City council establishes truancy hearing department

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116241149621589.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Adam Smith fields questions from Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1) during the City Finance and Personnel Committee.’);

At the Oct. 30 meeting, the Rockford City Council voted to hire Rockford attorney Kathryn Bischoff for the position of Truancy Hearing Code Officer and approved an intergovernmental agreement for administrative hearings of truancy cases.

Officials said Bischoff has been working with juveniles for more than 20 years and is perfect for the job. She will be paid $95 per hour.

Although technically a city employee, the position is funded by $25,000 approved by the Winnebago County Board Oct. 12.

Additional program funding comes from Rockford Public School District 205 and The United Way.

“All the partners came together,” Rockford director of Education and Lifelong Learning Adam Smith said, “to really provide a system that we feel is gonna really be effective and make a huge impact on truancy.”

Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) cast the only opposing vote on both issues. During the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, McNeely argued the city shouldn’t be in the middle of it unless city funds are involved. McNeely also voiced concerns about pulling an officer off the street to become the city’s ninth school liaison officer, as approved in the intergovernmental agreement.

“I’m not so sure why we put it under the city when, really, the dollars are coming from the county and United Way,” McNeely said after the council meeting. “It’s a school issue. The school district should be dealing with this.”

Smith was quick to point out that, although no specific dollar amount had been reached, city administrators have made significant contributions of time and leadership to the initiative.

City attorney time devoted thus far to the program has an estimated value of $16,000.

Smith concluded less truancy equates more state aid and said the program will deal with the issue quickly and effectively. Truancy hearings, which will be held during after-school hours, are expected to begin in early December.

From the Nov. 1-7, 2006, issue

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