Daughter, dad school board meeting regulars : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Daughter, dad school board meeting regulars|
|OEHS_freshman has been attending meetings since 7th grade|
|by Lyle R. Rolfe|
Like many high school students, Brittany Allgaier, a 14-year-old Oswego East High School freshman, spends extra time at her school. But she spends that time in a much different way than her classmates.
Brittany spends her extra time at Oswego School District Board meetings which are held on the second and fourth Monday evening of each month in the community room at OEHS.
She also attends the twice monthly Oswego Village Board meetings at Oswego Village Hall.
Brittany doesn't get extra credit for attending the meetings, but says she is learning things her classmates aren't and even enjoys herself.
Brittany has been attending the meetings with her dad, Adam, since she was in seventh grade.
"My dad started coming to be more informed about the community. He asked me one day, 'Who wants to come with me to the school board meeting?', so I went," she said, adding that she has been tagging along ever since.
She is the oldest of six girls and one boy in the Allgaier family.
"I was surprised she wanted to come with me, but she soaks up new experiences like a sponge," said her dad, Alan.
"I just kept going because it was interesting and definitely different than what I had anticipated," Brittany said.
"I thought the school board just talked about school stuff like curriculum and school courses. But I found out there's other factors like property taxes and other things that aren't directly related to curriculum as I had previously thought."
So she learned there's not just one single factor or issue that enters into board decisions.
During school board meetings Brittany, who usually sits in the second row with her dad, can be seen taking what appears to be copious notes about what's being said. But she confessed she's really doing her school homework.
"I don't take notes. I just kind of become immersed in what goes on. I'm not trying to keep a record of what the board's doing to make comments about what they do or say. I just go to kind of get a feel of what they do," she said.
She often takes time after meetings to talk to board members about issues. At a recent meeting, she talked with Board President Bill Walsh, about the STEM school project the school district is planning to participate in.
"It would have my vote," she said.
Some of Brittany's friends know she attends the meetings.
"I get really funny looks. But when they have questions or talk about what the board does, I can say, 'Um, no, that's really not what's happening.'
"Because I am more informed than they are I can help them better understand," she said
Brittany said her friends were saying they thought students received waivers for honors classes and waivers for taking seven instead of six classes.
"They were saying things like, 'They're going to have our parents sign stuff that I don't have to take a study hall.' I was able to tell them that's really not what the board's doing. That's just a rumor.'
"I've been able to kind of educate some of my friends on things the board does," she added.
Brittany has not tried to get friends to join she and her dad at the meetings.
"I don't think they're really interested and it's also time consuming. I live really close to the school so it's not as much of an inconvenience to attend, and my dad is already coming. It would be more of a commitment for them to come," she said.
Occasionally there have been times Brittany said she wanted to walk up to the podium and address the board, about a particular subject. Otherwise, she's not interested in making public comments.
Her father went a step further saying "she whispers in my ear constantly about what they say or should do," he added.
Brittany said her questions to her dad are usually about something she does not understand such as bonds. Or what is "land-cash", a term she heard at an Oswego Village Board meeting.
She could run for a board position at age 18, but said, "I don't know if I ever see myself running for public office or school board in particular. I want to go to college somewhere not in Illinois," Brittany said.
Her dad said he also has no interest in holding public office or dealing with politics.
"I feel the community as a whole is pretty judgmental of those who hold public office. I'm here to better understand and be a better, smarter, and wiser resident," he said.
Brittany noted that village board meetings are shorter than the school board because they have a one-hour committee-of-the-whole meeting before their regular meeting starts. Village board members also talk less about finances than the school board, she said.
"Actually I found it kind of entertaining that at their last (village board) meeting they talked about signs-temporary signs like banners, how long you can put up a sign, how to get permits for signs. That was the bulk of the meeting. It was a priority to them but I don't understand why it was a priority item," Brittany said.
She said she learned board members are not just board members, bad guys or good guys, but regular people who have kids in the schools.
She noted that she can see patterns and similarities in their comments and votes since she began attending the meetings. And she can understand why they make some of their decisions.
"The financial aspects surprised me. I didn't know the schools run on property taxes. The amount-millions of dollars surprised me at first, but not any more when I consider the number of schools. But the size of their debt kind of surprised me," she added.
Brittany said she has a strong opinion on the bond restructuring or refinancing the board approved recently.
"I don't think they made the worst decision but I feel it was one of the best decisions under the circumstances they had to deal with. It will make the public happier now," she said.
"But I think they should pay off the debt as fast as possible so property taxes ultimately go down over time. The bond restructuring only lowers taxes for a year or two and then they continue to rise again. For that few years when the debt is up you might have fewer people moving into the district," she added.
She has not studied her parents property tax bill but said she is aware that the school district gets a very substantial chunk of the tax money.
Her dad concurred saying they get 60 to 70 percent of the property taxes.
Brittany has not talked to any of her classes about the meetings she attends.
"I probably would contribute more if I were taking a government class."
But she was able to use what she learned in a history class. "When the teacher asked if any one knew what bonds were, I was able to answer it," she said.
Her dad said he was surprised Brittnay gets excited and enjoys the long boring meetings.
The family moved to Oswego from Texas about five years ago because other family members were here. Adam started his own business in Oswego--Boo Koo, a computer software business.
Brittany is not sure what she will major in when college comes along, but is leaning toward teaching music because she sings and plays the piano.
"I'd love to take classes for the rest of my life and just learn about a whole lot of things, whether it be government, science, math, history or music just to have that knowledge. I love to learn," she said.