Incumbent Dussling promotes “student-first” mentality in re-election campaign
Bill Dussling was appointed to the District 214 (D214) school board in November of 1998 despite the election that spring after a board member stepped down. Then-board members Bob Zimmanck and Miriam “Mimi” Cooper took Dussling under their wing and offered a piece of advice: “Bill, remember as a board member, it’s all about the students.”
This is a nugget of truth that Dussling held dear as he launched his tenure as a school board member. Dussling has held many roles, including his current title as president, throughout his 25 years on the board, and he says that he is continually impressed by both the quality of the education and the students in the district.
“The primary reason that we exist as a district is for the students,” Dussling said. “I want to make sure that the students receive the best possible education; I want to make sure they receive the best quality guidance towards being good community members, and that this will continue on for future generations.”
As a school board member, there’s a lot to adapt to: learning policies and school codes, meeting principals and administrators, understanding the finances of the district, working with the superintendent; Dussling says it takes at least a year to understand the widespread nature of the job and ultimately be effective as a board member.
Using both his experience on the board and a background in business, Dussling has gained this understanding of the district.
Through co-founding a large re-education firm that supported factory workers laid off by AT&T and West Electric prior to joining the D214 school board, Dussling sees the similarities in structure between the two organizations: in the same way that business management has many moving parts, a district as large as D214 does, too.
“It taught me that education is really the key to get those people back in the employment and industry,” Dussling said. “Education became a focus for me.”
Education for students in D214 begins, Dussling says, with the Renewal Plan. This three-year plan began in 2021 and is meant to recoup the learning gap in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses the need for an increase in staff members, including psychologists and social workers, to support mental health and focuses on prioritizing the implementation of tutoring and study halls to get students back on their academic track.
Dussling says the plan has had largely positive results thus far, and that the block schedule has also helped bridge the segue back into academics.
With both education and students’ needs at the forefront of Dussling’s priorities, he aims to support as many school-sponsored programs and events as possible, athletics and arts alike.
“It’s a joy to see the students participating and realizing what they can participate in,” Dussling said. “And to see the level that they participate in? My goodness, [in] the fine arts, athletics and any co-curricular activity, these students are really talented … It’s a joy to see them enjoy the high school scene.”
Attending a small, rural highschool called Western Green Bay High School with 300 some students, Dussling says he never had many of the art programs that students in D214 do. Not only do the opportunities exist, but Dussling is astounded by the quality of it on both the directors and student’s parts.
“You can’t see better entertainment or better skill-levels of entertainment if you go down to Chicago,” Dussling said. “You go to plays here; you go to a choral concert; you go to the honors band concert … You can’t find that anywhere. I appreciate the talent … They do a fantastic job.”
Beyond the D214 community, Dussling makes an effort to stay involved with the greater Arlington Heights community as well.
“We’re all living in a community,” Dussling said. “You have to know the community that you live in. You have to know what the aspirations are of the community. You have to know what they hope to get out of the community and what they want going forward.”
This involvement, such as through Arlington Heights’ annual Frontier Days festival, helps Dussling understand the people he serves better. It helps that he finds people interesting, as he learns where their children go to school, what they think of Arlington Heights or how their child has gone on to become a doctor in Los Angeles or a businessman in New York.
“Whenever I meet parents or grandparents that had children in our schools, I always ask them: ‘Did your child or grandchild have a good experience in our schools?’” Dussling said. “I have never been disappointed by the answer. It’s always, ‘Yes, they had a marvelous experience.’”