Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My letter of introduction to the SBCSC Board of School Trustees

I’ve lived in the area for the past twenty-three years – first near Riley High School, now in Center Township.  I’m married to Dr. Patricia Blanchette (Paddy), Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, and together we have a ten year old daughter, Sarah.  Sarah has nearly completed her experience at Hay Primary Center and is enrolled at LaSalle Academy for the next academic year.

I’m a product of a world-class public school system.  I was born in and grew up in Evanston, IL.  Everything in my life has been made easier because of the education I got there.

My interest in the local school system naturally increased as our daughter approached Kindergarten age.  Paddy and I took the search for the best program very seriously – as any parent would.  I wrote of our experiences in a three part series:

As it turns out, we couldn’t be more pleased with our decision.  Sarah has had a fantastic experience at Hay, and is clearly ready to take the next step.

The search for the best intermediate program went a bit differently.  I wrote about that as well.


As a Dream Team Mentor, I worked with a young boy at Eggleston (prior to my marriage).  As a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, I’ve worked with children attending Wilson, Monroe, and Marquette – sometimes, only for a while. 
These experiences have exposed me to many, many issues.

I also devote time and study to state and national education issues.  I’m a member of the Network for Public Education, chaired by Dr. Diane Ravitch, founded the South Bend chapter of Parents Across America, and network with many other public education advocacy groups around the state.

My leadership experience dates back to High School.  At the YMCA’s Illinois State Youth & Government I won office and presided as Speaker of the Illinois House in Springfield.  At Southern Illinois University-Carbondale I was elected Senator, Senate Finance Chair, later, Senate President.  I also served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Illinois Student Governments (AISG).

I have experience working on other Boards  – and working for them.  I served several years on the Board which plans and operates the Mathew 25 Habitat for Humanity house build in South Bend.  I also served five years on the Board of Trustees of First Unitarian Church – including two terms as President.  I’m not unfamiliar with Board dynamics, nor the time investment required to serve well. 

And I really enjoy my role as a House Captain in the annual St. Joseph County Rebuilding Together (formerly Christmas In April) program.  I come from a family where service to the community is an important part of our identity.

Thank you for taking time to read this.  I look forward to answering your questions on May 28.

Don Wheeler

What do you think it symbolizes?