorak is the regional superintendent for LaSalle County, which will be taking on other jurisdictions that didn't make the cut. He says he hopes larger coverage maps don't have a negative effect on human interaction when providing services.
“There’s something to be said for working side-by-side with people on certain things,” Dvorak said.
Both men say there is good news in that they have plenty of time to prepare. The changes won't take effect until July 2015.