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Differences bring strength to District 428

DeKALB – The three new members of the DeKalb School District 428 Board believe there is strength in their differences.

With one new member bringing the business experience of operating a 4,500-acre farm, another providing the insight of serving on district advisory committees and the other having a career dedicated to helping youth; the new-look board believes all aspects of a strong school district are covered.

Vickie Hernan-Faivre, Victoria Newport and Mary Hess won their elections Tuesday and will join current board members Tom Matya, Tracy Williams, Cohen Barnes and Nina Fontana on May 7.

“We have three great additions to our board, and obviously, I think the current board will look forward to working with them,” said board president Matya. “I think they will hit the ground running.”

Hernan-Faivre operates a grain farm with her husband and said the financial difficulties she will face as a member of the school board are not foreign to her. She praised the work the previous board accomplished and said she would not be afraid to look for cuts to address the $2.3 million deficit.

Cutting, she said, is better than losing everything.

“When you run your own business, you can’t afford to fail,” she said. “If you do, things like your kids not having a place to live or food to eat are going to happen. You do what needs to be done to make it work.”

Hernan-Faivre’s financial experience is balanced by Hess’ experience with reaching out to youth and leveraging community resources to enhance programs. Hess, an asset specialist with Ben Gordon Center, said crucial financial decisions should not come at the expense of students.

Hess said she hopes to increase awareness about the great programs she sees the district providing every day to help students engage in positive behaviors.

“I get to work with youth and go to the schools, and I see a lot of excellent things happening, but that’s not the news getting out to the community,” Hess said. “I want to change that perception.”

Newport brings a familiarity with the district as she has served on the Finance and Facilities Advisory Committee since October 2011.

Part of her role on the committee has been to approve a subcommittee’s recommendations on how to best spend $21 million in state grant money. The district received that one-time construction grant after finishing DeKalb High School, so officials are free to use it for other purposes.

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