Sally Stewart presided over her final Wellington school board meeting Dec. 19, saying goodbye after 12 years of public service.
District superintendent Ed Weber read a proclamation in Stewart’s honor and fellow board members presented her with a plaque.
Elected for the first time in 2005, Stewart opted not to run again this fall.
She said her initial desire to seek a board of education seat stemmed from being a lifelong village resident who was unhappy with the status quo.
“Until you’ve sat on the board, it’s hard for someone to understand what we can do and what we can’t do,” she said. “You need to come to every meeting to be updated and not just come to one meeting when something goes awry. If you don’t like what the district is doing, run for school board and get involved.”
Asked what she feels are the board’s biggest accomplishments during her tenure, she pointed to the construction of the new McCormick Middle School, bringing back advanced placement classes at Wellington High, and continued improvement in technical education.
“Getting McCormick built was a huge step forward,” she said. “We’re definitely moving forward into the 21st century. Basically, you now have to sell your district. People now have more choices than ever of where to send their kids and you have to offer more. That can mean classes, clubs, sports, or any program. You just have to make the district more attractive.”
“It was always very special to me to see kids recognized at our meetings,” she said. “It’s always all about the kids. Their accomplishments always need to be pushed to the forefront.”
One regret Stewart voiced: She wishes the board had green-lighted the construction of a kindergarten-through-12th grade school for the entire district.
“I think that would have solved a lot of our money issues early on,” she said. “I think it was defeated by only 16 votes its first time on the ballot. It also would’ve meant new athletic facilities and that would’ve been very exciting. Sometimes we were dealing with issues that didn’t let us address current ones as much as we would’ve liked.”
Stewart has some advice for the next school board president. She said they should follow their instincts and stand by their principles.
“Listen to the people around you,” she said. “Have an idea of how things should be and work to achieve that. I got involved when I noticed certain programs being cut. If you care about what’s going on, you can do something about it.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.