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updated: 12/23/2010 2:16 PM

Thorsen won't seek re-election to District 37 board

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  • Connie Thorsen

    Connie Thorsen


Connie Thorsen describes her 12 years on the Gavin Elementary District 37 school board as "challenging."

That's putting it mildly.

During her tenure -- including six years as president -- she was part of six superintendent changes, pushed to demolish Gavin Central after it was deemed unsafe, witnessed the eventual repair and reopening of that building, then watched as the board president who replaced her was charged with violating state bidding requirements.

"Yea, it's been a bit stressful," Thorsen said. "But, I think I have served my community well for the past 12 years and now, it's time for someone else to take over."

Thorsen, board vice-president Patsy Sales and board secretary Diane Hansen said they will not seek re-election in April.

Only newcomer Dawn Cacioppo has filed petitions to be on the ballot. The district will have to appoint someone to fill each of the remaining two, 4-year terms after the election.

Thorsen's tenure as board president started in 2003, but the stress level ramped up in winter 2005 when a routine inspection of Gavin Central Middle School on Route 59 showed 100 of 400 roof trusses were cracked and failing.

Thorsen, former superintendent Marge Fostiak and the board pushed to demolish the building. The board also filed a lawsuit against the school's former architect and contractor to force them to pay for the facility.

Gavin Central closed and students were bused to Lakes High School and Lake Zurich Middle School for 18 months to continue their education.

However, during planning for the demolition, four of Thorsen's supporters were voted off the board and were replaced by four candidates intent on repairing Central.

Thorsen was ousted as board president, and the lawsuit against the contractors was halted. In the end, a controversial agreement was struck between District 37 and the contractors to repair the facility.

Not long after the repairs were completed, former board president Barb Mende -- the head of the group that ousted Thorsen -- was charged by Lake County prosecutors with bypassing the bid process and hiring a mover to bring students back to Gavin Central. Mende later pleaded guilty to felony charges and resigned.

Thorsen took over as board president in 2009, where she will stay until her term ends in April.

"Gavin was truly lucky to have someone like her in that position," said Sales, who would not discuss why she is not seeking re-election in April. "I really don't think anyone else could have gotten us through it like she did. She is very knowledgeable and very strong."

Thorsen said the ride was exasperating at times, but still rewarding to serve the community.

"It really is unfortunate that the whole situation occurred and the education of students had to be distracted because of the building issues," she said. "But, we did the best we could within the situation to ensure students learned. It really was both challenging and rewarding."