MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – An underperforming school district in the Illinois Metro East with fewer than 100 students is costing taxpayers millions of dollars to operate. Parents in Madison County gave their district a failing grade and called on FOX 2 to evaluate this deal for taxpayers.

The Venice School District runs only one school building, caters to exactly 93 kids, and costs $3 million per year. On top of that, district leadership received state funds to build a brand-new school for the kids, to the tune of $26 million.

Parents say they’re fed up with the way their district is being run.

“I have a lot of concerns that building is not suited for those children,” Marquia Tyler said. “Everybody is on top of each other. Lunch is not adequate; they do not have hot lunch. The education is poor.”

The school building is located in Granite City. Students have been going there for approximately two years. There’s no adequate cafeteria or kitchen space, and there’s no library for the kids. Teachers have to share classrooms.

But the administrators are getting paid plenty. Superintendent Cynthia Tolbert makes $145,000 a year. A principal and a finance director both earn $95,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the district is performing near the bottom of Illinois academic requirements. It’s frustrating for parents like Brenda Edmonds.

“They’re not learning the proper math for their grade level; the proper reading. They not learning at their grade level,” she said.

FOX 2 contacted Superintendent Tolbert and inquired about folding the Venice School District into another, more stable district and save taxpayers money?

“That’s a great question. So, when the building was condemned in 2020, our goal with the board of education was to find a home for our students,” Tolbert said. “Due to our location in Granite City, now we are not in our home community.”

A merger with Granite City Community Unit School District 9 was never discussed, Tolbert said.

As for the $26 million new school, the district applied to the Illinois Department of Education for the money and had the support of local legislatures. Tolbert does not think it’s a waste.

“We are part of a bigger picture for the Venice community,” she said.

Tolbert said Venice is hoping to build new housing and bring in new businesses, and having a functioning school district is important. But parents are concerned about what’s happening now.

The new school is supposed to be finished by 2025.