By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
We lost Alice Saudargas Monday, June 8, 2015, at 99 years of age. Sadly appropriate–people like her only come around every 100 years or so.
I will always remember Alice and her husband, Alex, first and foremost as champions of West High School when it was closed by School District 205 in 1989. They believed and fought for the common Joe and Jane, and their right to have a neighborhood high school.
During his wonderful career and the efforts to reopen West, the famous basketball coach Alex could have never realized he would be outlived and eclipsed in local fame by his wife, Alice. Yet, again, somehow I don’t think Alice’s increasing prominence would have surprised him.
They were both big smilers yet gruff, but very good with people and tremendously persistent. You never had to second guess either one of them; and the longer you knew Alice, the more readily she told you not to guess about anything because she knew the way it should be. Her surety and sincerity always made me smile; her values came from a simpler time she fought to bring to the her “school kids” today.
The fact that she ran for the school board when she was 84 and won was an amazing feat.
When I first interviewed her, I remember pointing out that the closing of West High School promulgated the People Who Care lawsuit, and that the original plaintiff group was quite diverse, without the total focus on race. Although that is not to say some County Club Terrace daddies did not like the daughters dating Afro-Americans. As a west-sider and 1972 Boylan Catholic High School graduate, I told her I thought West High School was the most ethnically balanced school in the city at the time. Furthermore, I thought the People Who Care case was more west side versus east side, or a social class control battle, indicated by the closing of West. Nodding vigorously, she gave one of those famous deep laughs and said that was politically incorrect to point out in public. Then she said, “Keep doing it.”
We agreed when Attorney Bob Howard gained control of the case, the race card became the entire deck. He left town with millions and millions in our legal fees, and left us with a double administration and massive busing. No real results. She stepped into that mess with her usual courage, and her attitude of “what are we going to do about it?”
Once on the board, she confided to me once, with her usual disarming honesty, “The meetings can be quite boring, and I think I take naps.”
Let’s hear more Alice. Her words from five years ago still ring true for District 205 today. The following is from the Jan. 12-18, 2011 issue of the The Rock River Times:
Vitals: Alice Saudargas, 94, has been a Rockford resident since 1940. She has served on the Rockford Board of Education for 11 years. In her spare time, Saudargas rescues various types of animals including cats and squirrels in particular. Also, she is a voluminous reader who also enjoys spending time with her family, when she is not out visiting local schools and meeting District 205 students.
- What factors motivated you to run for the Board of Education seat in your sub district? I’ve been in education all my life. I started at age 6, then went on to college. I wanted to give my kids the best chance they have to gain a good education. I love to watch kids learn. It’s that look they give when something hits home for them. Education is my life, and schools are my passion. Plus, I love our community, and I feel it has so much to offer.
- What experiences – work-related or otherwise – do you feel would help you succeed as a Board of Education member? My experiences in the classroom – from primary to secondary, all the way up to special education. I’ve written curriculum and set policies, so I know my way around the education world. I’ve also been very involved in politics, which I also feel will help aid my success.
- If re-elected, what changes would you push for immediately? I would push for more transparency. The people who are pushing for changes have not been a part of the team, nor have they been a part of what is expected of them. We need to have everyone on the same team – from the teachers, to the custodians, to the administration.
- What should District 205 parents and students know about your educational philosophy? I want the best educational opportunities for each and every child in this district regardless of his or her situations. I want each child to have the ability to make his or her futures better because if they succeed, our city will also succeed.