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U46 bids farewell to longtime school board members

U46 Board EducatiPresident DonnSmith (right) presents plaque Joyce Fountarecognizing her 20 years service school board. |Submitted photo.

U46 Board of Education President Donna Smith (right) presents a plaque to Joyce Fountain recognizing her 20 years of service on the school board. |Submitted photo.

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Updated: June 9, 2013 6:28AM

ELGIN — Over the past two decades, School District U46 Board of Education members have heard a lot about Joyce Fountain’s “babies,” the 40,000-plus children in the second-largest school district in Illinois.

And as Fountain, the first African-American woman elected to the school board, finished her last term on the school board Monday night, she pleaded one last time, “Please take care of my babies.”

The school board recognized Fountain and Dale Spencer, both longtime members, at Monday’s meeting. It also seated new board members Veronica Noland and Frank Napolitano.

Board President Donna Smith was re-elected to her seat last month, and to the position of president later Monday night. Neither Fountain nor Spencer had run for re-election this spring.

Fountain, who lives in Elgin, didn’t dream of becoming a school board member as a child, she said, but “life comes in seasons.” And she believes that “from whom much is given much is required, that each of us has a responsibility to commit and serve others, and the season came,” she said.

She has worked for 23 years at Elgin Community College, where she is a sociology professor, and eight at the Housing Authority of Elgin.

In the past two decades, she has held every position on the school board, including board president, an office she held for five years, Superintendent Jose Torres said. She also has overseen three superintendents and participated in the selection of two, he said.

On Monday, she shared her reflections on how education has changed in that time.

“I am very, very concerned that our society needs to stop and take a look at itself. Families have changed, so we realized students weren’t eating, and schools were asked to feed our babies. And the economy changed, and then both parents had to work, and now children needed to be cared for before and after school, and our schools were asked to do that,” Fountain said.

“If only our educators had the luxury of just teaching our student content!”

Spencer lives in Bartlett, where he works in real estate and was co-producer of an independent film company, according to Torres.

He also has been a speaker for 19 years for ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, a nonprofit that educates students from elementary through high schools about preventing spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, the superintendent said. In 2006, Spencer was appointed to the ThinkFirst National Board of Directors.

Going into all those schools convinced Spencer he “wanted to make more of a difference on the macro level,” one of the reasons he first ran for the school board eight years ago, he said. Torres praised the board member’s “commonsense, thoughtful approach to leadership” in that time.

On Monday, Spencer offered his observations and advice to new board members, repeating Fountain’s plea for her babies.

“No matter who says what to you, always think in the back of your head that this is for the students,” he said.

The school board also seated its fifth student adviser to the board for a one-year term — Cesar Dimas, a junior at Larkin High School in Elgin.

Retiring student adviser Diana Castillo is graduating from Larkin and will attend Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., she said. Castillo said her U46 education “prepared me for the future.”

Noland and Napolitano jumped in immediately after being seated with questions about proposals to update security at several school buildings, purchase new computers and finance school buses. Board members will vote on those proposals at their next meeting.

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