By Bob Skolnik
Former Riverside-Brookfield High School Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann has been named the Illinois High School Principal of the Year by the Illinois High School Principals Association.
Baldermann, who left RBHS in 2009 somewhat under a cloud, has resurrected his career at Westmont High School where he has been principal since 2012. Baldermann has always had a reputation as a charismatic, passionate educational leader, but he resigned from his position at RBHS a year after having a romantic relationship with a staff member and shortly after allowing his administrative certification to lapse by not fulfilling continuing education requirements.
He came to Westmont after working for two years as an administrator in Hartford, Connecticut. He told the Landmark that he was honored to be named Principal of the Year.
"I'm really grateful they've recognized what we've done here," Baldermann said. "I think the years at RB, there was a lot of great things that happened. I'm really excited that what we've done at Westmont has been recognized."
As he did at RBHS, Baldermann has boosted Westmont's rankings by adding Advanced Placement courses and dramatically boosting enrollment in AP classes.
Westmont High School, a school of less than 500 students, now offers 19 AP classes compared to the five or six AP classes it offered when Baldermann was hired in 2012. The Washington Post High School rankings, which largely measures the number of students taking AP classes, recently rated Westmont High School as the most improved school in Illinois.
"We went from a 10-year average of about 35 passed (AP) exams up to 241 last year," Baldermann said. "We went from average of four AP Scholars a year and last year we had 52. It's not just the kids taking (AP Exams), it's the kids passing."
Baldermann said that he is also proud of increasing Westmont's graduation rate.
"Over the last four years we've had 100 percent for our African-American and Latino students so we're very proud of that," Baldermann said. "We've only had three students drop out in the last four years."
In his eight years at RBHS, Baldermann recruited many excellent teachers and boosted RBHS's reputation, mostly based on a vast expansion of AP. He also boosted the graduation rate and started a since-disbanded environmental education program in conjunction with the Brookfield Zoo.
"I'm very proud of the accomplishments at RB," Baldermann said. "Between the graduation rate and the Advanced Placement program and the rankings and the test scores and a lot of very innovative programs, the relationship that we shared with the teachers' union and the board, there was a lot of positives there."
Baldermann was asked whether he feels vindicated by receiving the Principal of the Year award.
"I don't think in those terms," Baldermann said. "It was tough the way things ended up, but I really am a person who tries to look forward."
According to a press release from the Illinois High School Principals Association the award recognizes high school principals who have demonstrated a positive impact on students and the learning community.
Baldermann will receive a $1,000 honorarium and be recognized at the association's fall conference. Baldermann will also be entered into the competition for national principal of the year.
This story has been changed. Baldermann spent two years after leaving RBHS as a school administrator in Hartford, Connecticut, not Bridgeport.