Lou Cook was of two minds last week when her colleagues unanimously elected her chairman of the Alexandria School Board at a special meeting.
The five-year board veteran said she was excited about her new post but was a little preoccupied with plans for a European trip. So when asked if she had plans for the board in the upcoming year, Cook enthusiastically replied, "Oui, oui."
But it didn't take long for Cook to return to the serious side.
"We will be studying long-range projections on enrollment figures and the possibility of school closings," she said. "This is something that we have to take a good look at, for the best planning possible, and it should be done in the next year."
Cook, who describes herself as an independent Republican, has lived for 22 years in Alexandria and her four children attended city schools. A writer and editor for the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, she was involved in local PTAs and the State Women's Commission before she was appointed to the school board in 1978.
Board colleagues describe Cook as a no-nonsense, clear-thinking planner who is able to maintain a sense of humor through even the toughest board issues.
In her acceptance speech, Cook admitted she was often at odds with other board members, noting that last year she received the board's guppy award for swimming upstream when everyone was else was swimming downstream.
But she urged her colleagues to maintain their different viewpoints while trying to work together in the coming year.
Cook replaces former chairman Shirley N. Tyler, who did not seek reappointment to the board when her term expired July 1.
The nine-member school board, which has three new members this year, also elected a new vice chairman, Judith Feaver, replacing former board member Claudia Waller, who also did not seek reappointment.
At the first meeting of the new board last Wednesday, Tyler predicted that this year will be more difficult for the school system than previous years because of increasing financial restraints.
Cook agreed. "I see further tightening," she said. "It will be difficult, but we must keep the fiscal faith of the city and its people."
One area where Cook expects to see few changes is in the school curriculum. "We may tighten up some courses with low enrollment figures, but I don't foresee drastic changes," she said.