Already her phone is ringing off the hook, although Margaret Ann Bocek won't take her seat on the Arlington School Board until July 1. That's when things could get really rough, as the board enters what promises to be a turbulent era.
For the next few years the board will be wrestling with highly controversial school consolidation proposals, prompted by declining enrollment in a 14,000-pupil system that, at the same time, must accommodate an increasing number of foreign-born students.
While she and the four other board members will be tackling that complex of problems, the 32-year-old Bocek says there are other major issues she also wants to address.
"I think we should ask, 'How well are we preparing our children for what they will do in life? Are we giving them flexible, well-rounded educations to go on after high school to meet the demands of a changing job market and the demands of life?' "
Students should have more English and math classes, Bocek says. She favors improving the curriculum by requiring 20, instead of 18, credits for graduation and two math credits instead of one. She also believes there should be more computer instruction available.
"My overriding concern is that my children and all Arlington children get the very best education," she said. "All parents want that for their children."
A native Arlingtonian and a graduate of Yorktown High School, Bocek says she has a particular interest in the county school system because her own three children will be entering it soon. Her eldest, Elizabeth, 5, will attend Page Traditional School this fall.
Bocek was nomiated to the four-year term by Republican-backed County Board member Dorothy T. Grotos. Grotos and the County Board's two other Republican-backed independents, chairman Stephen H. Detwiler and Walter L. Frankland, voted to confirm Bocek's appointment.
County Board members Ellen M. Bozman, a Democrat-backed independent, and Democrat John G. Milliken abstained from the confirmation vote to protest their lack of involvement in the selection of Bocek from a field of 17 candidates.
Bocek will succeed Torill B. Floyd, the only remaining Democrat on the school board. Floyd did not seek reappointment to the $5,000-a-year post.
The first major issue Bocek will face as a board member will be proposed school consolidations at both the elementary and secondary levels.
The panel studying grade schools has not yet made its proposals, but the Commission to Study Secondary Schools has already recommended that the county consider consolidating its high schools. It also proposed closing the seventh grade at Page School and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary School, both of which offer popular "alternative" programs.
The secondary schools commission also has recommended redistricting to achieve better racial and ethnic mixtures in school populations. The reports of both study panels are scheduled to be presented at the board's June 3 meeting.
Bocek said it was too early for her to take a position on any school closings. Although Arlington has excellent schools, she said, the board may want to explore "making the alternative (programs) more widely available, but I don't know what the proper avenue might be. . . . Obviously, there is a great demand and apparent need expressed for them. I think the alternatives offered at Page are good . . . and certainly (the H-B Woodlawn program) is answering the needs for those parents and children." Page emphasizes a back-to-basics curriculum while Woodlawn offers a less structured program.
Parents of American-born children at schools with a high proportion of foreign students have complained that their children are being held back as teachers strive to give the others extra help learning English. Bocek says she understands their concerns and wants to be sensitive to the issue.
"It is important not to overlook the needs of the great number of students who are English-speaking," she said. "And it's essential we have (special English instruction programs) for the non-English-speakers, to get them back into the classroom on a competitive basis."
Because of classroom needs, Bocek said, she believes future budget cuts should come from administrative overhead. The $48.5 million fiscal 1983 school budget is a good one, she says, because it "struck a balance betwen fiscal responsibility and the needs of students, by putting the emphasis on classroom needs, and added an English teacher at each high school."
She added that Arlington's teachers are "excellent" and that they deserve pay that is "competitive" with surrounding jurisdictions.
Bocek comes from a long line of educators. Her great-grandfather, Luther P. Ludden, was a founder of Nebraska's state teachers' college system in the early 1900s. Two grandparents and her mother, Addah Jane Hurst, were also teachers.
Bocek earned a degree in history from Nebraska State at Kearney, but she decided against following them into teaching.
Instead, she has worked in the White House's office of correspondence in the Nixon and Ford administrations and, for a few months, the Carter administration. She also has been an executive secretary for the Council of Economic Advisers.
Her husband, Robert R. Bocek, is a lobbyist for the McDonnell-Douglas Corp. and is active in local Republican circles.