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John Farrell will step down from the District 233 school board at the end of his term in April after serving for 14 years. He is extremely proud of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and all that the staff does. 

“I was privileged over the years to serve with and be around all kinds of talented people who just gave it their all over and over,” he said.

The Flossmoor resident expects new people will step up to run in the April 2 school board election noting, “there are so many new people that will do so well, adding to the energy and perspective of the board.” Voters will elect three board members to serve four-year terms.
Farrell’s words of wisdom for the person who will fill his seat: “I wish that he or she will really be a listener. I wish this person would be someone who is collaborative. I would like that the person will be a win-win person” who can negotiate compromise. And, he added, “Be somebody who’s open to learning.”
As a board member, Farrell said he didn’t “make things happen. I have a role in saying maybe we should move in this direction or do this with an idea. I have that kind of influence.”
“In our world, we focus on outcomes, so we look at test scores and we want to look at budgets, but what you see on the inside (of H-F) is just the incredible effort that goes in year after year after year. We all are asking ‘How can we become a better school?’” Farrell explained.
In Fall 2005, Farrell, a psychologist by profession, agreed to fill a vacancy on the board because “I have an interest in service” and through his job he had experience working with teenagers. He hadn’t served on any boards before, but he doesn’t think board experience really matters because he found H-F has so many experienced people who share information with him.
The first critical board action he remembers is moving away from confrontational collective bargaining negotiations to a win-win strategy. H-F sent staff and teachers for training at Harvard University, but he said it was “genius on (the administration’s) part. From then on, we’ve really had harmonious contracts and that was a huge turning point.”
Farrell has seen the growth of various programs at H-F.
“We are trying to attend to the student’s needs at every single level,” he said, such as the International Baccalaureate Program and Advanced Placement Program, the special education programs and “we make an effort to reach out to those kids in the middle who aren’t necessarily excited about school.”
He also recognizes the considerable effort of faculty who take the time to know their students and celebrate their accomplishments, whether they win awards and top honors or through the H-F Cares Program that makes certain students are honored for doing small things that make a difference for someone.
The last two years Farrell has paid particular attention to the Applied Academics program, especially the industrial arts portion. He sees it as a program that will grow and be lauded in the future as an important program to give students hands-on training “because not everyone is destined for college.”
Farrell is amazed by H-F’s depth of extracurricular programming with more than 30 clubs and programs. He sees it as helping students find a place among their peers. He calls it finding a “family,” such as the theater family or the fencing family, because “everybody wants to belong in high school and we make it possible.  We still can’t make every student belong, but we give them opportunities,” he adds.
“That’s what makes H-F special. Really, it’s love. One of the definitions of love is you understand them and nurture them based on what they need. H-F does that,” he said. “We’re trying to understand the kids and accept them, and help them understand themselves and then find ways to meet their needs.  It’s a never-ending effort going on here and I’m very proud of that.”
For all its efforts, Farrell believes H-F is a “blue ribbon” school serving a diverse 21st century student.

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