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Article posted: 10/16/2013 5:41 PM

Legal fees focus of new St. Charles schools lawsuit

Don Schlomann

Don Schlomann

 
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The newest lawsuit involving the creation of the grade level centers in St. Charles Unit District 303 will be about money, not the law.

District officials have waged a legal battle with a group of parents seeking to revert the Davis and Richmond grade level centers back to traditional elementary schools since 2011. A judge recently refused that request but ordered the district to write a new plan to address student groups at Davis and Richmond labeled as failing by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The plan must include parent and community input and allow parents to move their students out of Davis and into another district school for the first time.

The parents behind that lawsuit are appealing the ruling to a higher court in an attempt to still force the undoing of the grade level centers.

The new lawsuit, however, involves a possible end to all the legal battles. The suit seeks payment of all the legal fees the parents have incurred the past two years. That bill is now at about $160,000. A statement issued by Superintendent Don Schlomann Wednesday said the district will fight against using tax dollars to pay that bill.

"These additional legal actions against the district were not completely unexpected," Schlomann said. "The plaintiff's attorney had threatened to file appeals and/or new lawsuits against District 303 unless we agree to pay his fees and costs. Because we are committed to using the district's finite resources for the benefit of our schools and students -- not to paying out public tax dollars to people who disagree with the board's decisions -- this demand was rejected."

Schlomann added that the fight against the fees is also about protecting "both the reputation and the financial stability of our district."

Tim Dwyer, the attorney for the plaintiff families, said if the district was interested in its reputation and students, it would not have rushed to put the grade level centers in place. Dwyer pointed to the judge's ruling that the grade level centers were not unlawful, but they did appear to be an attempt to usurp the corrective actions mandated by No Child Left Behind. "They still think they didn't do anything wrong," Dwyer said. "That's crazy. Apparently, they want to continue to litigate as to whether they did anything wrong. They can settle all these cases if they just pay the plaintiffs' attorney's fees."

School district officials spent $316,945 defending the grade level center lawsuits through Aug. 31. Insurance covered about $75,684 of that total.

A court date was not available Wednesday on the new legal fees lawsuit.

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