Regional Superintendent of Schools Monte Newlin on Monday approved a petition by voters to put consolidation of Hutsonville Unit 1 and Palestine Unit 3 schools on the March ballot.
As part of the announcement, Newlin said he will be sending the petition on to State Superintendent Tony Smith for further consideration.
In a letter addressed to Smith, Newlin states his reasons for approval of the petition.
"With an eye to the continuing challenges facing the two districts (as I have outlined above), the historical cooperation between the communities involved, the findings of the consultants as outlined in the Feasibility Study, the work of the Committee of Ten, and the testimony presented at the Public Hearing, all as they relate to the necessary components I must examine as per Article 11E of the Illinois School Code (the school needs and conditions of the affected districts and in the area adjacent thereto, the division of funds and assets that will result from the action described in the petition, the best interest of the schools of the area, and the best interest and the educational welfare of the pupils residing therein), I have decided to approve the Petition and send it, along with the required supporting documents to you with my recommendation for your approval," Newlin wrote.
Smith's determination must be made within 21 days of the receipt of Newlin's findings, after which a 35-day stay for administrative review will allow for anyone opposed to the petition to appeal the decisions.
The Committee of Ten was formed by vote of both the Palestine and Hutsonville school boards in August 2016. At the June 2017 board meetings of both school districts the committee presented the petition recommending consolidation. Hutsonville unanimously approved, while Palestine voted down the petition 5-2.
The Committee of Ten then collected the 50 or more required signatures from voters of each school district to bring the petition to the regional superintendent for consideration to be placed on the ballot. As part of the process, Newlin held a public hearing on Oct. 23. His letter and comments are based on the testimony and evidence presented at that hearing.
"Boards have directed actions which have brought us to this point, the Committee of Ten has studied and planned, Resident legal voters have been moved to action, and a public hearing has been conducted. I believe it is now time for the voters (whose children and communities will be impacted most directly) to have the final say in the matter," Newlin said in the his letter.
If approved by Smith, the question of consolidation will be placed on the March 20, 2018 ballot.
This is the second attempt for the two districts at consolidation, with an unsuccessful attempt made first back in 2002.