She knows it sounds strange, but Angela Zografos has wanted to be a school-board member since she was a kid.
Last month, the former school lawyer finally got the chance. She took the oath of office to serve on the Medford Township School District board on March 1.
“I was really feeling this need to get connected, but how do you do that during COVID?” she asked. “The opportunity came up and I was like, I have to try. I have to at least put my face out there, because it’s just a really great way to meet people and to help.”
Zografos was appointed to the board after a former member resigned. She took her seat with no agenda in mind other than to listen.
“My agenda is serving the community,” Zografos noted. “I think the most important thing as a board member, especially a new board member, or anyone in life, is to listen. I need to listen to the board, I need to listen to the administration and I need to listen to the public.”
As a lawyer, Zografos made board ethics and law paramount. Her goal is to serve the district and help make the best decisions for the school community.
Zografos has moved around a lot, but finally settled in Medford. She has three children; her daughter attends the Haines Sixth Grade Center and her other children are 2 and 3 years old.
When the pandemic shut down schools, Zografos had to readjust to fit her daughter’s new hybrid schedule.
“We’re all human, we all have that initial reaction,” she recalled. “I was nervous, but I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t be upset. So I embrace it.”
Now working from home, Zografos cherishes the newfound time she gets to spend with her kids, but she understands the concerns her neighbors have about virtual learning.
“My COVID experience is different than my neighbor’s, than someone with a kindergartener, than anybody’s,” she explained. “I hear their pain. I felt their pain. I try to just really listen with empathy and understand where people are coming from, and I try to ask respectful questions.”
Zografos had Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was young. That cancer experience, as well as the premature death of her father, frame the mindset she’s taken to the board.
“I have this philosophy about life. I delineate between things I can control and I can’t control,” she observed. “Sometimes in life, you have to tread water. But it means you’re not drowning. And this pandemic is unique, because the entire world has been treading water for a year. And some people are drowning.”
Mental health is important to Zografos. As corporate counsel, she spends a lot of her workday advising others on the best decisions a company can make for its employees.
“I understand how the schools are impacting work, because I’m dealing with it at work and trying to support,” she said.
To stay afloat during the pandemic, Zografos looks for the silver lining. She’s working on a children’s book, “More Rainbows,” inspired by her daughter’s request for glasses so she could see more rainbows.
“The thing about me is that I really try to help,” she said. “I used to think my life purpose was to be a solution, but that’s not what it is. My life purpose is to really support those around me, so that they can be the best version of themselves, and a lot of that is helping people see the positive.”