Member in the News -- Paula DuPont

District 180 isn't like most schools in the western suburbs. And School Board President Paula Dupont is just as extraordinary.

The Burr Ridge resident received the 2010 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award Sunday at the annual joint meeting of the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

The ISBE award recognizes Dupont as the 2010 school board president of the year.

Dupont has spent seven years on the school board, taking on the role of president in 2006. During her tenure, Dupont has seen Anne M. Jeans Elementary School and Burr Ridge Middle School through tough economic times and big changes.

Money is one of many challenges faced by this district, which simultaneously draws students from a large subsidized housing complex and an upscale suburban neighborhood. Dupont has seen District 180 demographics shift from 35 percent low income to 75 percent.

"Under less courageous leadership, this difference in demographics could lead to an openly divisive community, with each segment of the district attempting to put its needs ahead of the other," Superintendent Tom Schneider said in a statement announcing Dupont's honor.

He said that under Dupont's leadership, the school board has continued to emphasize educational excellence for all students.

To help children receive academic assistance, the district, under Dupont's leadership, provides summer and after-school programs. During Dupont's time on the board, the district enhanced the gifted and talented program, re-instated a full-day kindergarten program, revived the middle school music and football programs, and pushed for increased technology use in the curriculum.

Dupont said her commitment to the district is simple.

"I enjoy providing a really quality education to kids who would otherwise not get it," she said.
Dupont's children attended Anne M. Jeans and Burr Ridge Middle School. With her youngest child ready to move on to high school next year, Dupont said she considered ending her board career when her term is up in April. Instead, she will seek a third term.

"My initial thought had been to finish up my term in April and move on," said Dupont. "But we've started some really good things in District 180 and they're not finished. My commitment doesn't really change because my kids are gone."

"We're a unique district with unique needs," Dupont said.

Along with those needs, she said, comes a right to a quality education.

"I think everyone is entitled to a good education, whether they can pay for it or not," Dupont said. "One of my biggest pleasures is when I follow the kids via the local paper to the high school and I see them being successful."