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March/April 2017

Ask the Staff: ICSA offers network for in-house counsel
by Kimberly Small

Kimberly Small is general counsel for the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Question:How do IASB, ICSA support attorneys employed in-house by school districts?

Answer: Established in 1987, the Illinois Council of School Attorneys (ICSA), an adjunct to the Illinois Association of School Boards, is a group of 260- plus attorneys who practice throughout Illinois, representing hundreds of public school districts.

Recently, ICSA responded to the requests of some members to establish a new in-house counsel subgroup. This is a group of attorneys who are employed by school districts. These positions are unique and often lonely, as many in-house counsel work alone. The new subgroup of ICSA is designed to provide them time to network, discuss common concerns, and build community.

The first meeting was in November   2015, immediately after the annual ICSA Seminar. Opening remarks were given by ICSA chair Patti Whitten, a partner with Franczek Radelet, P.C. Rick Rettberg, chief legal officer for Peoria Public Schools (Peoria SD 150) led the first meeting by explaining his vision for the in-house group and his background and invited each participant to do the same. The group then discussed some of the burning issues facing their client school districts, and what they wanted to gain from the new ICSA in-house counsel group.

The group’s second and third meetings were held at the IASB Lombard office last May and October. At the May meeting, the IASB Office of General Counsel secured one hour of free continuing legal education credit for the group, inviting the Illinois Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) to present a discussion entitled Ethical Issues for School Attorneys. The group held discussions hosted by meeting attendees on other contemporary legal topics for the remainder of the meeting. Topics covered included student data privacy concerns and SB 100’s student discipline changes.

At the October 2016 meeting, the group hosted discussions on topics including transgender students’ support and inclusion, along with recent state and federal legislation. It also decided to continue its meetings every spring and fall. The next meeting will contain two hours of free continuing legal education. Mary Kay Klimesh, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, is scheduled to lead at least one hour of the continuing legal education portion of the meeting.

Members of this group enjoy networking and learning from each other. If nothing else, they know they are not alone. IASB and ICSA provide a modest lunch at each meeting and also participate in discussions highlighting where the Association can help their clients. This strengthens IASB’s mission to “Light the Way” for its members by developing their competence and confidence through a robust toolkit designed to build excellence in local school board governance by providing in-house attorneys networking opportunities for mutual support.

Membership eligibility

Illinois Council of School Attorneys membership is open to attorneys representing any Illinois school district. For a more detailed look at ICSA membership and benefits, contact Bridget Trojan, administrative assistant, at 630/629-3776, ext.1236; or email her at btrojan@iasb.com. For more information, visit the ICSA section of the IASB website: www.iasb.com/lawdir/.

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