Sean Blaylock, the newest member of the Forest Park elementary school board, often refers to his background in the corporate world when discussing his duties with the school board.

“The responsibility of any board, whether it is political or whether it’s in corporate America, is first and foremost to identify a leader for the corporation or for the school system, and to manage ” well, not to manage but really to monitor, the progress and the goals that the superintendent or CEO lays out,” he said.

Blaylock, who has four children attending Grant-White Elementary School, is a native of Neptune, New Jersey, and a graduate of the North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University with a degree in electrical engineering.

He moved to Forest Park in 1994 to pursue a job in the electrical components area with General Electric, and has since involved himself in the community by working as a Sunday school teacher at the Forest Park Baptist Church. He also spent six years serving as a mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.

Blaylock described his experience with Grant-White as “incredible,” noting that he has been especially impressed by the school’s emphasis on personal development through its Character Counts program and by its quality teaching staff.

“The teachers are passionate and skilled, not jaded, and are compassionate about communicating that to the kids,” he said. Blaylock said that the district’s focus on character would likely have a lasting impact on students.

“When you start recruiting at Ivy League schools, everyone has a good SAT score, so you start to distinguish yourself as a person and as a student. I think that comes in students’ character, and I think it comes in their leadership positions and extracurricular activities,” he said.

Blaylock said he became interested in joining the school board after hearing there was an opening not because he was looking to make any particular changes, but because he thought “this is an excellent opportunity for me to serve the community I live in.”

Among Blaylock’s responsibilities on the board will be helping to find a replacement for Superintendent Randy Tinder, who has announced that he will step down in 2007.

“Any good leader is going to have good communication skills, a strategic vision …and the ability to execute and manage day to day tasks and also be a great motivator,” he said of the upcoming search.

“Whether it’s for a public school system or for a Fortune 500 company, I think if you identify a leader with that type of skill set you’ll be in a great position to manage the transition from one leader to another.”

Though Blaylock was not elected to his position, his appointment does serve as a landmark for the district and the village, as Blaylock will be the first African American to serve on an elected board in Forest Park.

According to the 2005 School Report Card on file with the State Board of Education, 47.6 of students in the school district are African American.

Asked about the designation, Blaylock called the move “a wise and progressive step for the board of education that appointed me, and a wise and progressive step for the community of Forest Park.”

Aside from that comment, however, he focused on his qualifications rather than the significance of breaking this longstanding barrier.

“In the big picture, whether its sports, politics or even corporate America, it’s prudent to have leaders that have good communication skills, good decision making skills, good motivation skills and that also demonstrate and exhibit creative ways of thinking and diverse perspectives,” he said.

Blaylock said that his four children are “vaguely aware” of his new position on the school board. “They don’t know all the details but they understand ‘oh, daddy has another job’,” he said.

Blaylock said he looks forward to spending the coming weeks “surveying the terrain” and familiarizing himself with issues facing the school board before beginning to take active leadership roles.

Asked if he plans to run for election in 2007, Blaylock said that “it’s way too early ” I have no control over the future and no control over the past, but I do have an opportunity to influence the present in terms of getting up to speed and preparing. That’s where my focus is right now.”

Blaylock was appointed to the school board earlier this month to fill the vacancy left when former board President Marilyn Garopolo resigned Nov. 10. Former Vice President Lois Bugajsky was made president, while board member Glenn Garlisch was appointed vice president.