Front Page

By Theresa Kelly Gegen

To the many individuals reading the Illinois School Board Journal for the first time, I join in welcoming you to the role of a member of the board of education. At this point, you may be overwhelmed with in-formation. That’s normal, reasonable, and even essential for the first year. Remember, everyone was new once. 

And, to the many individuals reading the Journal who are continuing in their roles: Remember, every-one was new once. 

The Journal is one piece of the many efforts of the Illinois Association of School Boards to help you grow into your role as a school board member. Every other year at about this time, the Journal asks experienced school board members for advice and encouragement to the new wave of board mem-bers joining this important circle. I am grateful for all the veteran board member contributions, and you can read their words of wisdom starting on page 18. 

For starters, I want to point out one of the responses we received in this round of questioning. We asked, “Thinking back, what do you wish you had known before you joined the Board of Education?” and the very first answer received was from Terrie Golwitzer of Bradley CUSD 61, who said: 

“I wish I had learned earlier that most people that come to you with a problem just want to be heard. To feel like someone has paid attention to their issue and understands their point of view even if there is absolutely nothing I could do about it.” 

I hope everyone takes this answer to heart. It covers both the importance of listening and the reality that a single board member can’t fix everything. 

Somewhere between taking the oath of office and fixing everything is a sweet spot of service. As you begin or continue your work on behalf of your district and its community, remember why you joined or ran for the school board in the first place. Everyone’s compelling reasons are a little different, but most can be encapsulated. When we survey school board members about why they choose to join their local boards of education, the vast majority agree that it’s because they value public education. Other top answers were “to make a specific improvement in the schools” and “to fulfill my civic re-sponsibility.” 

Consider why you started. Do those answers fit your reasons? Or do you have other factors in mind? It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or a 20-year member of your board. The post-election board or-ganization is a great time to look at where you began, review what brought you to this work, and move forward with your mission as a board member to help our community realize its vision for public edu-cation. 

We also asked our team of experienced board members, “What advice do you have for 2023’s new school board members?” And although there were a lot of good answers, as you can read elsewhere in this Journal, there was one brief phrase that appeared in everyone’s advice. 

Ask questions. 

I hope everyone takes this answer to heart, too. It’s important. 

So again, welcome, and good luck to everyone! Heed the advice you’ll find here. Remember that “Most people that come to you with a problem just want to be heard.” Listen to them. And ask ques-tions. Listen again, and ask again. Keep listening, keep asking. 
Theresa Kelly Gegen is Director of Communications/Editorial Services for IASB and Editor of the Illinois School Board Journal. You can ask her questions at