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School board trustee to focus on students in the middle



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May 05, 2010 - When Elizabeth Egan's students sit down for their weekly piano lesson - the first thing she asks is about school.

"I want to tailor my piano lesson with them," said the newest trustee to the Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education. "I like to know how their week is going, if they have a big project and I try to relate the lesson to what they are doing in math, science and art."

As a parent to two high school students she knows what is happening in the classrooms and curriculum. Teaching piano allows her to know what is going on with other schools in the district. It also gives her the students' viewpoint on what is important to them and what struggles they are having.

"When you are on the board you see things from the strategic point," Egan said. "Our kids are unique. They learn differently."

Being a parent and teacher she has noticed the district doing a lot for students with the good grades and bad grades.

"We have great programs for the high end and low end but I think we lose our kids in the middle," she said.

As a trustee she plans to bring it forward while helping the board with the budget and keeping the focus on what the students need.

"You want your kids to have a balanced education," said Egan. "Having different options allows them to see what they really like to do."

Another goal Egan has is for communication - a goal she has seen on the board website and wants to follow it as well.

"I think there is internal communication among the board members," she said. "I would like to see it less tense at times but they have had a tough year (with budget cuts.)"

While each member has a difference viewpoint and opinion they bring to each meeting - Egan embraces it.

"I appreciate all their unique experiences and what each one of them brings. I love the diversity of thought," she said. "I get along with all the board members."

She also is ready if she has to break a 3-3 vote - which she did on her first night on the board, against tabling personnel changes.

"I voted the way I did because it has been a long painful process for the employees in the district," Egan explained. "I didn't want anything tabled. I have attended most of the meetings this year and have seen the employees there. I felt we had to make the decision and move forward. No one likes pink slipping."

She is optimistic the board can bring as many of the teachers they can back after teacher negotiations. If the tough decisions come again she is ready and not afraid to speak up if she has to.

"I have a pretty flexible personality and I can disagree with someone without being disagreeable," she said. "It doesn't mean I won't speak up - because I will. I will be persistent, be an active listener and ask questions."

She is already asking questions towards politicians running during this year's election.

"We are going to hear from a lot of politicians over the summer and fall on schools," Egan began. "They will say they support no new taxes. But if they support schools, where are the funds coming from? It's either a tax payer or a special interest group. I want to hear what our potential leaders are going to say where it is coming from. "

She would like to see parents and the community to speak up as well - with the same experiences and stories they shared during the public forums during February and March and tell Lansing in letters and emails.

"I believe legislators pay attention to personal stories - how the cuts are affecting our kids," she said.

She is focusing on what is going to be important during budget cuts as the district continues to move forward.

She said grant money and union concessions will be important.

"Bus drivers and custodians have given a lot," Egan pointed out. "We are living in a compressed economy. I tell my daughters to save money - save from the time they start working for retirement."

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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