Kupka brings 12-year run on District 99 school board to a close

Decision not to seek reelection ‘bittersweet’

Nancy Kupka’s interest in serving on the Community High School District 99 Board more than a decade ago was set in motion by a single question.

“I was talking with a friend of mine who said, ‘If I told you that there was an opportunity to support and improve public education, would you do it?’ Of course, the answer was yes, and then next thing I knew I was running for the school board,” Kupka said.

Two years after joining in 2011, a colleague nominated Kupka for the role of president, which she was elected to in 2013.

Kupka called the decision not to seek reelection this year “bittersweet.”

“I have been on the board for 12 years and have enjoyed my service,” she said. “However, there are other volunteer activities that I want to do that I haven’t been able to devote the time to. I hope to retire from working next year and it just seemed like a good time to do it.”

Asked what accomplishments she is most proud of during her tenure, Kupka called it a hard question.

“There are a lot of things that I am proud of, some of them as mundane as changing the dress code to the district’s response to COVID,” Kupka said. “If I have to name one, I guess it would be being part of the decisions to offer the breadth of opportunities we afford for all of our students. Once a month we hear about an activity or club at the school during student perspectives. I attend plays, concerts, art shows, and just last week the STEM showcase where I saw students doing a level of work on par with graduate students. Even the block schedule, which we are still working the kinks out of, gives students more opportunities than they had in the past.”

Kupka said the “real credit” goes to the District 99 staff and administration.

“But I am proud to have had a little bit to do with affording students the opportunity to realize their potential in an area or to try something new,” she said.

While she has enjoyed her time serving, it wasn’t without challenges.

“We have always had people who disagreed with positions or actions the board has taken or were considering taking, but those disagreements were usually civil with the only agenda being the community member advocating for what they thought was the correct course of action,” Kupka said. “These last few years have been contentious and for some people who have issues with the board, it is more about disruption than advancing education.”

Fellow outgoing board member Mike Davenport, who recently was sworn in as a commissioner on the Downers Grove Village Council, said he is proud of the opportunity to serve with Kupka.

“She’s been the president for 10 of my 12 years and I’ve been fortunate to be vice president the last four,” Davenport said. “I’m proud of the work she’s done and glad I’ve been there to help out with that. Quite honestly, it’s not a job I wanted so I’m really glad she was willing to do it, especially these last few years. We were in a no-win situation during COVID and Nancy really took the brunt of it. I felt bad for her having to take all the hits because she was the president. We were all equally involved on the board. I think she did a great job of leading us through. She’s leaving quite a legacy and a job well done.”

As for what’s next, Kupka said there are a few volunteer opportunities she is looking into.

“Including advocating for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence, working with organizations that promote safety and justice for young people, and helping with issues revolving around food insecurity locally and on a larger level,” she said. “I will also be joining the D99 Foundation.”

Along with her role on the school board, Kupka served as a representative to the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County Board of Control and Governing Board from 2017 to 2019, advocating for providing comprehensive services for students with special needs. She also serves on the executive committee of the Legislative Education Network of DuPage.

“Our schools have reaped the benefits of Nancy’s service,” District 99 Superintendent Hank Thiele said in a news release. “She has always been the biggest cheerleader of our staff and students, courageously leading us through tumultuous times during the pandemic and other challenges.”