Isis Castro has some advice for Dan Storck and Brad Center. The soon-to-be-former School Board chair advises the incoming school board members for Mount Vernon and Lee Districts, "not to rush into anything, to maintain the quality of schools that we have and to be a good advocate for our schools."
Heady advice from somebody who has had her finger on the pulse of the schools for many years. She dropped out of the race this year because of family issues. During her reign, Castro was involved with the lights at Mount Vernon High School's softball field; the Gifted & Talented (GT) Center at Riverside Elementary School; the driveway controversy at Waynewood Elementary and the new module at Hollin Meadows Elementary School.
"I'm proud of how Riverside has turned out. It was a big controversy putting the GT center there because Riverside didn't have a good reputation. I think as we move along people will realize it's a great school," said Castro.
The school board chair will not be sitting around idly. She will continue her work as executive director at Progreso Hispano for awhile.
"I'm not planning on leaving yet. It's [Progreso Hispano] just starting and I want to make sure that it's going strong," said Castro.
Castro also plans to continue meeting with minority community members because she believes that outreach is so important.
"We need to make sure to promote parental involvement. When parents are involved, the kids do better," said Castro, who realizes that it's hard when parents are working two to three jobs and the cultures are so different.
She feels good about Dan Storck taking her place, and said. "I'm happy that Dan's coming in. He knows our schools, our community and the challenges we face. He's been active in the schools and the community and he has a grasp of what our needs are. We need to make sure that we keep in touch."
STORCK HAS EVERY intention of keeping in touch with Castro. "Isis has been a great support. I plan on consulting with her regularly," said Storck who has spent the past few weeks in orientation and education sessions with the other incoming board members. He feels that her relationship with the school board has made it much easier for him.
"I've been greeted very warmly and positively, not only because of the quality work done in the Mount Vernon District, but also because of the personal relations Isis built," said Storck. "I've enjoyed it [being elected] very much, not just the conversations, but the congratulations as well. Some issues have come up already, but people have been positive and supportive and most are things that weíre already aware of."
So far, Storck is impressed with the information that the School Board has given to them so far. He said that while there's a lot to learn, he's most surprised at how stringent the Freedom of Information (FOI) requirements are. One of the biggest limitations is that no more than two board members can talk to each other without it being a public meeting.
Storck said that the first order of business for the new board will be to elect a chair and vice-chair. He said that he's already aware of members who are interested in the positions. The second thing they will talk about is the superintendent search process.
Storck is concerned that they will have to do the search at the same time as the budget because it will make it harder to devote as much time and attention to Mount Vernon needs as he would like.
He's looking forward to working with Brad Center, school board member from Lee District. One of the issues that will overlap the two districts will be the re-zoning which will be required once the South County High School is completed. Storck doesn't think that it will impact the Mount Vernon pyramid too much, but knows that it will definitely impact the Hayfield pyramid.
"I know that Brad and I will be a great tag team," said Storck.
CENTER SAID THAT he's "feeling very good. I've been playing in this arena for over a decade and know a lot [about the school system]."
Having said that, Center said that he still has a lot to learn about general operations and working on the board.
"I'm very impressed with the school board; they've done a good job of preparing us," he said. "I'm looking forward to taking over and getting involved."
Center said that he has met with the existing school board member, Chris Braunlich.
"Chris brought over about four boxes of files. We had a meeting and discussed issues; it was good to get input," he said.
He also had a meeting with Cluster Five Director Betsy Fenske. Center said that he wanted to meet with her before he started going to the individual schools, something he plans to start doing in January.
"I plan to get to 3-5 schools each month," he said.
He knows that finding a new superintendent is a number one priority, and said, "We will, as a board, get working on it very fast. We will do whatever we can to do it [the search] as expeditiously as we can."
Center was shocked when Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech called to tell him that he was leaving.
"It came to me out of the blue. I was looking forward to working with Dr. Domenech; he's very smart.
"I've got a lot to learn. I'm very excited about the people I'm going to be working with and am very impressed with Dan [Storck]."
Storck and Center were sworn in at a meeting last week at Jackson Middle School. They will take office in January, presiding at their first school board meeting on January 8.