By Steve Robinson | April 28, 2017 - 10:36 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Steve RobinsonApril 26’s Unit 5 School Board meeting heralded a big change for the district as the longest serving member, Gail Ann Briggs, and one of the Board’s financially-insightful members, John Puzauskas, exited after 41 years and 12 years, respectfully.

The occasion marked the start of a new era for the Board as Taunia Leffler and David W. Fortner took their seats for the first time. Going into this first meeting for both, Leffler said, “I’m just really excited. It’s going to be a great opportunity.”

Taunia Leffler said she has already been involved in community service that focuses on meeting kids’ needs to help them succeed academically. Being on the Board, to her way of thinking, “is just another way to further that motivation.”

“I want to make sure that, as we are focused on budget issues, including the $8 million deficit from the State on categoricals, that we take care of our schools, our kids, our teachers, and making sure that they have what they need so that we can all be successful.”

Under normal circumstances, school districts would be receiving on a regular basis what are termed categorical payments by the State to help reimburse districts for the cost of things such as special education, bilingual education, and transportation, among other services. The State of Illinois has been slow in providing such payments on a regularly-scheduled basis during its financial crisis, and been even slower since the State has gone nearly now two full years without passing a complete annual budget.

Leffler said her running for a seat on the Unit 5 School Board was done because she wants to see students in the district do well so they can graduate, get jobs, and become productive citizens.

David W. Fortner, a Carlock resident, has been a teacher, as is his wife. He has taught high school math including Calculus. Currently, he works integrating information technology for schools for a company called Integrity Schools. In essence, he helps different computer systems communicate with one another.

“What I’ll bring to the table is experience in education as a teacher. Number one, I’ll fight for students,” he said. He added he believes that if students are empowered to take a role in their education, they learn a lot more.

Both of these folks, as a result of their experience, will bring different perspectives to the Board. It’ll be interesting to see what ways their perspectives will influence the Board’s direction in the future.

New Board President Elected: Congratulations are also due to the new Board officers elected: Jim Hayek, Jr., President; Barry Hitchins, Vice President; and Joseph Cleary, Secretary. All three were elected by acclamation.

One of the things Hayek said in remarks he made after being elected to the post was to thank the families of Board members for their sharing the experience with their family member.

Hayek told the family members of Board members present at the session, “There will be issues that arise that will weigh on these Board members both mentally and physically, and your willingness to support them through this, in a very real way, is a service you are providing to the community.”

Hayek may have been addressing new Board members’ families, but it was a message we probably wish the whole community could have heard.

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