St. Charles school board member testifies in Richmond, Davis case

Published: Friday, July 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Recently elected St. Charles school board member Edward McNally testified Thursday in the bench trial about the legality of reconfiguring two elementary schools in St. Charles.

The trial, presided by Kane County Judge David Akemann, is scheduled to resume this afternoon.

At issue is St. Charles School District 303’s now-implemented plan to merge the attendance areas of Richmond and Davis elementary schools and turn the schools into grade-level centers serving grades 3-5 and K-2, respectively.

An appellate court has directed the 16th Judicial Circuit to determine whether the reorganization in 2011 qualified as a school improvement plan under the Illinois School Code.

Timothy Dwyer, the plaintiffs’ attorney, called McNally to the stand Thursday afternoon as an adverse witness.

McNally, a teacher, was elected to the school board in April.

He was questioned for nearly an hour about why he chose to live in Davis Elementary School’s boundaries, his reaction to the reorganization and the reasons the district gave for the merger.

He was – and is – upset by the plan, he said. He later testified that he briefly considered joining the lawsuit that prompted the trial. The lawsuit was brought forward by several Davis parents.

“[The plan] caused a lot of strife that was unnecessary,” McNally said, adding it unnecessarily pitted families against each other.

Richmond’s failure to meet adequate yearly progress was repeatedly mentioned during public meetings about the proposed plan, McNally said.

He recalled the administration saying in 2011 that Richmond was anticipated to fail AYP again. Because high-performing students at Davis would mix with lower-performing students at Richmond under the plan, McNally said it seemed the reorganization was a way the district could improve test scores.

He noted the district also brought up overcrowding issues at Davis and under-enrollment issues at Richmond as reasons for the change.

Robert Swain, an attorney representing District 303, asked McNally if – as a teacher – such enrollment issues resonate with him.

An intense overcrowding would be an issue, McNally said, but not the levels Davis was experiencing. Spending money inefficiently, such as in the case of under-enrollment, also would be a legitimate concern for a school district to address, he said.

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Jan Schlictmann at a Geneva law firm.

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