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By Bob Skolnik
For the first time in its history, the Komarek School District 94 has an African American member of its board of education.
Rashida McKelvin, a resident of the Beverly neighborhood of Broadview, was appointed to the Komarek school board in June along with Brian Jicha to fill two vacancies on the school board.
Former board member Gina Sierra was elected this spring to the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education, and Martin DeLeonardis decided not to run for re-election. Incumbents Al Sarro and Jonathan Hoadley were the only candidates to file to get on the ballot.
Both McKelvin and Jicha noticed that there were only two candidates on a ballot marked vote for four so they and three others applied to fill the two vacancies created by the departure of DeLeonardis and Sierra.
The five remaining members of the school board interviewed the five applicants and chose McKelvin and Jicha, who were sworn in on June 13.
McKelvin, 42, is a lifelong resident of Broadview and works as plant finance comptroller for ACH Food Companies in Summit. She obtained a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Illinois and an MBA from DePaul.
She ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the park board in Broadview this spring, finishing fourth in a five-candidate field.
McKelvin talked to Komarek Superintendent Brian Ganan during that campaign, and Ganan planted the seed for her to consider applying to fill a vacancy on the school board.
She believes that more diversity on the school board is a good.
"I think that diversity is important just overall, because when you're making policies and trying to understand different cultures it's good to have some insight on some of those things," said McKelvin, whose is the mother of sixth-grader at Komarek and two Komarek graduates. "Some of that can't get taught in a class."
According to demographic figures provided by the school district, for the 2017-18 school year 12 percent of Komarek students are African-American. Thirty-six percent of Komarek students are white and 44 percent are Hispanic.
Komarek apparently has never had a Hispanic member of its school board.
McKelvin, 42, believes that her strong background in finance will help the school board. She is serving on the board's finance committee
"I'm hoping that my background can enhance the overall board and I'll be able to provide some insight on some certain things," McKelvin said.
She also has a strong interest in special needs students, because her son had special needs when he was at Komarek.
"I really took an interest in that area and aspect of the programming at the school," McKelvin said.
McKelvin has enjoyed her first three months on the school board and is pleased with the new ideas introduced by Ganan, who is now in his third year at Komarek, and second year Principal Jason Gold.
"I'm loving the ideas that I'm seeing that they're bringing forth and the children are very excited so I'm happy to be a part of it," McKelvin said.
Jicha, 40, is a native of Berwyn who moved to North Riverside three years ago. He said he moved to North Riverside for the schools, especially to be in the Riverside-Brookfield High School district.
"I've been looking for more ways to get involved in the community," Jicha said. "I absolutely love North Riverside. I love everything about it."
Jicha attended Morton College and works for the Berwyn Public Works Department. He has two sons at Komarek: a fourth grader and a second grader.
He said student safety is his highest priority.
"Safety in our schools is probably the number one thing I'm interested in," Jicha said. "Not only keep them safe, but make them feel safe."
He also is enjoying his time on the board.
"I love the other board members," Jicha said. "I think we all get along good. I think we all have the same vision for the school district. All of us place the children first."