Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper Gilbert & DiNolfo, Ltd. uses its wealth of experience in all aspects of school law to represent school districts and other educational entities throughout Illinois. In our role as school board attorney we help clients assess the legal consequences of their decisions. We endeavor not only to keep abreast of the law, but also understand the practical issues facing our school district clients. We believe it is important for us to identify issues on the horizon and work in partnership with the school district board and administration to craft effective strategies and solutions.
Our attorneys are experienced in areas of labor and employment law that are particular to school districts. These include the remediation of tenured teachers, discipline and dismissal of teachers and support staff, accommodation of disabled employees within the educational setting, and the development of employment contracts.
We have engaged in a wide variety of collective bargaining methods. Our attorneys have served school boards in traditional bargaining, expedited bargaining, collaborative bargaining, third party neutral bargaining, and limited issue bargaining. We also act as collaborative bargaining facilitators, and are regularly requested to make presentations on labor and personnel related issues. Once a contract has been negotiated, we assist in the contract’s administration. We regularly represent clients in grievance and unfair labor practice proceedings.
During the collective bargaining process, as well as in other situations where a school district client receives significant attention from the media and public, we have assisted the school district in preparing appropriate press releases and in responding to inquiries as they are received. If clients prefer, one of our attorneys will respond directly to media inquiries on their behalf.
We advise school district clients on increasingly complex student concerns involving discipline, residency, and constitutional issues such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, search and seizure, equal protection, and due process. Examples of recent matters handled include addressing the needs of students with severe allergies in the school environment and determining the appropriate approach to student expression that has been intertwined with religious issues.
OTTOSEN BRITZ represents school districts in all aspects of special education matters. We provide educational training to prepare clients to comply with the myriad of legal obligations relating to students with disabilities. We assist our clients with IEP meetings and represent school districts in mediation, due process hearings, OCR investigations, state lawsuits, and federal lawsuits filed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Our experience includes representation on such issues as eligibility for special education services, ADD and ADHD, independent educational evaluations, response to intervention, least restrictive environment, appropriate placement, promotion vs. retention, attorney’s fees, and the interchange between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act and the No Child Left Behind Act.
Litigation and Administrative Matters
Although our primary emphasis is on helping clients avoid litigation, we are effective courtroom advocates for school districts if conflicts do arise. Our attorneys have considerable experience in state and federal judicial proceedings including the Illinois and United States Supreme Courts. The Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Illinois and federal Departments of Labor, and the Office of Civil Rights are among the administrative agencies before which we appear regularly on behalf of our school clients.
School districts often seek our advice on business and financial affairs. This advice includes negotiating financial plans with the Illinois State Board of Education and underwriters when necessary. Our attorneys work closely with clients to develop creative and effective solutions to budgetary concerns. We advise clients in the making of interfund loans and transfers and using the working cash fund and tax anticipation warrants to meet cash flow needs of their school districts. When a tax rate or bond referendum is necessary, we draft the required resolution and ballot proposition, advise clients on compliance with the Election Interference Act, and act as issuer’s counsel on every type of bond transaction.
Policy and Procedures
Our firm is actively involved in policy development for our school district clients. Each year we identify those new laws and regulations that create either a mandate or need for policy development by our school district clients, and we assist our clients in developing new policies that are appropriate for their needs.
School Construction & Real Estate
Our real estate practice emphasizes representing school districts in negotiations with developers, architects, construction managers, and general contractors. We handle all aspects of the land acquisition and building process to achieve a fair contract and maintain a smooth working relationship. This includes work with title companies, architects, general contractors, construction managers, and numerous governmental entities in pre-construction, administration, and post-construction issues like latent defect claims and mechanic liens on private and public construction. Because we understand pre- and post-construction concerns, we are effective advocates for our clients in all aspects of negotiating, drafting, and administering the building process.