Since 1935, KTJ has been representing school districts throughout the Chicago area and Illinois. Our firm has provided services to school districts from Boone County to LaSalle County, while serving numerous districts in Will, Kane, DuPage and Cook Counties. Our clients range from large suburban unit districts and high school districts to elementary districts. We serve both as general counsel to numerous school districts in Illinois, but also serve and support many additional school districts with a wide variety of specialized services or projects. We are a full service local government firm and do not "farm out" litigation, nor do we seek outside counsel to handle specialized areas. Our attorneys are capable and experienced in all facets of this practice area. KTJ attorneys have provided legal counsel to its clients in all areas related to school district operations throughout the years. We offer a wide-range of expertise in all matters which may arise involving school districts. The following are a sampling of these areas of expertise.
Board Practices and Procedures
Our attorneys have extensive experience in advising administrators and boards on general school law matters, including Open Meetings Act issues, the Freedom of Information Act and general School Code interpretations and requirements.
KTJ has advised school districts over the years in all areas of their financial and business affairs of school districts. In addition to the budget and levy process, KTJ has advised districts on all matters dealing with temporary and long-term financing. We have advised our clients on matters including the capacity and power in general to enter into all forms of contracts, the bidding of contracts; preparation and/or review of bid specifications and notices; determination of which bidder is the lowest responsible bidder (and all other questions raised by bidding errors and irregularities); statutory contract provisions (e.g., equal employment opportunities, minimum and prevailing wage requirements, including the preparation of the necessary annual notice and resolution); school bus contracts with bus company vendors, special service contracts and the ability to delegate certain duties in contract situations.
Labor and Employment
Our attorneys assist our clients with matters ranging from their basic compliance with the legal requirements related to personnel policies and handbooks, and the hiring, retention, discipline and removal of employees, to issues or claims related to compliance with state and federal laws, including employment discrimination, prevailing wage requirements, overtime, family and medical leave requirements, HIPAA and the Americans with Disabilities Act. KTJ attorneys have represented numerous school districts in matters related to employee discipline, and in many of these cases, we have been able to negotiate resignations. In others, we have successfully represented the school board in either suspension proceedings or in formal teacher dismissal proceedings before independent hearing officers.
KTJ attorneys are experienced negotiators. Collectively, they have negotiated numerous public school collective bargaining agreements the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association, as well as bargaining agreements with a number of different unions, including the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. We have extensive negotiating experience not only representing school districts but also representing cities and villages in negotiations with police and firefighters as well as other workers. KTJ has handled numerous arbitrations for both public and private sector clients involving disputes as to the meaning of existing collective bargaining agreements. These arbitrations have dealt with a myriad of issues, including disputes over suspensions of employees, class size clauses, lane placements, denial of leaves, seniority clarifications, co-curricular assignments, and many other issues. Our firm has expertise in labor board cases and related litigation matters. See the general section on “Employment/Labor” of this website for further information in this area.
Our attorneys have a broad background in student discipline matters, including expulsions, suspension reviews and related litigation. We have handled hundreds of expulsion matters involving a wide range of issues of student misconduct, including cheating, theft, assaults, gang-related matters, drug possession and abuse. We have served as legal counsel to our boards of education in such matters, as well as hearing officers in various student discipline matters, and in others we have served as the representative of the school administration in the prosecution of student discipline matters.
We have extensive experience in the area of special education, having represented our school districts at every level of the special education system, including attendance at IEP meetings, at mediations, settlements of disputes, at due process hearings and in federal and state litigation involving special education disputes. We know and understand the systems that impact and influence special education practice in Illinois. We have worked with those attorneys and advocates who regularly represent parents and students in this area. Our knowledge of and professional relationships with these persons allows us to explore options other than traditional hearings and litigation to address disputes or conflicts. We work with parents and their advocates in a professional manner, understanding the continuing working relationship the school district administrators and staff will have with these families. Our approach to dispute resolution includes consideration of the most efficient and effective use of school resources for the student as opposed to fees devoted to expensive and time-consuming hearings. If a dispute cannot be avoided however, we serve as strong and determined advocates for our school districts' interests.
A recurring problem with school districts involves students who move into a school district to establish residency, usually because of the desire of the parents to avail themselves of the school's educational program. Because Illinois law requires that a student be a bona fide resident of a school district in order to attend that school tuition free, we regularly consult with, and have represented our school clients on many occasions in hearings or litigation involving the bona fide nature of a given residency.
We have experience in public sector construction law and litigation, including the contract process, mechanics’ liens, leasing, foreclosures and financing. Our attorneys have dealt with all aspects of the construction contract process and implementation, and in dealing with contractor/surety problems associated with unsatisfactory construction and construction failure. Our attorneys have been involved in and counseled our clients on varying competitive bid matters related to construction projects. We have also assisted in the negotiation and review of architects' contracts and those of the general contractor or construction manager relative to public construction projects. We have successfully handled construction litigation relative to these types of projects and have assisted our clients in ensuring timely completion of projects within the agreed upon budget. See the general sections of our website on “Construction Law” and “Property/Real Estate” for further information in these areas of practice.
School Boundary Changes
KTJ has successfully represented our school district clients in numerous annexation and disconnection proceedings between adjoining school districts. We have successfully formed new high school and elementary districts and community unit districts as well.
School Property Issues
Our attorneys are experienced in all types of property issues that affect schools. We have experience in condemnation work and in the preparation of "Naperville-type" ordinances requiring developer donations. We have also been involved in the purchase, sale and/or lease of school sites, with and without buildings, to and from private corporations, granting and obtaining of easements for various purposes, and in the preparation of purchase and sale of personal property. The purchases of personal property have often involved reviewing specifications, bids, and contracts, as well as determining items which must be bid, who was the lowest bidder, the basis for disqualifications of bids, etc. We are experienced in all phases of financing the acquisition of land and the construction of new buildings, including the financing through bond issues (referendum and nonreferendum), life safety bonds, use of current revenues, installment purchase contracts, etc. We have years of experience in tax exemption work involving school property and the handling of tax objections against school property. We have also represented school district clients relative to proposed developments or annexations involving the districts’ interests, including tax increment financing districts. See the general sections of our website on “Construction Law” and “Property/Real Estate” for further information in these areas of practice.
Our attorneys have provided assistance and consultation to our public sector clients relative to their obligations in complying with the Illinois Election Code and related statutory requirements. See the “Election Law” section of our website for further information.
School Law Partners and Associates and Areas of Expertise
For questions regarding School Board Practices and Procedure, please contact Terrence M. Barnicle, James P. Bartley or Scott F. Uhler.
For questions regarding School Finance, please contact Terrence M. Barnicle, Gerard E. Dempsey, Scott F. Uhler or James P. Bartley.
For questions regarding School Labor and Employment, please contact James P. Bartley, Michael J. Duggan, Scott F. Uhler or Thomas M. Melody.
For questions regarding Collective Bargaining, please contact James P. Bartley, Michael J. Duggan or Thomas M. Melody.
For questions regarding Student Discipline, please contact James P. Bartley, Michael J. Duggan, Scott F. Uhler or Thomas M. Melody.
For questions regarding Special Education, please contact Scott F. Uhler.
For questions regarding Student Residency, please contact James P. Bartley or Scott F. Uhler.
For questions regarding School Construction Law, please contact Michael J. Duggan or James G. Wargo.
Forquestions regarding School Boundary Changes, please contact Terrence M. Barnicle, Scott F. Uhler or Michael J. Duggan.
For questions regarding School Property Issues, please contact Michael J. Duggan, Scott F. Uhler, or Kathleen T. Henn.
For questions regarding School Elections, please contact Scott F. Uhler.