West Side News

Garverick happy back at helm with district in 'very good place'

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As she begins her second stint as South-Western Board of Education president, Mindy Garverick can't help but feel like she's the beneficiary of good timing.

"I'm absolutely looking forward to serving as board president again," she said. "The district is in a very good place with our building project well underway and the progress we're continuing to make academically.

"It's a little bit selfish, because while it's the entire board together that makes things work so well" the board president is in a more prominent leadership role, Garverick said.

"It's certainly a team effort," she said.

The building project is particularly exciting, Garverick said.

"When I came on the board (in 2008), we were struggling to get our budget in a good position," she said.

After the failure of district levies, the board was forced to cut extracurricular activities until Issue 47 passed in November 2009.

The passage of the Issue 8 bond issue in March 2012 allowed for the $260 million facilities project that will include 13 replacement elementary school buildings, renovations to Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods elementary schools and construction of a new Franklin Heights High School building. The state is providing about half the funding.

"Getting the building project started has given us a feeling of super-relief," that the district has been able to turn the corner financially, Garverick said.

Work also is wrapping up on the district's new elementary school boundary map, to be put in place this fall.

The most recent proposed revision was due to be presented at a community meeting Wednesday, Jan. 22. The meeting was the latest in a series to give parents a chance to give their input on the changes, which they also were invited to do through a survey on the district's website.

"The boundary issue has been driven by the public through the different meetings we've had," Garverick said.

A final boundary plan is expected to be voted on and adopted by the board at its Feb. 10 meeting.

The state's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee is being implemented this school year. Third-grade students who have not passed the reading assessment after taking it a second time in the spring will not be promoted to fourth grade.

"We will be taking a close look at how we should be assisting those students who need help," Garverick said.

This year's senior class will be the first required to have taken Algebra 2 and a fourth year of English under new graduation guidelines, she said.

"It will be interesting to see how that impacts the graduation rate," Garverick said.

One of her most important roles as board president is to make sure the board has all the information it needs before making a decision, she said.

"Accessibility is important. I want to make sure everyone in the community has an opportunity and a vehicle to get their concerns and questions addressed," Garverick said. "That can be a challenge in such a large district."

South-Western has "made major strides" in improving its communication with parents and community members, she said.

"We are using every kind of communication that we can, from fliers in students' book bags, to social media and getting translators into our schools to reach out to all our parents."

The district's new phone system allows school closings to be broadcast directly to parents, Garverick said.

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