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Alexandria School Board member Sandy Susag reflects on her 12 years on the board

Looking back over her time on the school board, she said she has many “points of pride” that she has had the honor to be involved with.

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Sandy Susag
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ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria Public Schools Superintendent Rick Sansted shared high praise for outgoing school board member Sandy Susag at the Monday, Dec. 19, regular board meeting. Susag attended her last meeting after serving on the board for 12 years.

Sansted thanked Susag for her dedication and years of service, and said she had a passion for music, arts and theater and that she was a great connector, leader and supporter. He said she had a “contagious passion” for students.

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Alexandria School Board member Sandy Susag, second from right, discussed finances at a 2019 school board meeting. Sitting with her, from left to right, are Business Director Trevor Peterson and School Board members Pam Carlson and Alan Zeithamer.
Echo Press file photo

Susag said she has been a long-time supporter of the district and was involved in her sons’ various activities from the very beginning of their school careers.

“The mission of District 206 is to create lifelong learners and I wanted to learn more about the district. When Judy Florell retired, I saw it as an opportunity to run for the school board,” said Susag in an email interview with the newspaper.

Her ‘points of pride’

Looking back over her time on the school board, Susag said she has many “points of pride” that she has had the honor to be involved with.

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One that rises to the top, she said, is the new high school and the “fabulous Performing Arts Center.”

As a longtime community supporter of the arts, Susag said she felt honored to be involved in the initial community task force that assessed the possibility of even building such a facility.

“We talked at length about how large it could/should be, would the community use the facility and how did we differentiate it from being an extension only of the high school,” said Susag. “Oftentimes during construction of the high school, we would hold school board meetings there or do an updated tour of the building and I would often wander through the dirt and in some cases the snow and water (before the roof was on) and try to envision how this would all come together,” she said. “And now, it has become a shining star in this community.”

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Mark Anthony, the master of ceremony for the Bella Notte Gala that took place in 2021, reads out the name of a drawing winner while his wife, Tracey (right), and Alexandria School Board member Sandy Susag look over the crowd.
Echo Press file photo

Susag said she was also happy to be involved with installing the academies model for students at the high school and initiating the A/B scheduling, which arose out of the concern for adjusting start times to coincide with high school students’ needs for additional sleep.

The new additions to Woodland Elementary School, gymnastics and new gyms at Discovery Middle School are also on Susag’s “points of pride” list.

She also said that, “As a school board, we have been fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

‘A rock and a hard place’

When asked what has been the most challenging part of being on the school board, Susag said, “Hands down it has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.” She said it was the classic scenario of being “between a rock and a hard place.”

The huge divide between masking and non-masking was a constant challenge she said.

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“We are a data-driven district and that shapes many of our decisions,” she said. “We also needed to follow the state and federal mandates. Rick Sansted did a masterful job leading our district. He was brand new in his position, but luckily had long-standing experience in our district. It would have been a disaster to have hired a new superintendent from outside of the district with the pandemic occurring.”

No ‘I’ in team

When Susag started on the board 12 years ago, she said she benefited from the presence of longstanding experience to help guide the board. She said, “There is no ‘I’ in Team and we were a TEAM. We consistently worked toward a consensus of opinion through our discussions.”

Working with the other board members, Susag said she developed friendships over her tenure and that she will miss those friendships and working with the other board members.

The Alexandria School Board meets for its yearly organizational meeting Tuesday, Jan. 3. The school board members are (left to right) Alan Zeithamer, Angie Krebs, Bob Cunniff (newest member), Dave Anderson, Dean Anderson, Julie Critz (school superintendent), Pam Carlson and Sandy Susag. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)
In a photo from January 2017, the Alexandria School Board met for its yearly organizational meeting. The school board members at that time included, from left, Alan Zeithamer, Angie Krebs, Bob Cunniff, Dave Anderson, Dean Anderson, Julie Critz (school superintendent), Pam Carlson and Sandy Susag.
Echo Press file photo

“I had the honor and joy to meet so many wonderful people from our administration, staff, our hard working teachers and so many of our amazing students,” she said.

Looking forward, Susag said the board will still have challenges, especially when it comes to special education funding. She said it could use a “significant boost.”

Other challenges include rising costs and consistently hiring outstanding teachers because the students deserve the best.

“The community needs to continue to support our public education system,” she said. “I hope that history will view my participation on this board as a positive factor. We are all charged with leaving this Earth a better place than we found it. I tried to be a small piece of that philosophy.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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