During her time as business coordinator for Forest Park School District 91, Pat Salvato can recall more than one occasion when former superintendent Joe Scoleri teased her about her inability to navigate the neighborhoods.

“I am directionally challenged,” Salvato said. “When I first started working, the girls would want me to come to the [school] building just to get acquainted. I was too embarrassed to tell them, ‘I don’t know north, south, east or west, but hey I’ll give it a shot, tell me where you’re at.’ Well, Joe often wondered if I would ever return to the district building once I left.”

Despite the occasional wrong turn during her 18-year career, Salvato certainly knows how to make an exit – straight from the heart.

In recognition of her retirement, the school board recently gave Salvato a $200 gift. Salvato, a Brookfield resident, decided to give the money back to a pair of Forest Park families with kids enrolled in the district. Salvato said it was her way of saying thanks to Forest Park.

“I just felt because I have been so fortunate working in this district for all these years that I wanted to give something back to the community,” she said. “I was able to give back in two ways really. First, with the monetary gift from the board, I purchased $200 worth of gift certificates from Ultra Foods so the families can enjoy them. Secondly, the money spent also stays in Forest Park.”

According to Salvato, she e-mailed the principals at each of the district’s five schools and asked them to pick a family from their school for a random drawing. Once the families’ names were chosen, Salvato randomly picked two families out of a hat – one from Betsy Ross Elementary and the other from Grant-White Elementary.

Accompanied by a secretary from each of the selected schools, Salvato visited the families to present their gift. Each family received $100 in gift certificates.

“I really don’t know many people in Forest Park, so I wanted representatives of the schools to choose the names eligible for the drawing,” Salvato said. “It was special to have that personal contact with the families. I think they really appreciated the gift.”

District 91 has appreciated the dedication shown by Salvato over the last 18 years. Prior to her time in Forest Park, she worked for District 102 in LaGrange for three years. As a business coordinator for 21 years, Salvato has put in more than her share of long days, serving as a financial jack-of-all-trades.

“As the business coordinator, you deal with the budget, worker’s compensation, payroll, payroll deductions, unemployment and garnishments for the entire district,” Salvato said. “You name it, I did it.”

For Salvato, “crunching the numbers” always ensured her job was interesting and fun. On Monday, June 30 principals, secretaries, administrators and several others attended a farewell pizza party for Salvato.

With her final fiscal year put to bed, Salvato is looking forward to some rest and relaxation while she enjoys the summer with her family and, in particular, her 7-year-old granddaughter.

“I am looking forward to having this summer off and doing what I want to do,” Salvato said. “I am going to miss everybody [at District 91]. I’ve had the same e-mail address though for 18 years, so people will know how to contact me.”