“I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to know what’s going on, and maybe put in my two cents once in a while.” That’s how Maribeth Manigold describes the impetus for her involvement with the Ottawa Elementary School District’s Board of Education. But that simple anecdote doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story.
Dedicated to Service
In Maribeth’s case, being the kind of person who “likes to know what’s going on” really means being the kind of person who wants to understand the challenges and problems the district is facing, and how to best go about meeting those challenges.
Her twenty-seven years on the board, and two terms as board President, testify to the fact that she not only likes to know what’s going on and why, but that she excels at putting that information to practical use. “I find that being on the board as long as I have, I’m always learning something new,” she says. “Things change. I feel there’s always a challenge.”
But Maribeth does not shy away from a challenge. And, of all the challenges facing the Ottawa Elementary School District, Maribeth thinks one of the most pressing is educating the public about what the schools are facing. “People don’t like change,” she states. She understands that if the public perceives actions that the district may take as possibly changing something for them, their instinct is often to reject those proposals out of hand. But, if they are given a chance to learn the reasons behind a policy, it can make them change their mind and accept it more readily. She wants to help people understand that the board is committed to always putting students first, to carefully considering how their actions will affect the students, and to ensuring that the outcome will be positive for them whenever possible.
One of her biggest concerns is school funding, and one of her fondest wishes is that funding for schools would be more equitable. She doesn’t believe that the way that Illinois schools have to rely on property taxes for their funding results in a fair distribution of funds. “We’re a lot better off than some,” she says, but continues, “The funding is huge, because if you don’t have that, it’s just constant struggles.” It can be discouraging, not that Maribeth would ever think of giving up. “If you believe in something, then you should work for it, and not sit back and hope that somebody else is going to take it on,” she says. She understands that one may not always be successful in every endeavor, but the simple act of trying may prompt someone else to pick up the baton and tackle the problem from a new perspective. “If nobody says anything, then nothing is going to change,” she explains.
And positive change in the community is what Maribeth is all about. She’s as big a booster for Ottawa as you could hope to find, and is committed to making it the best it can be. “It’s just been a great place, a great place to raise a family,” she says. “You can get involved - as involved as you want. And, obviously I wanted to get involved, maybe more than some people.” Besides the OES 141 board, she also serves on a couple of municipal boards, and volunteers at the local food pantry. “I have enjoyed giving back to the community in the different ways I have, because I feel that I, along with everyone else, reaps those benefits,” she explains. ”If your community is strong, that’s the best thing all-around.” One thing is certain, our community is definitely stronger, thanks to the dedicated service and hard work of Maribeth.
We often ask our interview subjects what they'd do if they had the opportunity to use a magic wand, and Vicki's answer is, while not surprising, still wholesome and authentic to her mission: "I would feed these kids, all of them, free every day. That's a very simple one for me." She prides herself on the quality of food that her program serves and enjoys it when parents can see exactly what's served to their children.
She has sky-high words of praise for the family-oriented schools in her district and would like for that focus to carry on. "I would say, as a parent, or anybody in the community, just support the kids and encourage them," she stresses, "Encourage them to get involved and encourage them to participate and encourage them to socialize." We'll take a serving of that and seconds if they're available, especially if Vicki is behind the vittles.