Denise Wildeveld Tapped to Fill Open D161 Board Seat
Wildeveld, who served on the Summit Hill school board from 1999 to 2007, says her main priority will be to help find a creative solution to the district's more than $2 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 school year.
Denise Wildeveld has been chosen by the Summit Hill School District 161 board to fill that body's open seat.
Board members will vote to officially appoint Wildeveld at next Wednesday's regular meeting. She will then be sworn in, filling the seat recently vacated by Dee Molinare, who resigned from the board after taking a seat on the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 board.
Wildeveld was elected to two terms on the D161 board, serving from 1999 to 2007. During that time, she served as the board's secretary, worked on several committees and was involved in passing two referendums. Wildeveld has lived in the district for 20 years, and although her son and daughter are in college and high school, respectively, they both attended D161 schools.
"I am incredibly honored that they have chosen me to fill the open seat," Wildeveld said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "This board of education has worked very hard over the last six months--they've moved mountains--and I'm ecstatic to be a part of it."
The board received 14 applications for the open seat and narrowed the field down to three candidates who were interviewed by board members at Wednesday's special meeting. Members used a points system to evaluate each candidate, with Wildeveld receiving the most points by a narrow margin, a school board e-mail stated. Board Vice President Joy Murphy said in an interview Wednesday night that the points system was the fairest method to use, adding, "Numbers don't lie."
"(Wildeveld's) eight years of experience as a school board member will help her hit the ground running," said board President Mary Kenny in a board e-mail. "Denise has regularly attended school board meetings for the past few years and is excited about the direction the district is moving. Her experience will definitely help when making the tough decisions that District 161 will have to make in the near future."
One of those tough decisions will be figuring out how to resolve the district's more than $2 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 school year, something Wildeved said is her top priority as a board member. Possible solutions to eliminate the shortfall would streamline how the district operates but could result in the closing of a school.
"I want to work with (the other board members) to find creative ways to fix the deficit," Wildeveld said. "It's not going to be a very popular place to be for the next year and a half. I'm fully aware of that. You can't make everyone happy. ... Making cuts and doing those kinds of things is never popular decision."
"I know this deficit didn't happen overnight," she added. "I do know when I get on the board ... we're going to be fiscally responsible. But it needs to have a minimal effect on the students' education because that's what we're here for."
Wildeveld's time away from the board has given her a different perspective on the process, she said. She's been very impressed with what this board has accomplished since April, as well as how transparent it has been with its actions.
Although she expects there to be a slight learning curve, Wildeved said she doesn't think it will take long for her to get up to speed on the board. Some of that confidence comes from the fact that she's served with Kenny and board member Sean William Doyle before, and there's a comfort zone in those relationships. But it also stems from being able to draw on her past experience as a board member combined with her uninterrupted immersion in D161, Wildeveld said.
"Everything they've been through, I've been through," she said. "When I wasn't on the board, I still went to the meetings. And if I couldn't go to the meetings, I listened to the podcasts. Even though I wasn't on the board, I never went away. This school district has always been a passion of mine."
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