It wasn’t all that long ago that Riverside-Brookfield High School was a hotbed of controversy. But since the hiring of Superintendent Jack Baldermann in 2001, nearly everyone?”from school board members to parents to students?”have been singing from the same hymnal.
Ask the average resident of District 208 and you’ll likely get a similar response, “RB has never been better.”
But there are challenges ahead for RB, which completed a major facilities study in 2004 that concluded the campus was in need of major renovation. Finances at the school have been rated highly by the State Board of Education, but the financial condition of a school can change in a heartbeat, as so many districts (including RB) have found out.
Over the next four years, RB will surely be tested on both those fronts, and it will need a board capable of handling such issues. District 208 will have three new board members after the April 5 election, which means the newcomers will have to not only be quick learners, but independent thinkers who can help high school maintain its high standards, improve the facilities and keep it financially stable.
As a result, while all of the candidates appear to be fine choices, the three picks for the District 208 school board who stand out to us are Luann Stirek, William McCloskey and Laura Hruska.
Stirek has been involved in leadership positions in many local organizations, from last year’s District 96 Referendum Committee to the PTAs at both Blythe Park and Hauser Junior High schools. She also currently is a member of the RBHS Patron’s Council and Boosters.
Along with McCloskey, we feel Stirek has the kind of experience to jump right into the fray and accomplish things. Having been co-chair of the District 96 referendum campaign, she understands what needs to be done and how to approach a tax referendum, which would be necessary in order for a major school renovation to happen. Her energy can’t be discounted, either.
McCloskey is a passionate booster for RB High School, but that enthusiasm is also tempered by an independent streak. McCloskey says he’d like the school to be run like a business, with students as the customer. There’s a fine line, he said, between a state of the art education and what it costs, and he wouldn’t be afraid to make the hard decisions necessary.
He would also like to see a non-confrontational evaluation process for teachers that would emphasize teamwork between faculty and students (again, their customers). At the same time he feels students need to accountable, too, and that teachers deserve students’ total respect.
As for the renovation of the campus, McCloskey favors the idea of a fieldhouse that could be used by the larger RB community as well. He also believes working out a deal with the Cook County Forest Preserve District to ensure the future use of land north of the campus is a No. 1 priority.
Hruska, whose professional background is firmly rooted in academia, has strong, independent opinions on the issues RB faces. She favors a more systematic look at the issue of renovation versus replacement of the school, and leans toward replacement of the school rather than renovation.
Hruska is a strong proponent of the school’s emphasis on Advanced Placement classes, and also feels the school needs to continue to recognize the growing diversity of the student population and encourage the school to challenge all students. She also would like to encourage stronger ties with the zoo through its fledgling Zoo School curriculum and closer ties with the junior highs that feed RBHS in order to set expectations.