STERLING – Whiteside County’s regional office of education may consolidate with the office for Lee and Ogle counties, an official says.
Under a new law, the state is cutting the number of regional offices from 44 to 35. Each regional district must serve at least 61,000 people. Now, that number is 43,000.
According to the 2010 Census, Whiteside County’s population is 58,498, and so it must join another region.
The regions have until June 30 to decide on consolidations. If they don’t meet that deadline, the state Board of Education will do it for them.
Whiteside County Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth said his office has a tentative plan to work with the Lee-Ogle regional office. He and Lee-Ogle Superintendent Amy Jo Clemens will talk to their county boards and give the details. Sondgeroth plans to present the information to the Whiteside County Board today.
“If the County Boards all agree, we would start sharing services right away,” he said. “Ms. Clemens and I are working side by side to make this happen with the least turmoil to the staff and citizens of all the counties.”
Both Sondgeroth and Clemens are elected officials, so with consolidation, they would run against each other in 2014 if they wanted to keep their jobs.
“My intention right now is that I wouldn’t run against Amy Jo Clemens if we both chose to run. A lot could happen in 2 years,” he said.
Sondgeroth said he wants the Sterling regional office to stay open in some capacity after consolidation.
“It’s doable,” he said. “Many ROEs that cover multiple counties have more than one office.”
Clemens confirmed the two regional offices were talking about consolidating.
“We’re moving forward to see whether it’s a good fit,” she said. “We’d like to figure this out locally.”
The Lee-Ogle office must move from its current headquarters in an old school in Grand Detour because the Dixon school district wants to sell the building.
“We’re deciding where we should move to,” she said.
Regional superintendents have a number of duties: making sure teachers and administrators are properly certified, ensuring schools follow state mandates, checking that bus drivers and buildings are safe, and providing second chances for students who have dropped out or have behavioral problems.
The regional offices have been among Springfield’s favorite targets for cuts during the state’s financial crisis. Last year, regional superintendents went months without being paid. Most kept working.
Gov. Pat Quinn zeroed out their salaries in the budget, but state lawmakers later voted to pay them, a bill the governor signed.
In the 1990s, Lee and Ogle counties combined their regional offices as part of consolidations around the state.
The Whiteside County Board meets at 6:30 p.m. today in its chambers at the Whiteside County Courthouse, 400 N. Cherry St. in Morrison.
Whiteside County Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth plans to present a proposal to consolidate the county's regional office of education with the office for Lee and Ogle counties.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.whiteside.org or call 815-772-5100.