Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Charles Flowers' Office Closed For Good?

According to the Daily Southtown, Charles Flowers might just be the last regional superintendent in suburban Cook County.

Legislation in the works calls for abolishing the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education, as members of a committee backing the measure continue to toil away at a plan to efficiently distribute the responsibilities if the office disappears.

"We need to redesign the system," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Des Plaines), who introduced the bill to dissolve the office. "The real problem is the schools are not getting the services they need. I think eliminating that office is the best way to get those services."

Forest Ridge School District 142 Supt. Margaret Longo is leading a committee of academic, legal and financial minds proposing to disperse the regional office's current responsibilities to the three Intermediate Service Centers.

Suburban Cook's regional office - plagued by a lack of funding and being the largest in the state, with more than 140 school districts and 25,000 educators - is the only county in Illinois with the intermediate centers, which are charged with a number of duties other regional offices complete on their own.

The plan would be to work within the regional office's $1.5 million budget, increase assistance and bring the services closer to the teachers, Longo said.

"We understand the fiscal climate of our state," Longo said. "We just want a more effective use of our monies and time."

In effect, a number of districts that have run into roadblock after roadblock with Flowers' office have been operating without the regional office.

"It's been close to a year that I've even had to call them," said Atwood Heights School District 125 Supt. Tom Livingston, who, like many area superintendents, has directed his staff to neighboring regional offices and intermediate offices. "The call-back time, especially when I'd have an emergency like a student who may be considered homeless, was a problem."

It wouldn't be the first time the Legislature voted to do away with a regional office with a reputation of nepotism, bureaucracy and reckless spending. In 1991, lawmakers abolished the Cook County regional office of education, only to establish the suburban Cook County office, thanks in part to some heavy politicking.

With growing concerns regarding current Regional Supt. Flowers - who is the target of a criminal probe by the Cook County state's attorney's office for alleged financial and ethical misconduct - the calls to do away with the office once and for all are now louder than ever.

Flowers did not return calls for comment.

"It's just a shame that someone's lack of leadership and ineptness can cause a whole office to collapse, but if it will better serve the teachers, it has to be done," said Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park).

Both Nekritz and Longo emphasize the legislation, which is expected to come up for a vote in the spring session, targets only suburban Cook's regional office, not any of the other 44 statewide. No one even filed for the 2010 race for Flowers' spot, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr said.

A number of Southland districts rely on the intermediate center in Chicago Heights, and they can lean even harder if the legislation goes through, executive director Vanessa Kinder said.

"I think it's a very good, sound plan," said Kinder, who serves on the committee. "We already have a great reputation in our districts, and we're in their back yards."


In a rush to avoid almost certain eviction for failure to pay more than $10,000 in back rent, regional schools chief Charles Flowers packed up the regional office of education and moved into a Broadview office building.

Seven working days later, Broadview officials closed it for not having the proper paperwork - namely an occupancy permit.

That was Nov. 10. As of Thursday afternoon, almost a month later, the office remained closed.

Not that anyone calling the regional office's general number would know. The voicemail message makes no mention of it. Only a message on the Web site reads "closed until further notice."

Numerous calls to the village of Broadview's building department were not returned.


Anonymous said...

If he is not seeking re-election why close the office? It will not expedite services to any schools that that office was serving. Leave the office - get a qualified Superintendent!

Anonymous said...

We can all only hope that Charles Flowers is gone. It's not the office that needs to go, it's Chucky and his cabal of freeloaders he kept on his payroll. The numbskulls from Cook County that let him get away with this should join him. Hey, Gang, leave Maywood, Illinois, the USA if necessary, and go far, far away.