School Board Seat 'C' candidate Margaret Gilman has invested a lot of time into the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
She began her involvement with the district as a second-grader at Sears Elementary School in Kenai and continued through high school, graduating from Kenai Central High School. After college, she returned to teach for 12 years. Now, Gilman wants to apply her classroom experience to school administration.
"As a school board member, you set policy," Gilman said. "It's important to have a direct teacher's background, because you know how policy affects teachers."
Gilman taught in the QUEST program, the district's program for talented and gifted students. Because of the program's requirements, she said she had the chance to work in seven different schools during her tenure and learned a lot about the peninsula borough district.
She learned about public service from her family, and said she plans to tap into those lessons.
"I grew up in a family where public service was something that was always discussed," she said.
In fact, public service was a family affair. Her father, Vince O'Reilly, was Kenai city mayor from 1978 to 1983 before being appointed to the office of Alaska deputy commissioner of Commerce during his second term. Her mother, Marge, was a city council member and chair of the Alaska Public Offices Commis-sion.
Kenai Mayor John Williams said her family's influence guided her work as a teacher.
"She's earned an excellent reputation as a teacher," Williams said.
Community involvement, for Gilman, came in the way of being an active parent at her children's schools. She has volunteered with both the Sears and Mountain View PTAs and has served on the Kenai Cooperative Preschool Board and the Sears Elementary Site Council.
"I just do everything," she said. "In general, I can be counted on to volunteer if I'm needed. If you're going to have a kid in the school system, you need to do your best to make school best for them."
Gilman said she has been regularly attending school board meetings since the summer, when she decided to run for the board seat.
Gilman said she is pleased with the education she received from peninsula schools and is happy with the progress she has seen in her children, but she sees room in the district for improvement.
"Ten percent of the borough kids are not in our schools," Gilman said.
"Why? We have to look at what the reasons are and correct them. But we must also give merit to why they left."
She also pointed to a need for improved teacher recruiting efforts.
"People are the district's most important resource," Gilman said. "We need more teachers. That means competitive salaries to attract and retain teachers."
Overall, Gilman sited one goal for the district.
"I want to make this the best education system in Alaska."
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