September 19, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO School Board Candidate Susan McLain Q and A

There are five candidates running for four open seats on the SJO School Board.

Why are you running for school board?
Running for a position like this starts with the commitment to and interest in serving the community. In the past, I’ve served in a variety of roles I feel have prepared me to serve well in this capacity. I was on the Prince of Peace Community Early Learning Center board for multiple terms, and over the years I’ve served in many volunteer roles in my local church including council member/officer, Vacation Bible School Co-Director, Sunday School teacher, and Ministry and Resource Development committee member.

This past fall, I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the SJO high school board, and it’s been an amazing opportunity for which I’m very grateful. There are so many exciting things going on in the district, and I still have a great deal to learn, so with the community’s support, I’d welcome the opportunity to continue to serve on the board.

What is the biggest challenge facing school districts?
I think the biggest challenge facing school districts is that districts are expected to balance resources to meet very diverse, and potentially competing, needs  – things like making the learning environment one in which all students feel safe and can excel; engaging, developing, and retaining talented faculty and staff; offering diverse extra-curricular activities; planning facilities improvements; understanding and responding to what matters to the community; etc. – all in the face of potential budget impacts over which we have little direct control.

What is SJO’s greatest strength?
I’d say there are two equally awesome strengths of our district: (1) community support and (2) an amazing team (administrators, faculty, staff, students) who care deeply and work tirelessly and intentionally to set a positive culture for SJO. The level of investment and shared responsibility/accountability is noteworthy!

What do you think your biggest strength is regarding serving on school board?
I’m deeply engrained in the community, of course I graduated from SJO, and my identity is rooted in this community – I’ve lived in St. Joe for nearly 50 years (49, but who’s counting). Our kids have also gone to school in our community (one is a current SJO student, the other graduated in 2017), so we have first-hand experience with the positive impact. I believe that’s an important message to share! My professional roles at the University of Illinois over the past 34 years have provided background, experience, and collaboration opportunities beneficial to a board role as well. A couple cool things I get to focus on in my current job are employee engagement and organizational culture – basically, providing an environment people want to be part of so they can make their best contribution every day. The Board and the district understand and value these things, too. Board members are recognized for their unique backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and the things they do well, and the district offers a positive environment that infuses learning with humanity and humility. It’s all about heart, and I totally want to be part of furthering that impact in the community.

Tell me about your family.
I work in Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS) at the University of Illinois as the Director of Strategic Human Capital. I graduated from SJO in 1984, and I have a BS in Communications/Advertising and an MBA from the University of Illinois. I’ve been married to my husband, Marty, for 23 years. He attended the University of Illinois, has a BS in Aeronautical Engineering, and he also works for AITS. Marty and I have two children. Mira is a 2017 graduate of SJO. She’s at UIUC, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Spanish. Mason is a junior at SJO. He is an absolute sports nut, and he’s on the varsity baseball team. Go SJO!

For information on where to vote click here.

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