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March/April 2013

Centennial celebration …Association enters years of growth, expansion
by Linda Dawson

Linda Dawson is IASB director/ editorial services and editor of The Illinois School Board Journal.

Part II — 1933-1952

This is the second in a year-long series that will detail the history of the Illinois Association of School Boards from its inception in 1913 through its 100th anniversary on December 13, 2013.

If the first 20 years of the Illinois Association of School Boards were relatively obscure and quiet because of a lack of staff, the next 20 years might be named the “Miracle- Gro” years as the Association grew from 30 member districts in 1934-35 to 840 by the end of fiscal year 1951-52.

During these growth years, the nation found itself dealing with the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War. Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, promising “parliamentary democracy,” and then dissolved the German parliament within two days after becoming chancellor. Within four months, Germans were told to boycott Jewish businesses, and Jewish students were barred from school in that country.

But 1933 was also the year for a number of amazing feats. Construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, the monument at Mount Rushmore was dedicated, Wiley Post made the first solo flight around the world in seven days and 19 hours, the first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey, and two venerable magazines — Newsweek and Esquire — began publication.

The weather was in the news for much of 1933 as record cold temperatures hit Texas (-23°), Wyoming (-63°) and Oregon (-54°) in February. In July, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, hit a world high temperature of 136°. And in November, the “Great Black Blizzard” (part snowstorm, part dust storm) raged from South Dakota to the Atlantic.

Illinois was in the news as the “Century of Progress” world’s fair opened June 1 in Chicago, followed by the first major league All-Star Game on July 6 at Comiskey Park.

The year marked a milestone for IASB as well, as the organization moved its offices from the Urbana Free Library to Springfield in 1933. The following year, the Tri-County Association, which represented school boards in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties, merged into the Illinois State School Board Association.

By 1935, Illinois found itself in a position that sounds much like it does today. The theme of the 1935 annual conference was “How Can We Save Our Schools?” Charles W. Roe, president of the Rockford Board of Education, addressed the conference on money issues, saying that financing schools had been “a most perplexing and intricate question” for the past decade.

His address called for more boards of education throughout the state to affiliate with the 22-year-old statewide Association and for a more equitable distribution of state tax money among school districts.

“The trouble is, the state has never done it’s share,” Roe said, adding that his district was still short $2,345.82 from the 1933-34 school year, was owed $95,587.93 from the current year with nothing yet received, and had claims against the state that had not been paid for 1929, 1930 and 1931.

Roe’s call for more members must have struck a chord, as the Association added 88 more districts by Oct. 31, 1936, and 11 more joined after the first of November, according to a report from A.D. McLarty, IASB executive secretary.

Association objectives

During the mid-1940s, the Association published a list of eight basic objectives for the organization. Some of these objectives were reached. Others still remain in some form today.

1. Local control must be preserved.

2. Present system of taxation for schools is outmoded.

3. Teacher problems (salary, social conditions and retirement security) demand continued attention.

4. Urge wisest solutions to effective school reorganization.

5. Unit districts should be encouraged by removing restrictions and limitations.

6. Urge continuation of a school board committee to deal with railroad tax objections.

7. Expand regional divisions throughout the state.

8. Urge cooperation with school boards and other agencies for the advancement of public education.

Effects of consolidation

Prior to the mid-1940s, small, local school districts were the norm, and with some money coming from the state, albeit sometimes slowly, few incentives existed for districts to consolidate or merge.

However, that picture changed, according to William Phillips, associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Illinois-Springfield and an expert in the field of school consolidation.

“In 1945, the legislature gave unit districts equal taxing power to dual districts and, in addition, unit districts were given a lower qualifying rate for entrance into state aid reimbursements,” Phillips said. “In effect, unit districts now had financial parity with dual districts, and the lower qualifying rate for state aid provided a powerful incentive for the formation of unit districts.”

As a result of the legislation, the number of districts in Illinois declined from more than 11,000 to less than 5,000 by 1950, Phillips added.

So as the actual number of districts in the state was dwindling, the percentage of member districts was increasing. It was noted in the Bulletin that consolidation often led to new members rather than the loss of a member when two districts joined.

New way to organize

As the Association gained more and more districts, members began to organize themselves into what would eventually become IASB current regional division governance structure. It would take time and planning, but different counties throughout the state began to meet and form bonds of governance closer to home.

Just as many school board members will meet this spring for division dinners, either at a school or other venue, board members began meeting in the mid-1940s to expand Association activities and learning opportunities beyond the annual conference.

IASB’s first division was actually the Tri-County Association of School Boards representing Cook, DuPage and Lake counties, which merged with IASB in 1934. It would be another decade before the idea of divisions would catch on, but once it did, they organized quickly.

In the October 19, 1946, issue of School Board News Bulletin, Robert Cole, IASB executive director, wrote:

“During the course of this coming year, the Association plans to develop new and more divisions. Several areas of the state have already asked us to start a division, and before we are through we shall have divisions which will reach every part of Illinois. It will take some time to cover the state.”

Some of the divisions listed below may look similar to the divisions that exist today. However, many were much larger when they were created, and some no longer exist, having given way to a later system of organization.

Information available on divisions, their first meetings and officers before 1952 include:

Blackhawk met April 10, 1946, at Moline with representatives from Henry, Mercer, and Rock Island counties. Kenneth Telleen of Cambridge was elected as the first chairman.

Egyptian met September 19, 1946, at West Frankfort, but no record was given to IASB of the first county representatives, although some were said to have traveled more than 100 miles to attend the meeting. Bob Krebs, who later became Association president, of Mount Vernon was elected as the first chairman.

Southwestern met December 12, 1946, to discuss organization of a division to serve Madison, St. Clair and “adjacent counties.” No other information from that meeting was available. G.W. Hoelscher of Granite City was listed as the chair-
‑man in a September division report.

Illini met January 16, 1947, and first records show it was to serve a “50-mile radius of Ur­bana and Champaign.” O.D Mann of Danville was the chairman listed in the same report.

Starved Rock met February 13, 1947, in LaSalle to appoint a planning committee and met again in Ottawa on April 23. H.L. Kistler of Peru was listed as chairman in the September division report.

Northwest met February 5, 1948, at Mount Morris with representatives of Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties. A.R. Bogue of Rochelle was elected as the first chairman.

Wilrokee met March 31, 1948, with representatives of Iroquois, Kan­‑ kakee, Will and a portion of Ford counties in Kankakee, with plans to meet there again October 5. No other information was reported about the division except meeting dates through the end of 1952.

Abe Lincoln met February 14, 1949, at Jacksonville with representatives from Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Macoupin, Mason, McDonough, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler and Scott counties.

Wabash Valley met September 21, 1949, at Olney with representatives from Clark, Clay, Crawford, Cumberland, Edwards, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland, and Wabash counties. Bayard Heath of Crawford County CUSD 2 was elected as the first chairman.

Central Illinois Valley met April 12, 1951, at Pekin High School to organize a division for Fulton, Mason, Marshall, McLean, Peoria, Stark, Tazwell and Woodford counties. T. E. Wiggins was selected as the first chairman at a meeting on May 3.

Currently, IASB has 21 regional divisions that meet at least twice a year to provide members with contact from the organization closer to home. That contact offers the opportunity for professional development through panel sessions and speakers, as well as the opportunity to hear first-hand from Association officers and staff regarding issues affecting education.

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