LANSING | It was the end of an era Wednesday, as Jerry Kern announced his resignation from the Lansing Elementary District 158 School Board after 40 years of service.
"I really kicked it around in my mind during the last election whether I wanted to run or not, but we were so close in being completed with a lot of things I thought were important," Kern said.
He mentioned the second phase of a renovation and expansion project currently underway at W.C. Reavis Elementary School as one project he wanted to stick around to see finished.
Kern seemed to take some on the board by surprise when he handed his letter of resignation to board Secretary Robert Bonifazi at the end of Wednesday's meeting.
Board member Suzanne Long served with Kern for 12 years and called him a good mentor.
"(Kern) worked hard for all the improvements we've had," Long said. "He went through those lean times when we had no money."
Board President Robert Wood noted that Kern's time on the board has touched five different decades and that the 21 years Wood has been on the board is only half the time Kern has spent on it.
"What a tremendous service he's given to our community," Wood said.
Kern stopped to compose himself before expressing his confidence that the board is headed in the right direction with its current superintendent and administrators.
"It's been my pleasure, but it's time," he said. "It's time to step aside and let someone else do it."
Kern recalled how he was appointed to the School Board in January 1972, and was only off the board for a brief time, from 1979 to 1980.
"I lost an election by about 12 votes," Kern said. "I ran the next year and I won overwhelmingly."
A resident of Lansing for 57 years, Kern said he will miss the interaction with his fellow board members.
He said what he is most proud of is the district's one-to-one computing initiative, which provided students with E-pads and notebook computers.
The board has 30 days to appoint someone to fill Kern's seat, which is up for election in April 2015. The board is expected to name a replacement at its Sept. 18 meeting.
Wood said residents of Lansing who live within the boundaries of District 158 can submit a letter of interest to the administration center, but that his preference would be to appoint a minority candidate.
He pointed out that all current members of the board are white, and most do not have children attending school in the district.
Wood said former board member Brian Stewart, who is black, is someone who stands out as an ideal candidate.
"I think Mr. Stewart is a wonderful example of a fresh perspective," Wood said.
Stewart, whose children attend school in District 158, was appointed by the board in May 2012 to serve out the term of former Board President Joe LaBella, who had resigned.
Stewart lost his election bid in April but said afterward he planned to run again in 2015.
In other district news, the board Wednesday hired Shirley Bragg as director of curriculum and assessment.
Bragg takes over many of the responsibilities of Philip Schumaker, who retired in June but will remain with the district as a consultant.
Bragg comes from Brookwood Elementary District 167 in Glenwood, where she served for five years as principal at Hickory Bend Elementary School and two years as district curriculum director.
Bragg said she will work to implement Common Core standards in the district in an effort to put "more rigor into the teaching and instruction and learning that goes on in the classroom."
The board also hired Andrea Paterala as assistant principal at Memorial Junior High School.