By LeAnn R. Ralph
BOYCEVILLE — After nearly 20 years of serving on the Boyceville Board of Education, Gail Stark has decided it is time to let someone else in the community have a voice on the school board.
Stark, who did not file nomination papers for the April 7 election, first took office in September of 1996 after applying to fill a vacancy when another school board member had resigned.
She ran in her first election in April of 1997.
Stark served as president of the Board of Education for ten years.
She said she initially was inspired to be on the school board after another member of the Board of Education asked her if she would be interested in serving.
“I thought it was a good time for me to get involved as I had a child in the high school, middle school and elementary at the time. I was also influenced by a relative who had been a long-term board member in another district who had shared her experiences with me over the years,” Stark said.
When asked what had motivated her to keep running for the board, Stark said, “continuity.”
“I believe that continuity on the board is important for the district to make advances, and when you see changes being made, you want to continue to be part of the success. I also enjoyed working with keeping our policies and procedures up to date and union negotiations in the past,” she said.
Planning for her personal retirement influenced her decision not to seek re-election this year.
“I am planning my personal retirement and felt it was a good time for someone else in the district to be given a chance to have a voice for the community,” Stark said.
Over the years, Gail Stark has observed many changes in education.
“Students and staff have access to technology, which has changed how teachers instruct in the classroom so they are not always relying on a textbook. Smartboards, iPads, computers, Internet access, e-books, and a variety of software are being used to assist in daily education,” she said.
The federal No Child Left Behind legislation, with its increased accountability and the mandates for school districts that required more testing, is another change Stark has observed.
Open enrollment of students between districts has changed education, too, she said.
And school districts have placed a greater emphasis on programs for student behavior, school safety and healthier school lunch programs, Stark noted.
Along with general changes in education, the Boyceville school district also has changed during the time that Stark has served on the Board of Education.
“The district has updated and improved our facilities and their usage, which has created a better environment for our students and staff,” she said.
“We added a cafeteria to TCE [Tiffany Creek Elementary] and took care of the roof issues, updated our athletic facilities, including redoing our track, added bleacher seating, improved fencing, added a new concession stand provided by the Booster Club and made improvements in the park area,” Stark said.
Boyceville Middle School and Boyceville High School have experienced improvements as well.
“Changes made at the high school and middle school include the new gymnasium, remodeling the old high school gym into a gymatorium, and updates in the oldest gym,” Stark said.
Other changes include “room additions and remodeling of classrooms and restrooms, lighting upgrades, gym floor replacement, blacktopped parking lots, improved signage, installation of security cameras, and the acquisition of some additional buildings and removal of some aging buildings,” she said.
The Boyceville school district has also improved the school transportation fleet, she noted.
Programs and class offerings have changed, too.
The Student Achievement Guarantee in Eduction (SAGE) has reduced class sizes in the lower grades. Other popular programs include four-year-old kindergarten, community education, Senior Tax Exchange, virtual classes, Youth Options, and extracurricular programs such as cross country and Science Olympiad, Stark said.
The constant decline in state aid over the years has brought about changes as well, because school districts must look at ways to do more with less but still keep up required programs, she said.
In recent years, the Boyceville School District has added the Science Olympiad program and has enjoyed enormous success with it.
“Just like all our extracurricular programs, Science Olympiad has added another choice for students to participate in. These programs provide students with additional opportunities to work collaboratively with others, build self esteem, practice time management, and give opportunities to try out experiences in different areas of interest,” Stark said.
“Science Olympiad builds interest in the academic areas of science, math and engineering. Our student success in Science Olympiad may be helping our students determine their career path,” she said.
Now that Stark has retired from the school board, she has plans to spend more time with her family.
“My family is very important to me, and I want to have the opportunity to spend more time with my husband, my three children and their spouses, and my four grandchildren … I love to go camping, and I plan to pick up some different hobbies,” she said.
Although a Board of Education sets policy for a school district, it is the staff that implements the policy, and it is the community that provides support for the school district.
“I want to thank all of the administrators and staff for their hard work and dedication to our district,” Stark said.
“We have a very caring community, and the support for public education is evident. I would also like to thank all the community members who have supported me in the past to serve on the school board. It has been a wonderful experience, and I wish the best to our district in the future,” she said.