It was one thing for Sue Wentz to run for the East Valley School Board, offering the virtues of change and new ideas.
But it’s another for a busy wife, mother and real estate agent to learn the intricacies of public education in order to offer those fresh insights.
For the moment, she’s busy - and happy - learning the ropes.
“It’s the best thing I ever fell into. The people are all kid-oriented,” Wentz said.
Wentz was the sole newcomer elected to a Valley school board last fall.
In her first few months on the board, Wentz has learned that some weeks she’ll spend 25 hours on her duties; she’ll read mountains of material, some fascinating and some dry. She’ll attend such events as a DARE graduation - “It was adorable!”
The amount of day-to-day involvement in school affairs surprised her, she said.
She has met with the business manager, the head of special services and other administrators in the central offices. Next, she’ll work her way through meetings with each principal in the district.
“I think that the first full year of her tenure, she or any other new school board member will be learning,” said Superintendent Chuck Stocker. “What people need to realize is, you’re walking into a huge organization that has roughly a $30 million budget.”
Last weekend, Wentz and other Valley school board members went to Olympia. They met Valley legislators and other school board directors and discussed the school bills currently under consideration, on such topics as phonics and vouchers.
Wentz listened and learned. And came away with respect for the process.
“I think going and lobbying, even in a small way, is important,” she said. “It makes me wonder how many people actually go and talk to those guys.”
At school board meetings, Wentz has to learn about programs that her colleagues often know inside out. At this week’s meeting, the board was asked to approve next year’s calendar for the district’s modified year-round school. Went quizzed Scott Reed, coordinator of the school.
“I was proud of her for asking those questions,” Stocker said. He pointed out that her real estate background will help the board during future discussions about school sites.
For now, Wentz figures her learning curve may last much of her first term. She’s undaunted.
“About the best thing you can do is offer ideas,” she said.
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