Warning has ‘passion’ for education
November 23, 2012 4:38PM
Minooka Community High School Board members are Chris Kobe, president; James Butterback; Debra Warning; Karen Buchanan; Mark French; Dr. Douglas Kaufmannn and Jeff Wunderlich. | SUBMITTED PHOTO
Updated: December 27, 2012 6:08AM
Nov. 15 was proclaimed school board members appreciation day by the Illinois Association of School Boards, a voluntary organization whose goal is to strengthen public schools through local citizen control (the board members).
Local school boards started back 200 years ago and grew out of the town meeting format. Their goal was to make sure local citizens had control over public education.
The goal is still the same today and our school boards should represent all citizens of the school district.
Minooka High School Board member Debra Warning has served on the high school board since 2003 when she was appointed to complete an unfulfilled two-year term. She then successfully ran for two additional four-year terms.
While Warning will be resigning from her position just a few months short of the expiration of her term to take a seat on the Grundy County Board, I thought she would be an interesting board member to talk to about doing the job that many people love to hate.
I wondered what it takes to be a person who wants to sit on a school board, sometimes making people very upset about school spending with taxpayer money, making changes in policy or curriculum that might negatively affect the few but be better for the majority, and having to vote to expel a student — and what might a person get out of it.
One of the reasons I chose Warning, besides that she has been on the high school board for the longest at this time, is that she has homeschooled her own children. That made me wonder even more why she wanted to fill that position.
Being a school board member isn’t just about your own children, Warning said. She wants to be assured that all children in the community have an opportunity for good programs and a great education.
“I have a passion for great education,” she said.
She also pays taxes to the school districts and wants to see her money spent wisely.
“You do what’s best for the kids, but in the balance of what’s best for the community,” she said. “There is limited money. It’s a balancing act.”
Warning sat on four committees during her seat on the board — technology, transportation, policy and curriculum.
In her positions she had a hand in deciding on the best curriculums for students, she reviewed, changed and helped set policies for the district and kept up on state policies and legislative issues that affect all schools in Illinois.
Teaching students to be life-long learners is important and board members model that behavior when they get involved in issues affecting the district that they might not already be informed of.
“You have to be willing to learn,” Warning said.
A school board has to have a cross section of community members so that many interests are represented. Different backgrounds and ideas bring more to the table.
With diversity also comes differences of opinions; sometimes Warning butted heads with other board members. But she knew it was important to have her voice and her opinion heard, even if she found herself in the minority.
“You can’t take things personal,” she said. “You give your opinion and you move on.”
The saddest part of being a board member for Warning was voting on student expulsions. No one wants to do that, she said, but everyone needs the school to be a peaceful environment.
Warning gained a more sympathetic viewpoint for the work that teachers do, she said. As a homeschool parent she knows how hard it is to teach when you have full authority. Public teachers do the best they can with the volume of students they are given and don’t have full authority.
“It’s a difficult job, but a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child,” she said.
While being a school board member can also be a difficult job at times, there are many benefits as well.
Doing community service and trying to make her own difference in the lives of young people are high on Warning’s list.
Handing out diplomas during graduation has always been one of her favorite parts.
“It’s an important day in (a student’s) life. To be a small part of that is a treat,” she said. “It’s very exciting and an honor.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at email@example.com.