Although veteran Lawrence school board members Mary Lou Wright and Maggie Carttar will retire from the board this summer, they plan to remain active in local public education.
Ms. Wright, who has served on the board for 12 years, will take part in a districtwide school volunteer program that she helped to establish this spring. Meanwhile, Ms. Carttar, who has been on the board for eight years, is completing her teacher recertification so she can be on the district's substitute teacher list.
Lawrence High School teacher Stan Roth, who has attended nearly every board meeting for about the last 20 years, said he isn't surprised.
"I've watched a lot of dedicated board members come and go, and there couldn't be more dedicated people than these two ladies," Roth said. "They've given great service to the community at fairly low pay, and the community owes a lot to them."
BOARD members actually are paid nothing, so Ms. Carttar and Ms. Wright could be said to be volunteers. The pair were honored for their volunteer contributions both on and off the board at a Central Junior High School reception Thursday.
Carol Pilant, Central librarian, said Ms. Wright and Ms. Carttar often volunteered their time to Central when their children attended the school. Because the two board members have a strong interest in art, Central dedicated on Wednesday the Wright-Carttar Collection of student artwork. Every year, the works of outstanding Central art students will be selected for display in the school.
While that collection will add more life to Central, fellow board member Harriet Shaffer praised Ms. Wright for her efforts to spruce up LHS.
"I think we'll really remember what she's done for landscaping at the high school," Shaffer said of a beautification program spearheaded by Wright, which has resulted in the planting of several trees and shrubs at the school. "That's a real legacy."
MS. WRIGHT and Ms. Carttar believe the Lawrence school board has left other legacies to the district during their tenures.
Ms. Carttar said that when she was elected to the board eight years ago, "the first big responsibility of that board was to select a superintendent."
The board eventually hired present Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander to replace then-superintendent Carl Knox, who was planning to retire. Ms. Carttar said selecting a school superintendent is of utmost importance and is in no way an easy task.
"First of all, you have to know what is it you're looking for. What kind of plans do you want this person to have? How does his philosophy tie in with your philosophy?" Ms. Carttar said. "You are selecting him to administer and to administer in a way that fits in with what you want and where you're going.
"The reason Dan Neuenswander is our superintendent is that his interests and direction tied in with the board's interest and direction."
BOTH MS. CARTTAR and Ms. Wright said they were glad to see the growth of the district's staff development program.
"When I went on the board, we paid lip service to it. It was a joke," Ms. Wright said. "I think the staff development program today is much more meaningful, and it really makes the teachers better teachers."
They also are pleased with the success of the Developmental First Grade, or D-1, program, in which kindergarten graduates not yet ready for first grade are given one year of special instruction.
"It's a gift of a year," Ms. Carttar said. "It's a gift of time, so that when you get to first grade, you're not floundering because you're not ready."
Ms. Wright, 50, cited other programs that "I'm not necessarily happy with, but which are necessary and are a sign of the times."
SHE MENTIONED specifically the district's breakfast program, through which students are ensured a healthy breakfast to start off their day, and a planned day care center for LHS, which should make it easier for high school students with children to complete their studies.
"I think these programs are necessary. I don't like them particularly, but I would support them with my dying breath," Ms. Wright said. "We have to provide these things because some kids aren't going to get them anywhere else."
Ms. Wright and Ms. Carttar recently were involved in one of the most controversial proposals in the history of the school board to build a second high school to handle enrollment growth. District voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposed bond issue for the school in November.
MS. WRIGHT said she didn't think the proposal was a "disaster," saying "it raised the conscious level" of problems the district is facing. Many of those are space problems stemming from a district enrollment increase of 1,000 students in the last five years.
"I don't know what's going to happen, but I think people are going to realize that Lawrence isn't the little community that they picture it being, for better or for worse."
Ms. Wright added, "I have no business being on the school board. I'm not comfortable being in front of people and not comfortable having people angry with me. I'm not sure anybody is, but I think some people handle it better than others."
Ms. Carttar, 68, agreed that being a school board member is not always easy. However, she said, "It's been a wonderful experience. It's going to be hard not being where everything's happening."