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House votes to abolish Flowers' job

Wednesday, May 05, 2010
SouthtownStar
by Kate McCann

The Illinois House voted 103 to 14 Tuesday to abolish the scandal-marred Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education, as its chief officer awaits trial on 16 felony charges of theft and official misconduct.

The Senate approved the bill last week, so the legislation now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn for approval. No Southland legislators opposed the measure.

Following a series of reports in the SouthtownStar exposing the office as a breeding ground for waste and public corruption, regional office Supt. Charles Flowers was charged with skimming nearly $400,000 in taxpayer dollars, loaning public money to family and friends and other allegations of gross misuses of his position.

The Illinois State Teacher Certification Board could decide Friday if Flowers can remain a certified teacher and school administrator.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) sponsored the legislation that passed Tuesday. Nekritz said she personally lobbied up to 50 of her colleagues in 24 hours before the vote.

"I told them my goal was to make sure services were actually being delivered to suburban schools and we needed to stop wasting money on ROE," she said, referring to the regional office of education.

Supt. Margaret Longo, of Forest Ridge School District 142 in Oak Forest, has lobbied intensely to dismantle the office.

Longo, who listened to Tuesday's floor debate from her office, said that, after the vote, she received 16 e-mails in 10 minutes from suburban school superintendents celebrating the news.

Longo said she was "humbled" by the efforts of the Legislature, including state Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) who sponsored the bill that passed the Senate.

"We took a bold step to say we were appalled by the actions of the regional office," Longo said.

If Quinn signs the bill into law, Longo and other educators have proposed their schools be serviced by three existing intermediate service centers in suburban Cook County, which will provide greater financial oversight and better services, she said.



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