Sunday’s resignation of Jack Baldermann as superintendent of Riverside-Brookfield High School was inevitable. After last summer’s drama, which saw Baldermann suspended and embarrassed publicly, it was clear that rehabilitating his image as the district’s leader was going to be a very difficult, if not impossible, task.
This is something the District 208 school board should have seen clearly when it spent those long hours in executive session last year, trying to salvage Baldermann’s career at the school.
It’s now also clear that at the same time the district was trying to untangle the story regarding Baldermann’s affair with an employee, he was also not certified to be an administrator in the state of Illinois.
This was a snowball that had already rolled halfway down the mountain; there was no stopping its momentum, and the board should have recognized that.
The issue here is not simply a lapse in moral judgment. No one is perfect; personal lives can be thorny.
Rather, the issue has always been about how that lapse affected leadership.
When Jack Baldermann came to the district eight years ago, he was a whirlwind of energy, setting high expectations for students and staff. He revitalized the teaching ranks and served as mentor to staff.
While the focus on ramping up emphasis on Advanced Placement can be debated, we believe that Baldermann’s core belief in setting the bar higher with respect to educational rigor was sound.
Baldermann was passionate about student achievement and also about education and the value of public service. Those are important aspects of the RB curriculum, due mainly to Baldermann.
But in the past two years, Baldermann lost the ability to lead. His focus was fractured by competing forces.
He was both superintendent and principal of a high school with a growing enrollment and more diverse student population. He was also a sought-after speaker, making the rounds on the educational lecture circuit, preaching the gospel of success at RB nationwide.
And then there was his personal life. And while many have argued that Baldermann’s personal life should not have been part of the discussion, it has to be. His personal life had an impact on his ability to lead the school.
The school became a rumor mill for staff and students alike, and the talk could not be contained within the walls of RB. That he was involved with a school employee only heightened the tension at RB and among parents of RB students, who were hearing about the situation from their children. It was unsustainable.
There is no joy in seeing Baldermann head out the door this way. On balance, the good he brought to the district outweighs the bad, and he leaves the district in a better position academically than when he arrived.
But Baldermann is not the only one who will be able to succeed at RB. The board must now begin a search process for Baldermann’s replacement who will restore the confidence in the leadership of the school and again start moving the ball forward on academic excellence there.