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Looking the Other Way

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As a Baptist minister, the Rev. Johnny Scott professes a deep faith in the basic decency of the people of East St. Louis, Ill. As the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter in this almost entirely black city, he has dedicated much of his life to helping African-Americans gain and keep political power. So it comes as a surprise when he says, without hesitating, that he's glad a bunch of bureaucrats have come down from the state capital to seize power from the school board.

The way Scott sees it, the otherwise good people of East St. Louis are plagued by a tragic moral flaw: When confronted with wrongdoing--especially on the part of their elected leaders--they tend, more often than not, to heed the Devil's admonition to "look the other way."

To a degree, it's understandable. There was a time, throughout the first half of this century, when looking the other way brought prosperity

to this city on the Mississippi River flood plain. Letting industries escape its tax base by setting up essentially bogus municipalities just outside its borders helped East St. Louis became a booming commercial hub where jobs, even if they were low-paying, were plentiful. By winking at the Chicago mobsters who put slot machines in its bars and prostitutes on its streets, East St. Louis became a hot night spot, and City Hall raked in the cash from tavern licenses.

In the 1970's, when most of the city's industry had left and federal agents had chased out the mob and largely shut down its black-market economy, looking the other way brought East St. Louis survival. Because just about any job to be had was on the public-sector payroll, people were more than willing to let the city and school district administrations--historically patronage machines--become even more bloated and wasteful, even if it meant further sucking the life out of the city's withering tax base.

Ultimately, however, the children of East St. Louis began paying for the sins of their fathers. Their neighborhoods became desolate, and their cash-strapped city and schools ceased to provide even the most basic services. No one picked up the garbage. Cops were scarce. Children packed crowded classrooms in decrepit, unheated buildings. In 1992, the state felt compelled to take over the city's finances and followed suit with the school district's finances last fall.

"For the most part," Scott says, "I am convinced that politics has wrecked our school system here in East St. Louis."

Today, local officials claim to be confronting the problems of East St. Louis and turning the city and its schools around. Whether this is true, their critics say, remains to be seen. The mere effort, however, could help salvage another lesson from the rubble here: When it comes to East St. Louis and its children, the people who live here aren't the only ones guilty of looking the other way.

Annette Simpson sits a little impatiently in the East St. Louis mayor's waiting room with her 3-year-old cousin. She may be in City Hall, but Simpson is quick to point out that this is not her City Hall. She's waiting on someone else who has business there. She used to live in East St. Louis but recently moved to the nearby city of Belleville. What finally drove her out, she says, was the schools.

Rolling her eyes in disbelief, Simpson recounts a 2-1/2-year struggle to get her son, who had extreme difficulty reading, placed in a special-education class. "They promised me. They lied to me. They did everything in the world they could do to just not do it," she says, adding that her new school district got her son help right away.

Simpson says her daughter would come home every day and complain of a teacher who routinely gave out assignments and then slept at her desk. "I walked in the building and watched, with my own eyes on the teacher, 10 to 15 minutes until I woke her," Simpson recalls. "I had to shake her a minute or two to get her woke." Later, she was dismayed to learn her daughter had been disciplined for laughing when her snoozing teacher finally fell out of her chair.

Even the harshest critics of District 189--which encompasses East St. Louis and the small, equally impoverished neighboring communities of Washington Park and Alorton--note that, despite its challenges, the 27-school district continues to graduate three-quarters of its students and send many on to fine colleges and universities. What's more, they say, people began abandoning the city long before its schools became troubled.

In truth, the city has been on the decline since 1950, according to Andrew J. Theising, who has researched its history as a political-science doctoral student at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. That was the year its population peaked at 82,000, with blacks accounting for about a third of its residents. Even though the area's factories hummed from the post-war boom, the seeds of the city's destruction had been planted in its lowland soil years before.

Because most of its factory jobs paid little, East St. Louis already had spent decades as one of the nation's poorest cities. The tensions that led to its 1917 race riot, one of the nation's bloodiest, continued to encourage segregation and set the stage for later white flight. By tolerating organized crime, the city had acquired the kind of tough reputation that discourages home buyers. As the nation turned from trains to trucks to ship its goods, the city, with its tracks across the Mississippi, could foresee its own demise as a major railroad hub.

Local industry, which generated a third of the city's jobs, tended to take up land, to rely on cheap, unskilled labor, and to pollute more than the law would eventually allow. Most factories relocated elsewhere long before the rest of the nation began to worry about competition from abroad. The National Stockyards, which had removed itself from East St. Louis's tax base by incorporating its site as National City, once slaughtered seven million head of livestock each year. By the mid- 1970's, the count fell to 10,000--a decline that doomed the nearby Swift and Armour meatpacking plants. The Aluminum Company of America, or ALCOA, closed its East St. Louis plant in 1963. By 1970, 25,000 jobs were gone; the city had lost 12,000 residents, and its population had become about 69 percent black. As plants continued to close at a rapid clip, retail outlets followed, with Sears, S.S. Kresge, Woolworth, Kroger, and A&P shutting their local outlets. By 1980, the year the city's last meatpacking plant closed its doors on Christmas Eve, East St. Louis had just 55,200 residents, about 95 percent of whom were black.

In 1985, with the city government deeply in debt, Mayor Carl E. Officer issued $223 million in tax-free municipal bonds to finance construction of a river port. Four years later, no ground had been broken, and the Wall Street investment firm that had underwritten the deal, Matthews & Wright Inc., was pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and fraud. Although the bond buyers--not East St. Louis--lost money in the deal, the city watched years of planning go to waste. The scandal left Officer and his administration undera cloud of controversy, even though he was never charged with any wrongdoing. He thus joined a long list of past city officials whose political careers were tarnished by decisions to pin the city's revival on grand, and ultimately futile, riverfront-~development schemes.

In 1988, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department declared East St. Louis the most distressed small city in the nation. That was the first year the state education department began classifying the district as "in financial difficulty," thus requiring it to annually submit multiyear financial plans for state approval.

By 1990, the city had just 40,944 residents and was 98.5 percent black. Its property-tax base, assessed at nearly $188 million in 1960, had dwindled to just $47 million. Its intake of federal dollars was one-fourth of what it once had been. The city lost possession of City Hall and teetered on bankruptcy after settling a lawsuit filed on behalf of a man savagely beaten in its jail. It was found criminally negligent for dispatching its police in unreliable squad cars without decent radios.

As Annette Simpson leaves City Hall for Belleville--a fairly healthy city where black families like hers have been migrating on the heels of whites--she notes that her young companion, Jerry, still lives in East St. Louis. His family plans to send him to a parochial school there, but she wonders if that will be possible. The local Roman Catholic Diocese, with its headquarters in Belleville, has closed four of its five East St. Louis schools, including a high school the state has bought and is now converting into a minimum-security prison.

Today, much of East St. Louis resembles the set of an apocalyptic film. Former factories stand as mere facades; their gaping windows look in on crumbling walls and open sky. Block after block of houses and stores have been boarded up, burned down, and vandalized. It's comparable to a much larger city's worst slums--after being bombed from the air.

Most of what remains of the area's industry is in Sauget, an adjacent village that the Monsanto Company helped establish in the 1920's, mainly to escape the East St. Louis tax base. The smoke from Sauget's few chemical plants often drifts into East St. Louis; most of its tax revenues go elsewhere. With a property-tax base assessed at about $22.8 million, Sauget can afford to employ 10 firefighters and 12 police officers to look after just under 200 residents.

At its Monsanto chemical plant, John P. Kaminski, the general superintendent for human resources, says most people in East St. Louis appreciate the fact the plant has stuck around to keep about 650 area residents employed. Although the competition for its jobs is fierce--Monsanto hired 50 of 2,000 applicants for jobs since September 1993--the pay, generally $16 to $18 an hour, is enough to afford many hires the chance to move out of East St. Louis. The company's donations also help District 189 pay for science fairs, new technology, and other needs. Kaminski wonders whether the company can do much more. "Clearly, we are concerned about East St. Louis," he says. "But what course of action is appropriate given the limited resources that any industrial organization has?"

In East St. Louis, about a quarter of the residents are unemployed, and two-thirds depend on public assistance. David Rusk, a consultant on urban policy and affairs and the author of Cities Without Suburbs, describes East St. Louis as the nation's most extreme example of a city whose economic andsocial ills are so great that it has reached what he calls "the point of no return." No city beyond this point has ever closed ground on its suburbs, he says. In fact, most continue to losepopulation and grow steadily poorer, with their only hope being substantial outside help.

No other sizable U.S. city has lost population as quickly or holds such a disproportionate share of its region's poor residents and minorities, Rusk says. Only Camden, N.J., and North Chicago, Ill., have residents who make as little money compared to those of nearby suburbs.

"Basically," Rusk says, "East St. Louis has been turned into a poorhouse."

The school system, which has been having financial troubles of its own since the 1970's, now ranks as one of the city's major employers. Thus, Jonathan Kozol contends in a chapter on the district in Savage Inequalities, his bestselling 1991 indictment of education, if the school board makes dramatic budget cuts, it propels employees and their families onto welfare lists and hastens the rapid dissolution of the city's lower-middle class.

In a school system such as this, where money and jobs are scarce, "you have to play with a completely different set of rules," explains Patrick L. Toomey, who has worked with the district for years as the manager of the state education department's finance section. "You have a different mentality when you are trying to hold onto everything you've got."

Almost everyone interviewed for this story contends that the district has long seen itself as an employment agency and has lost sight of its basic mission to educate children.

Martha E. Young evokes memories of that mother on every block who baked great cookies but struck terror into the neighborhood kids when she barged out her front door. Elected to the District 189 school board in the fall of 1993 as part of a slate promising reform, she says she has little tolerance for patronage and nepotism and alleges that members of the district's previous boards engaged in plenty of it.

"It used to be you controlled jobs. You'd pick up the phone and say, 'I want this person on the payroll' and--boom--they were hired," she says. "That's why we were in such a turmoil," she explains. "Nobody was accountable."

Other city officials also joined in making the calls that determined who worked, when, and where. A flurry of hiring typically took place just before elections, for example, with city aldermen, voting-precinct officials, and other local leaders seen as especially prized recruits, Young and others in the district contend.

Whenever the state's number crunchers demanded layoffs, the district obliged them, only to rehire the same staffers within weeks. Whether or not the district had more noninstructional personnel than it needed, it definitely had more than it could afford. While enrollment steadily dropped--dragging enrollment-based state and federal funding down with it--the district's workforce decreased little.

Lillian Parks, who served as the district's superintendent from January 1990 until June 1993, says board members frequently went around her to directly influence district personnel decisions. But she soon learned that bringing those unauthorized hires to the board's attention was a mistake.

"They did not want to question that. They made that very clear to me," says Parks, who has now retired. She asserts that her willingness to raise such issues was one reason the school board eventually pressured her to resign.

Edmund M. Jucewicz, a former board member who spent two years as chairman of its personnel committee, says principals had learned to regard forwarding requests for disciplinary action to the board as "a waste of time." Administrators hesitated to keep employees in line because they feared political repercussions, several current and former district officials say.

"I have kids who are chronic truants, and a truant officer has never come to their house. I have kids who I know are not in schools, and their names will not show up on absentee lists," alleges Diane L. Sonneman, the director of a federally funded tutoring, recreation, and advocacy program. "You had teacher after teacher who, if they were in their classroom, were reading the paper or something like that," she says, noting that good teachers seemed demoralized.

Shortly before stepping down as superintendent, Parks went to a local newspaper, the Belleville News-Democrat, with allegations that the district payroll was padded with patronage hires and that the district was shuffling a handful of teachers from school to school to hide their drug problems. She also said she believed thousands of dollars were being skimmed from box-office receipts at a district stadium and pilfered from school vending machines. But when she was later called up before federal and county grand juries to discuss the allegations, Parks refused to testify, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The retired superintendent now says she had nothing to hide. Her lawyer, she explains, simply advised her to take the generous retirement package she had been offered and walk away from the district's troubles. "He pointed out: You don't have a lot of people down there who are going to be willing to come forward," she says, noting that many potential witnesses would likely fear for their jobs.

When Young ran for school board in 1993, she was part of a four-member slate pledging to clean up the district and put its children before politics. The reform candidates enjoyed the support of Mayor Gordon Bush, but three-fourths of the city's 44 precinct representatives opposed them. Freddie Boyd, who was then the board chair and continues to hold a board seat, also stood in opposition.

"People were saying you can't win because the machine didn't endorse you," Young recalls. Nevertheless, she and two other members of her slate won.

Last spring, the district came under pressure from the state to address the system's $10 million debt through cuts in its $75 million budget. So the new school board put forth a financial plan calling for the district to lay off 114 teachers and 94 other employees while not replacing 120 teachers who were retiring largely to take advantage of a state-sponsored early-retirement plan.

Geraldine Jenkins, who took over as District 189's superintendent this past summer, contends that state officials made a mistake last spring in approving the district's draconian financial plan. But Martha R. O'Malley, the state's regional superintendent, maintains that the state received repeated assurances that the district could live with its new budget.

All hell broke loose with the opening of school this fall. ~Some schools were so short of teachers they had to cram 40 or 50 children into the same room. Others assigned special-education and Title I teachers--along with their students--to regular classrooms. Substitute teachers had to be employed on a daily, full-time basis. If no substitutes were available, as was often the case, students had to bide their time in the school's gymnasium. Sonneman, the local child-advocacy worker, alleges that some children were given grades just to hide the fact they had received no instruction at all.

Charles H. Smith, the principal of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, says many of his teachers felt they could do little more than baby-sit under such circumstances. "Just saying we are in school does not mean the students are being helped," he says.

A shortage of cafeteria workers meant several schools served only cold lunches, which were easier to prepare in advance. One school even pulled elementary school students out of class to help serve lunch to their peers.

The local teachers' union alleged in a complaint filed with the state labor-relations board that several union members had been laid off without regard to seniority. Some teachers alerted local newspapers and enlisted students and parents to demand that Springfield step in.

"I felt I could no longer, in good conscience, keep quiet about this situation," says Irl S. Solomon, who teaches a class on contemporary American problems at East St. Louis Senior High School.

Some district and city officials now contend that the school system's problems were overblown. They question whether a predominantly white district would have come under such intense scrutiny. Others point out that the state and federal governments leaning on the district have a few problems of their own. Burned by negative media coverage, some principals continue to try to bar the press from their schools, or, at least, to keep certain staff members from talking to reporters.

Marlene E. Smoot, who ran on Young's slate and now chairs the school board's finance committee, blames much of the current school year's chaos on the district's personnel office, which, she says, failed to provide the board with the information it needed.

Toomey from the state education department confirms her assessment. "We would get a list of people who were supposedly employed," he recalls. "We would ask again and get a different list." Hiram Wi~lliams, who then served as the personnel department's director, did not return several calls asking for comment. He now serves as the principal of two of the district's elementary schools.

While some state officials believe the personnel department may simply have been antiquated and inefficient, Smoot accuses it of withholding information deliberately as a means of safeguarding its own power. On Oct. 6, the day after State Superintendent Joseph A. Spagnolo told the board he would seek to rescind state approval of the district's financial plan, Smoot pushed through a board resolution ousting the personnel department's staff members, locking their office behind them, and authorizing the superintendent to overhaul the records kept there.

The superintendent and school board members beseeched the state to give the district more time to get its house in order. "I knew we had a new board in place," Jenkins says, "and that this new board was really working on turning things around."

Although Mayor Bush also discouraged state intervention, board member Young says most members of the city's political establishment "were sitting back wanting this board to fall."

Meanwhile, some of the city's educators and child advocates were scolding the state for not having acted months, or even years, earlier. "I don't think, if this was a community of white kids, that they would have let them founder this long," Sonneman contends. State officials maintain they lacked the power to appoint an oversight panel, or take any forceful, practical action, until last summer. That's when Gov. Jim Edgar signed a new law empowering the state to appoint financial oversight panels for districts that don't get their finances in order--a law widely thought to be directed toward East St. Louis.

O'Malley, the regional superintendent, says she could have sought a court order to have the district closed, but she adds, "It was nothing I ever seriously contemplated doing." She shakes her head at the frightening prospect even now. "You can imagine closing a school district, cutting off the income for all the adults, and denying the students a chance to be in school learning."

When State Superintendent Spagnolo finally recommended that the Illinois state board of education rescind approval of District 189's financial plan and establish an oversight panel, he cited "a six-year pattern of fiscal mismanagement, amended plans, and unmet promises, as well as current financial practices that cannot locate available funds to improve educational conditions."

Young of the school board complains that the state board's decision "was like a slap in the face." Superintendent Jenkins claims the move "was not about the new plan, it was about past history." Since the takeover, however, both say they've come to accept the state's oversight panel as an objective ally. Jenkins refers to the panel as "an outsider looking at things that perhaps we are too close to sometimes."

Besides, she adds, "When we have some things that perhaps I don't want to do, I can blame it on them."

Richard J. Mark, who was appointed to head the three-member oversight panel, is no stranger to daunting fiscal battles. As the chief executive officer of St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis, he became a local hero by rescuing this, another one of the city's major employers, from near-bankruptcy. He did so mainly by substantially trimming staff, using computers to make hospital operations more efficient, and convincing the state it had not been adequately reimbursing the hospital for certain costs.

In the 1990 fiscal year, when Mark first took over, the hospital was expected to lose $7 million; three years later, it had a healthy $1.5 million surplus. It also was able to provide new, badly needed services such as the city's first residential drug-rehabilitation center, which immediately filled its 25 beds and has had a 30-day waiting list ever since.

Mark says many of District 189's fiscal woes simply stem from "people trying to run a $70 million business without the expertise and systems to do it." Instead of diagnosing and curing its financial ailments, the district tended to simply hire two or three more people to manage the symptoms. "Whenever any business does that," he says, "it is going to find itself in financial trouble immediately."

After taking a good look at its health-insurance records, for example, the district discovered it was paying premiums for ineligible retirees and dependents--supposedly children--who were actually well into their 30's. It was also providing health coverage for employees who had been dead for more than a year.

The school district's health policy remains a likely target for cutbacks, largely because it offers exceptionally generous benefits. The overseers also are weighing whether to privatize the district's food, transportation, and janitorial services, entrusting them to companies whose employees work for less. Such changes have been proposed--and then shot down--before, and they will likely continue to meet union resistance. "They are not going to solve these problems on the backs of teachers," vows Solomon from East St. Louis High.

The district is also considering an overhaul of its old and enigmatic open-enrollment policy. For about as long as anyone here can remember and for reasons everyone here seems to have forgotten, the policy has left students largely free to choose any school. As a result, the district's schools range from being less than half full to having half again as many students as they should. Some schools had even been vacated and, much to consternation of the oversight panel and the current school board, were being rented to businesses and nonprofit organizations for next to nothing.

Lincoln High School, once known as the city's black high school and a continuing source of tradition and pride, was meant for 700 students but now holds closer to 1,100. Teachers conduct classes in hallways and foyers. "Overcrowding has put us at our seams," says Principal James R. Lewis. "We are stretched about as tight as we could go."

Across town, East St. Louis Senior High School is more than half empty and has entire rooms sealed off and going to waste because the district has not tended to asbestos removal and other maintenance needs.

Because of the district's financial problems, Lincoln High--which produced jazz great Miles Davis--has been unable to replace the director of a jazz band that has brought its students international acclaim and a torrent of music scholarships. Where the old director once packed music classes with 70 students, his fill-in, who admits to not being up to the task, recently struggled with a group of seven. Despite such problems, Lewis says most people connected with his school would find the pros~pect of consolidation with East St. Louis High "hard to swallow," regardless of the potential financial benefits.

Karen Maxwell, a 28-year-old product of District 189, says she thought she'd found a way to cope with life in East St. Louis. She would wake up, get dressed, tend to any pressing errands, and, after leaving her 11-year-old son with her mother, go out on a two- or three-day crack-smoking binge. "It would create a world of confusion, but it seemed better than reality," says Maxwell, who is now in a drug-rehabilitation program. When she was high, she "wouldn't think of anybody or anything," including, often, the basic needs of a son whose grades were slipping in her absence.

A companion in the treatment program, Lulisa Gomiller, a mother of four, got through the day by drinking two cases of Budweiser. Their friend, who identified herself only as Casey, says she was on crack until she gave birth to a baby with the drug in its blood.

Such stories are common here in the desolation of East St. Louis, where poverty has spawned addiction and a host of other social demons. According to local health officials, teenagers bear a third of the babies here, and nearly a third of all mothers are unwed. The exorbitant low-birth-weight and infant-mortality rates are generally twice the state average. Children here are much less likely to be immunized, seem especially prone to asthma, and often are exposed to the sewage that bubbles up from the city's crumbling infrastructure. Many are also exposed to pockets of lead contamination--a legacy of crumbling houses and long-departed industry.

Drugs dealers openly work major streets, and the per-capita murder rate often exceeds that of most of the nation's large cities. In fact, St. Mary's Hospital went into debt largely just from having to provide emergency and trauma care to an endless procession of young uninsured males, many of them high-school-age, who had been shot or stabbed.

"For a lot of these kids, school is the safest place to go," says Richard M. Beitler, a Title I and language-arts teacher at the city's Landsdowne Junior High.

Given this city's poverty and its problems, Toomey from the state education department's finance office and former State Superintendent C. Robert Leininger say District 189 would not have enough money to adequately serve its children even if it didn't waste a dime. "They may be able to find money for certain things that they have been doing without if they do things more efficiently in the district," Toomey says, "but it would not make a major, major effect."

The wish lists of principals and teachers here include an adequate supply of updated books, replacements for broken windows, faucets that spit out hot water, and toilets that don't spew sewage. They would also like smaller classes and revamped vocational-education programs that could produce more graduates to help rebuild their town.

There appears, however, to be little new money coming the way of District 189 any time soon.

Mayor Bush opposed a property-tax hike the oversight panel suggested last fall. He says his city is already taxed to the point that any tax increase would likely drive out businesses and residents, causing a revenue loss. District 189 already levies a tax of about $6.70 on every $100 in assessed property--about double the state average--and yet still relies on state and federal money for the lion's share of its budget.

Even though East St. Louis receives more than the average state allocation per pupil, the school system continues to see its own taxpayers as overburdened. In response, District 189 counts itself among the 71 school districts that have filed suit against the state claiming that its school funding is inadequate and too heavily dependent on property taxes. A state appellate court dismissed the case in September, but the plaintiffs are filing an appeal. In 1992, a proposed amendment that clearly would have put the state Constitution on their side was narrowly defeated, largely due to resistance from business interests. The state legislature has spent years failing to come to terms with the school-finance issue; its task force issued recommendations in 1993, only to see them languish.

Governor Edgar won re-election last fall by trouncing a candidate who had campaigned on a pledge to spend more money on schools and to spend it more equitably, even if meant raising the state's relatively low individual and corporate tax rates.

Edgar enjoyed the overwhelming support of business interests and residents of Chicago's northern suburbs, many of whom fear funding schools throughincome taxes will result in their tax dollars being spent down state. Edgar's education proposals include giving districts and schools more freedom from state regulations, assuring schools at least 36 percent of state general-fund expenditures, and helping them buy technology with revenues from riverboat gambling.

One big fan of riverboat gambling--and Governor Edgar--is Mayor Bush of East St. Louis. A Democrat, he took the unusual step of endorsing the Republican Governor last fall, largely because he was grateful to Edgar for helping him dock the Casino Queen alongside his city. Along with jobs, the riverboat gives the city a cut of revenues from its $2 admission and its 20 percent tax on wagers.

But detractors of riverboat gambling note that such sources of revenue often dry up. What's more, they charge, the Casino Queen brings social costs to its patrons, many of whom reside in East St. Louis and can ill afford to be tossing out tens and twenties where the odds clearly favor the house.

Mayor Bush maintains, however, that city residents are smart enough to only bet disposable income. And, he says, the boat has been a boon to the city, helping it crawl out debt, slash property taxes, and pay for lots of equipment and services. The gambling operation, which will pay no property taxes for several years because it sits in one of the city's tax-increment-finance zones, nonetheless has enabled the city to donate generously to District 189.

The mayor says he would like to share more gambling revenue with the District 189 but can't commit more unless the city gets a second riverboat. The city, he says, is "not strong enough, as of yet, to divert and share the revenues from the Casino Queen."

Mark from the oversight panel says it's unrealistic to believe the district will get more state money until it "has proven it is doing everything it can to utilize the dollars it gets appropriately." Toomey expresses hope, however, that the oversight panel will be able to prove to state officials that District 189 has cut all of the waste it can and thus force them to concede that the district can't adequately serve its students with the resources it now has.

Superintendent Jenkins is hopeful, too. "It is my feeling that a year from now--five at the most--this district will be completely turned around," she says.

Most of the district's observers laud Jenkins, saying she clearly means well. But they find plenty of reason to warn that, unlike much of city's industry, the political machinery that has ensnared and wrung out District 189 is still out there, working away.

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