By Jean Shanley
Special to the Tribune
Carol Bocan, who has a doctorate degree in home economics education, housing and city planning, attended her final meeting as a school board member last week with the Conneaut School District, having served 24 years as a representative from the Conneaut Valley area.
She was surprised by the compliments she received from several people on the school board as well as others who paid tribute to her service to the district.
“I feel like I have died and been able to come back and hear the nice things about me,” she said. She said she often wondered when people talked about nice things someone has done if they had ever told that person how much they meant.
Bocan had run for re-election to her position as a school board member, but lost in the November election to John Burnham.
She especially appreciated the acknowledgments and hugs from school board members and others.
“It’s so uplifting. How could I feel bad?” she asked.
Actually, she feels very blessed by God. A deeply religious person, Bocan said the election results were actually a birthday gift as Election Day was her 76th birthday. She had prayed about it and told God that whichever way it turned out was OK with her.
She said, “I feel God has blessed me” and believes that God has given each person talents and that they should be used. She believes people will be judged by what they have done with the talents given to them.
Divorced, she helped raise four stepchildren for six years, ranging in age from elementary school to high school, and she believes she understands what children need.
In her seventh year as a school board member, Bocan ran for a state House seat because she strongly believes the state should not have unfunded mandates that schools must meet. Although she lost the election, she voiced the opinion that each legislator should spend one day a year teaching each level of school — elementary, middle and high school — so the legislator world know exactly what challenges teachers face.
One of the big differences she has seen in her 24 years on the board is the fact that teachers have to teach students so students do well on tests. She thinks it would be far more beneficial to teach students how to problem solve and to think for themselves and be creative.
She also said judging a person’s abilities only on test scores is not beneficial because some people cannot take tests successfully.
“We’ve taken away what teachers can do, what they want to do, but cannot do,” she said, referring to teaching students how to think and problem solve.
One of the other things she emphasized when she ran for the state Legislature was the need to change the tax structure to increase the sales tax by 1 percent and eliminate property taxes. She thinks property taxes are hard on senior citizens whose income is often limited.
Bocan enjoyed the first 20 years of her service, saying that people could disagree on a topic, but remain friends. The last four years on the board have been much more tumultuous and stressful, she said, and the recent consolidation of the district was controversial. She was not in favor of consolidation of the three high schools and still believes it should have been done more slowly instead of in six months.
She emphasized that students in elementary and middle schools should take advantage of the opportunity to play on sports teams because, she said, when they get to high school, only a select few can play on teams because of size limits, so only the best athletes make the team.
She also noted the Conneautville-Springboro area has lost many students who now are either going to cyber schools, being home schooled or have moved in with relatives to attend Northwest High School at Albion. She said this has happened because parents feel traveling to Linesville to attend high school is too far.
As a former teacher at all levels including college, Bocan said she believes she was able to bring some real knowledge about teaching to the board.
“I feel good about what I could contribute,” she said, especially in the area of academics. She also contributed her talents through the Intermediate Unit, which provides services to districts across the region. She served on the IU board for 20 years.
A 1955 graduate of Conneaut Valley High School, she received a bachelor of science degree from Mercyhurst College, a master of education degree from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in 1973 from Florida State University.
Her career has included various positions in the educational field, including teaching at colleges and universities, working on a TV show she produced and hosted in Florida, and as a business owner and consultant to various educational boards and universities. She has conducted seminars on a wide variety of topics.
She recalled teaching a class of nursing students at Penn State, Shenango Campus, in May 1985 and returning home through Adamsville and having a weird feeling about the calmness in the area. It was the day a disastrous tornado struck the area just minutes after she had gone through Adamsville. The following Monday her students told her they had used some of the skills she taught them that day to help victims of the tornado that night.
She also was a visiting professor with Allegheny College’s Communication Arts Department for more than 30 years and has received numerous awards for he achievements in her profession.
Her service on the school board was not the only volunteer work she has done and she plans to remain active, volunteering in the community she loves.
She is a member of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, where she also sings in the choir and is a lector and Eucharistic minister.
She is the new president of Conneaut Valley Woman’s Club. She had served as president 25 years ago when the community’s “Blessing of the Crèche” and tree lighting program was inaugurated for the holiday.
She also is a member of many other community groups, including the Conneautville Community Pride Committee, which is updating the town with a comprehensive plan and some updates to the area before the town’s bicentennial next year.
Bocan also was instrumental in starting the historic Conneaut Valley Canal Park, where she continues to help.
Bocan, a breast cancer survivor, said the cancer is in remission and she enjoys her life, especially with her new cat.
Her goal as a school board member was to provide cost-effective programs without sacrificing quality education and she believes that every child should be encouraged to aim for and be given opportunities to reach his or her potential.
She carries that same philosophy into the other volunteer work — doing what she considers best for all, not just one.
She feels blessed indeed to have had the opportunity to serve.
She is also thankful for those who have expressed their best wishes and thanks to her for the work she has done — thanks which she believes confirms that her work has made a difference.