Just a week after residents of Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 cast their ballots, the Board of Education swore in its three newest members and elected new leadership while saying a fond farewell to departing colleagues.
At the April 12 meeting of the board, Riverside resident William McCloskey, North Riverside resident Karen Bensfield and Brookfield resident Laura Hruska officially joined the board after a canvass of the district’s votes.
During that same meeting, Larry Herbst was elected the new president of the District 208 board and Nancy Chmell was named the board’s vice president. Committee assignments were not finalized at the meeting.
Janice Prescott, a member of the board since 1997 and board president for the past four years, chose not to run for another term on the board. She has been actively involved in school board politics in both Brookfield District 95 and at RB for the past 19 years.
“Jan is as conscientious a board president as you’ll ever find,” said RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann. “On behalf of the entire board, we really appreciate your commitment to quality education and quality boardsmanship.”
Also leaving the board after one term was Thom DeVries, who also chose not to run for reelection. Both were honored with gifts from the board, including rocking chairs engraved with their names and the RB school seal.
Martin Crowley, appointed to the board in January after the resignation of Mario Lavorato, also left the board after failing to win reelection on April 5. Six candidates ran for three open seats on the board.
“It’s been a wonderful experience working with all of you,” said Prescott,” And welcome to our new board members. It’s a wonderful experience; hang in there.”
Herbst, in his sixth year as a member of the District 208 board, said that any one of the four sitting members of the board could have served well as president, but felt he was a “logical choice.”
The influx of three new members to the board shouldn’t interfere with the cohesiveness of the board, Herbst said. Two of the new board members have had strong ties to RB for decades. Herbst and Bensfield attended the school together, while McCloskey is on Herbst’s softball team. Herbst is also familiar with Hruska due to her involvement with the RB Patron’s Council.
“It’s so easy to be the president of this board,” Herbst said. “Everybody is so cooperative. I appreciate them naming me president, because it’s such a tight group. It’ll be fun being the guy holding the gavel.”
The biggest issue in front of the new board will be, according to Herbst, setting priorities with respect to ongoing upgrades of the RB facility and a potential major renovation project.
Last summer an ad hoc committee recommended a $30 million renovation of the current RB campus to the board. The board accepted the proposal, but there’s been little movement on the plan during the past school year.
The board has hired a consultant to help prioritize campus upgrades, particularly life/safety issues, which the district has addressed by issuing short-term bonds in recent years. However, a major renovation effort, such as the one recommended last summer, would need voter approval.
The challenge for the board, said Herbst, is to “make things happen in the most logical way. Where do we want to put the limited eggs we have? What do you fix first?”