ROCHELLE — The highlight of Tuesday’s Rochelle Elementary School board meeting was recognizing two retiring board members, but that moment was bittersweet as both women have been important leaders on the board for 20 years and will be missed.
Jean Tess and Shirley Reif have served 20 years and 18 years, respectively.
“Thanks for your many years of service … and thanks to your leadership, the district has continued to grow and make strides. I feel we’re in a better place because of you,” Superintendent Jason Harper said of Tess and Reif.
Both women said the one of the greatest accomplishments was building a new Lincoln School during a recession, and having the community backing. They explained that because the board and school district were transparent with the community, it made the project a success.
The other accomplishment both are proud of is the integrative/bilingual language program the school district has embraced after years of planning. The two learned of the possibility of a program during a tour of Ruben Salazar Elementary School in Chicago while attending a school board convention.
“We came back all excited and told Todd [Prusator, former superintendent] about it and he had the same idea, but told us that the district wasn’t quite ready,” Tess said. But eventually it all came together, and the program has been a success for the district and community.
Reif attributes the board’s success to the diversity of those on the board. “We all bring something different to the board, different backgrounds and that really works,” Reif said, adding she feels they represent all aspects of the community.
Both agreed that it was the “honor of a lifetime” to serve on the school board and to represent the residents of Rochelle and the surrounding area. While Tess served as the board’s president at one time, Reif said she preferred to work behind the scenes on district issues.
Other board members thanked Tess and Reif for their time on the board, but Tess drew a huge laugh from the crowd when she pointed to the remaining members and announced, “You are now officially the old guys.”
Additional coverage of the elementary school board will be in Sunday’s edition of the News-Leader, but look for information on applying for a vacant board seat in today’s newspaper.
Rochelle Community Consolidated School District 231 is accepting applications to fill the vacancy of board member, Jean Tess, who did not run for another term.
The open term starts on May 11, 2021 and the term expires after the April election of 2025.
Rochelle Community Consolidated School District 231 continues to work to grow students for future success. Applicants should show familiarity with the board’s policies regarding general duties and responsibilities of a board and a board member, including fiduciary responsibilities, conflict of interest, ethics and gift ban. The board’s policies are available by request.