By Suzanne Buzek
Kim Costanzo didn?t know what she was getting herself into when she ran for school board in the Lockland school district. Little did she know that such a simple move would create opportunities to be closer to her five children and positively affect their lives despite her full-time job, and allow her to develop a new set of leadership skills.
?I decided four years ago to run for school board mostly because I didn?t have time as a full-time working mom to be a room mother,? says the senior director for client services in the Office of Marketing and Printing Services. ?I couldn?t go on any of the school?s field trips with my kids, but I really wanted to have an impact at their school in some way. I had some friends who said that I would be really good at school board, so I decided to run.?
Out came the pins, yard signs and T-shirts that would help her contend when the 2005 elections rolled around. To her surprise, Costanzo was elected to the board that November. She was even more surprised at the level of politics involved in her new position.
?I didn?t realize how political school board stuff was, because I was never involved in politics,? she says. ?Then I got on board, looked around and realized, ?Oh, this is full-blown politics.? ?
After the first year of her four-year term, the board members elected Costanzo to serve as president for her second, third and fourth years. The difference? More work with subcommittees, more recognition and more responsibility.
?I can?t go into the grocery store without people coming up to me and talking about their concerns and their issues,? she says. ?All of the sudden, I was not Kim they knew, mom of Lauren, Trinity, Joey, Tia or Christian. I was Kim, school-board member, no matter how much I wanted to be the other.?
Costanzo?s role as president is appropriate to her own parental concerns. With the exception of one child who graduated high school last year, they are spread out, age-wise, across the educational spectrum. With one child in high school, two in elementary school and one in day care, Costanzo has a finger on the pulse of the Lockland School District, which in turn provides invaluable insight when trying to keep the district?s finances afloat.
?We?re a small district with lots of financial woes, like many districts, but we?ve kept doors open many years past what we promised our taxpayers we would, and we?ve manage to keep teachers,? says Costanzo. ?It?s really about balancing what?s best for the kids and what the taxpayers expect you to do.?
In 2008, the board worked with the superintendent to apply for a national grant with the National Football League. The NFL responded and awarded the board $100,000 to install artificial turf on the Lockland football field.
These leadership opportunities have left a positive mark on Costanzo: She has noticed a transformation in her leadership style, confidence and approach to her work through great improvements in her communication skills.
?I always tended to be more of a listener, sitting back and taking everything in, absorbing everything,? she says. ?Now I?ve been forced to be in a different role. I have to be vocal. I have to be able to stand up in front of a group and say, ?This is what?s going on.? It?s totally changed the way I do work here at Xavier, too.?
Confident and proud of what she has contributed to her district, Costanzo intends to run again this November, and she's anticipating the craziness of campaign season to come.
As for her children, while their mom isn?t going on field trips or isn?t at every classroom party, they still know she cares and wants them to get the most from their education, even though she won?t change the dress code policy for them.
?It?s funny because they think I can change every little thing,? she says. ?They hate the dress codes, and have been asking me to change that since I got on the board,? she jokes. ?But when I campaigned all of their friends wore my pins and T-shirts, and I bet they think that?s cool.?