New board members take on significant role in 202

Lane Abrell, District 202 Superintendent

As we approach the end the school year, another important part of public schooling has just started.
The District 202 Board of Education on May 1, 2017 seated two new members, along with re-seating two incumbent Board members who were re-elected.
These four, along with the three Board of Education members who were not up for election this time around, will oversee every aspect of the incredibly complex, and vitally important public education system that serves and supports nearly 28,000 children, employs about 3,100 adults and manages $292 million in public tax dollars.
Serving on a local Board of Education is one of the most significant roles a community member can undertake, given the position’s immense responsibilities. Local School Board members oversee the governmental system that provides education for our children, provides work for scores of community members and jobs and accounts for about 65 percent of the local property taxes that homeowners pay.
Interestingly, these elected officials do all of this for free. Hard as it may be to believe, local Boards of Education are one of the few, if not the only elected bodies in Illinois who do not get paid for their work.
In Illinois, there are about 860 school district in Illinois, ranging in size from less than 100 students in the smallest communities, to hundreds of thousands in Chicago. District 202 currently is the fifth-largest public school system in the state.
Each one of those districts has its own duly elected group of community members who have volunteered to try to improve their community by improving their schools.
Primarily, Boards of Education create the “roadmap” for the local school district by setting, monitoring and enforcing policies. District administration and staff then implement those policies.
Of course, as with most things, nothing is possible in public education without money. So Boards of Education also oversee their districts’ purse strings. The local Board of Education is responsible for deciding how to best use their local resources to meet their community’s educational priorities and needs within the strict confines of their local checkbook.
Because Illinois relies on local property taxes for the bulk of its education funding, some of those districts have enough money to give their students every possible academic and social advantage, while some barely have enough to keep the doors open.
Mix in the extremely complicated, highly politicized factor of state funding – which continues to fall woefully short statewide — and the job of Board of Education gets even more difficult.
Different Boards of Education operate differently. Some meet once a month, some several times. Some do all of their business in one sitting with the full Board. Others (like District 202) farm out most of the “heavy lifting” to several committees.
What’s more, Boards of Education do all of this work fully in the public eye, subject to scrutiny and criticism (and sometimes a little well-deserved praise) from the very taxpayers, families, staff and students that the Board serves.
Other elected officials get much more media attention, and all elected officials affect our lives in meaningful ways.
Yet none affect the average citizen more directly than those who serve at the local level – municipal, county, township, park, library and schools. Their actions directly provide the services that we need and rely on every day.
We in District 202 often talk about “partnering” with our parents, students and staff in our work to make District 202 the best possible school system that our resources will allow.
That work simply could not happen without the leadership, vision and guidance of the seven members of our Board of Education.
On behalf of our administration and staff, I wish our new Board of Education best luck as we work together to Prepare Learners for the Future in District 202.