After a decade of serving on the Kinnelon Board of Education, Margaret Zybrick, the board's leader for the past several years, said goodbye.
Zybrick's third term had come to an end last month and the Kinnelon resident of 24 years decided not to seek re-election.
"I've been in the community for 24 years. The first 24 years, I dedicated myself to issues involving children. Now, my next passion has been animals," she said.
As she moves on from the board, Zybrick said she plans to spend time volunteering at various animal rescue organizations, specifically Yorkie 911 Rescue on Long Island and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. But while she looks ahead to a future of continued volunteerism, Zybrick reflected on the past 10 years of giving her time to the community's kids.
Zybrick first ran for election to the board after attending several meetings and wanting to get involved for her four children who planned to attend school in the district. She had already spent time volunteering with the Fayson Lakes Association, but wanted to do something in education.
"Education has always been part of my life. I just felt like I could probably add something to it, so that was my goal," she said.
Once on the board, not every year was easy.
"The biggest challenge is, always, how do we do the most we can within the budget?" she said.
This task became increasingly difficult several years ago when state aid also dropped. When former Superintendent Jim Opiekun retired last year, he also noted the challenges of continuing to provide the level of education the district was used to under such budget restrictions.
But Zybrick noted several "highlights" as well. One of those highlights included being able to work with Opiekun and current Interim Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe.
"She's probably the smartest woman I've ever met in my life," Zybrick said. "It's my sincere hope that she stays on as superintendent."
DiGiuseppe said she became emotional when trying to find the words to say about Zybrick in public at her final board meeting.
"To see the energy which she put in to her position as board member and board president is just outstanding," DiGiuseppe said. "It's a different perspective when you're a teacher, when you're a superintendent, when you're a principal, even when you're a director of curriculum. You realize these are voluntary positions, then you see the amount of time someone like Mrs. Zybrick puts in for all of the children of this town."
DiGiuseppe said the time commitment of a board member includes nights and weekends and also making difficult decisions.
"She is a dedicated human being to the children and school district in this community and we have been lucky to have her," she said.
Zybrick also said she feels that she has been lucky to have been able to work with boards made up of members also interested in improving the district and doing what is best for the students. At times, though, she has disagreed on issues.
"What I'm probably most proud of is, in my opinion, I was always able to remain objective. I was able to really look at things objectively and come to a conclusion," she said.
Zybrick had a motto, one that she has said several times publicly.
"You have to stand up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone," she said. "I had to go to bed and know that I did the right thing."
This year, Zybrick had affirmation that the district must be doing something right as Kinnelon High School was named a Top 5 school in the state by NJ Monthly magazine, another "highlight" Zybrick noted. But Zybrick would not take credit for the accolade.
"I don't take credit for that. The only credit I take is being part of the process of selecting the right people for the right jobs," she said.
Of all the moments and achievments throughout her time serving on the board, Zybrick said she is walking away feeling confident that her intentions were well-reflected to the community.
"What I'm most happy about is that people within the community always felt they could come to me," she said. "For me, my mission was, 'It's not about one group of students, it's about all the students, to make the lives of all the children better."