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On the Record With ... Michelle Graham

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(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Michelle Graham, 47, poses for a photo in the kitchen of her Spring Grove home Thursday. As a proud and supportive mother of two teen boys, she posts academic and athletic awards on the cabinets in the room her family spends most of their time. As of last Wednesday, Graham is Richmond-Burton High School's new board member.

SPRING GROVE – Michelle Graham was on concession-stand duty when someone suggested she apply for the vacant seat on Richmond-Burton High School District 157 board.

She’d been a “closet school board observer,” she said, but until the controversy over the school’s now-under-construction fieldhouse, she’d never been one to speak up at meetings.

But sitting there, listening to the “naysayers” go on about fiscal responsibility, she decided to add her two cents – to the pleasure of many of the other student-athlete parents present.

Graham has two boys in high school: DJ, a senior who runs cross country and track and coaches youth basketball, and Joe, a freshman who plays on the football and basketball teams.

She also oversees 48 youth umpires through the Richmond-Burton Baseball (and Softball) Association.

When board President Tom Wisinski stepped down in August, the board picked her to fill his seat. Graham was sworn in at the Oct. 17 meeting, and said she hopes to keep the seat through the April election.

Graham recently spoke to reporter Emily Coleman about her plans.

Coleman: What are you going to campaign on?

Graham: The school board is in a good place, so it’s not like there’s a glaring issue that I can’t wait to jump in on. I do want to be part of the fieldhouse and how they lend it out to different groups, because I know right now it’s not very scientific, and I’m interested in the curriculum committee.

Coleman: Why do you think the fieldhouse is important?

Graham: They all, every one of the kids, need an opportunity to practice what they like and just be active, participating in groups and clubs – and it’s not just about athletics in that fieldhouse.

Coleman: How did you get involved with the youth umpire association?

Graham: The person who was in charge stepped down. They changed one year to have one person just scheduling all of the kids, and that was a disaster. There was no training for the kids. ... And I went to the board and said, “You know, I’m going to have time now. My son’s not going to be playing travel baseball. I’m willing to take it over.”

Coleman: What do you like about it?

Graham: Just watching the kids. I watch them go from game to game, get better and better, and get louder. They’re very shy at first and not wanting to say very much or be very loud. They’re afraid.

Coleman: What do you plan on taking from your job in human resources to the school board?

Graham: In HR, you have to learn how to “seek to understand.” If an issue comes up at the board, you can’t react to what the first person tells you. If somebody comes to the board with an issue, you can’t just say, “OK, let’s do this.” ... You have to learn how to remove yourself from that and you seek to understand and ask questions and then decide how you’re going to handle it.

Coleman: When you’re not running around after your kids and working, what do you enjoy doing?

Graham: Really, it’s my kids. They have me going every night during the week. ... I’d come home and read the board book to catch up with where they’re at with things. The past couple months, that’s really been most of what I’ve done when I didn’t have something with the kids. And there was fall baseball and softball going on, so I was scheduling kids to do that. Now I have to hurry up and do the payroll because they’re all texting me.

The Graham lowdown

Who is she? The newest member of the Richmond-Burton High School District 157 board.

Family? Husband, Kevin, and two sons, DJ, 17, and Joe, 14.

Favorite food? Mashed potatoes and gravy.

Favorite TV show? “Dancing with the Stars.”

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