The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board met Monday evening to say goodbye to outgoing members and welcome new ones as the April election forced a changing of the guard -- though not of the board's leadership.
Donna Smith, re-elected to her fourth term in April, will remain the board's president. Amy Kerber and Traci O'Neal Ellis will also retain their positions as vice president and secretary pro-tempore, respectively, thanks to a vote by the new board, which now includes Veronica Noland and Frank Napolitano.
Joyce Fountain, the district's first African-American woman elected to the board, decided against a re-election bid after 20 years of service. Monday was her last board meeting.
"For two decades, she has served our school district with an unwavering passion for our children," said Superintendent José Torres, highlighting Fountain's leadership and five years as board president. "She's helped shape our policies and worked to create a learning environment focused on academic excellence for all."
Dale Spencer, first elected in 2005, also decided against running for re-election and served in his last board meeting Monday night. Spencer, who is wheelchair-bound because of a spinal cord injury, started speaking to U-46 students about spinal cord and traumatic brain injury prevention in 1994 before running for office.
"Dale has demonstrated an amazing amount of personal strength and is a role model to us all," Torres said.
Spencer said he planned to continue working within the district.
The board's student representative, Diana Castillo, ended her 1-year term Monday and was replaced by fellow Larkin High School student Cesar Dimas. Castillo had a hand in choosing her successor as a member of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council.
"He showed a lot of passion for the role," Castillo said. "He had also been involved with the superintendent's advisory for the past couple of years, so he had a lot of experience and knew what he was getting into."
Board members thanked Castillo for her contributions over the last year before wishing her luck at the prestigious Wellesley College, which she will attend next year with plans to study international relations and Spanish.
Noland and Napolitano took their oaths of office along with the re-elected Smith after Fountain left the board with a request of those left serving without her.
"I've prayed many prayers for this district that we would be blessed with people who have an authentic, genuine understanding that all children have the right to an education, and we can't lose sight of that," Fountain said. "Please, please, please ... take care of our babies."