Departing D212 board member learned a lot in two decades
John Mick takes part in his last meeting of the Leyden 212 Board of Education on Jan. 24. | Mark Lawton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:20AM
On Jan. 24, John Mick resigned from the Leyden Board of Education after more than 19 years. Board president Greg Ignoffo credited Mick with “an absolute passion for the district and our kids and their future” and described him as “excellent at getting other board members to bring our their points of view.”
Q - What is your day job?
A - Regional manager for an engineering firm. Most of my time is spent listening to clients and prospective clients. I figure out their needs and match them with our services.
Q - What was your life situation when you joined the board of education?
A - I was an engineer in mid career. When I was first asked, our (four) children were in grade school.
Q - Was District 212 your first time on a school board?
A - I served on the board of St Gertrude’s Catholic school in Franklin Park. I was school board president for a few years. Our school was going to close. We led an enrollment campaign. The school stayed open a couple years. My children went to St Gertrude’s then finished up in public schools.
Q - Between work and family, it sounds like you were pretty busy. Why did you join Leyden board of education?
A - To make a difference. I was told Leyden, the high school board of education has always prided itself on not being a political animal, but a public service. I didn’t do this to be a sanitary commissioner or village trustee or hold higher office. I wanted to impact children in a positive way.
Q - What are the responsibilities of a board of education member?
A - Set and monitor a budget. Appoint a superintendent. Serve as ombudsman to the community. Establish and monitor policies.
Q - Anybody offer you advice when you first joined the board?
A - Gloria Murawska gave me advice from a teacher perspective. Rich Nardini gave me the business perspective because he was on the Sun-Times. Joe Pessitti was more reflective, he taught me about listening rather than speaking.
Q - How long did it take you to learn your way around?
A - I would say about a year. I would tell a prospective member, never take a position to change something. You don’t take the office to do anything quickly. You get on the board for all the children, for the long view.
Q - What did you learn during your time on the board?
A - How to serve. You serve as a leader but always get out of the way and let the staff and administration do great jobs.
Q - What else does a board member need to know?
A - First, to listen to consumer-constituents. Second, get them connected to people in the building. Third, strategic direction. Help the superintendent understand where the community wants go with education.
Q - What challenges has District 212 faced over your years on the board of education?
A - State mandates and state unfunded mandates. Every day Leyden is faced with state rules, procedure and guidelines. Some make sense, some don’t. They tend not to be funded. (Also) serving a changing customer base. We have students from 60 to 80 nations who speak 40 to 50 languages at home. And working to serve (students) in very old buildings. East Leyden is over 85 years old. West Leyden just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Q - What were the most interesting times?
A - The most exciting 18 months was when Leyden 212 decided to try to raise our taxing rate via referendum. It hadn’t been changed in 50 or 60 years. I volunteered to lead the Franklin Park part of the campaign. We found 90 volunteers ranging from grade school students to senior citizens.
Q - Anything else?
A - Watching my four children cross the state at Rosemont (theater) when they graduated. The whole Google experiment (laptops to every student).
Q - Why have you resigned?
A - My company is doing well. It’s requiring more of my time. Also, I’ve served for almost 20 years. I felt it was OK to allow someone else to have the wonderful experience of being a public servant.
Q - Any advice to your successor?
A - Be open to excitement and imagination. Be a listener. Don’t be afraid of a challenge. Remember, you’re on a team, you’re not alone. Let it take time. Its like pole fishing. That fish may not come for a couple hours. Take the long view.