District 208 Interim Superintendent David Bonnette will play a key role in the selection of a new principal at Riverside-Brookfield High School. Bonnette intends to recommend one of the three finalists for the job to the school board. The school board expects to vote on their choice for principal at their Feb. 9 meeting.
“My role is to sift through all the information and put together a recommendation to be forwarded to the school board,” Bonnette said. “This is because this is a position below the superintendent level.”
Bonnette and the school board will choose from three finalists – current RB assistant principal for instruction Troy Gobble, RB’s assistant principal for instruction; David Travis, assistant principal for instruction at Elk Grove High School; and Pamela Bylsma, assistant principal for operations at Hinsdale Central High School.
Gobble came to RB in 2001 as a physics teacher and became science department chairman in 2002. He was named assistant principal for instruction last June.
He knows RB well and is generally well-liked and well-regarded by the RB faculty and would be a popular choice with some elements of the faculty, staff and community.
Gobble, 40, has a reputation as a wonderful teacher. When he left Carl Sandburg High School to come to RB in 2001, one of his Sandburg students cried, according to someone who knows the student’s family.
He said at a public forum last week that he is a big believer in interdisciplinary education and that RB needs to increase the diversity of its faculty.
Gobble was brought to RB by former RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann who had been principal at Sandburg before coming to RB. Gobble was close to Baldermann and is just one of many teachers and administrators at RB hired by the former superintendent principal.
The connection to Baldermann may not help Gobble now.
Some members of the school board along with a number of parents and some on the faculty believe that RB needs to make a clean break with the past and hire someone not connected to Baldermann, who resigned last year.
But last week Gobble pointed with pride to RB’s academic achievements, which include making adequate yearly progress and impressive test scores.
“I don’t think this place needs to be wholeheartedly changed,” Gobble said. “I think the direction of this school is sound.
“There have been mistakes made in the past, but that doesn’t mean that everybody in this place has to pay for what was going on.”
Gobble was appointed assistant principal last June and has less than seven months experience in the job. Two school board members, Matt Sinde and Mike Welch, voted against making Gobble assistant principal last June when Assistant Principal Tim Scanlon, also brought to RB by Baldermann from District 230, was named interim principal.
Travis, 39, seemed to make an excellent impression at his public forum last week. He has a bit of an unusual background. He served as an Air Force enlisted man before going to Elmhurst College and becoming a teacher.
Travis has a strong background in curriculum and instruction, and he has worked in some schools with a large minority population. That could be appealing as RB has become increasingly diverse in recent years with a fast-growing number of Hispanic students.
Travis said that 92 percent of Elk Grove graduates go to college.
“We’re always striving for continuous improvement,” Travis said.
One negative for Travis is that Elk Grove High School is in its second year of being on the statefs academic watch list. It has failed to make adequate yearly progress in math for all students with 65.6 percent of all juniors meeting or exceeding state standards. Elk Grove also failed to make adequate yearly progress in both math and reading for its Hispanic students.
But Elk Grove has more than twice as many low-income students as does RB, and numerous studies have shown a correlation between family income and academic achievement.
At his public forum with community members and faculty last week, Travis noted that Elk Grove has implemented aggressive programs to reach out to its students, including loaning out laptop computers, taking all freshmen and sophomores to visit a college campus and having teachers stay with some students for their first two years of high school.
Since 2001, Travis has taught at four high schools; however, except for his first move from East Aurora High School to Kaneland High School every move for Travis has been a promotion.
Bylsma, 52, has a different background than Gobble or Travis, who both have backgrounds in instruction and curriculum. Bylsma started out as English and art teacher before taking some time away from education raise children. Her administrative career has been focused on student services.
She was polished and inclusive at her public forum, walking around the room introducing herself to every person and asking who they were.
She played large part in implementing a Character Counts program at Hinsdale Central that resulted in the school receiving a National School of Character award in 2008. Bylsma helped to create anti-bullying programs, social service programs and what has been described as a warm and inclusive atmosphere at the highly competitive school.
Inclusiveness is important to Bylsma.
“I am a shared leadership person,” Bylsma said. “I am not a micromanager.”
Some female faculty and staff at RB were excited about the possibility of having a female principal.
Bylsma appears to be highly thought of at Hinsdale Central.
“She is very well respected by the faculty,” said Becky Wilcox, a special education teacher at Hinsdale Central. “She is very professional, very hard working.”
But Hinsdale Central has hired two principals (the latest was just last month) since Bylsma has been at Hinsdale Central without offering her the job.
While Bonnette will make a recommendation as to who to hire, the final decision rests with the school board.
Some school board members say that they expect to follow Bonnette’s advice.
“I’m confident in Dave’s judgment,” said Larry Herbst.
Some in the community and on the faculty have expressed concern that none of the finalists have experience as a principal and that Gobble and Travis have limited experience as assistant principals. But school board President James Marciniak said that he is pleased with the finalists.
“We are pleased with quality of the candidates that we were presented with by [the district’s search firm] and we feel that the people we got to talk with last week were a great fit with the leadership profile Hazard, Young, Attea, developed in November and December.”
Job: Assistant principal, Hinsdale Central High School
Budget: $75.9 million
Degree: M.A. in educational administration from
Assistant principal, Hinsdale Central High School
Dean of students, Hinsdale Central High School
Dean of students, Plainfield High School
English and art teacher Downers Grove South High School
English and art teacher Fremd High School
Job: Interim assistant principal, Riverside-Brookfield High School
Budget: $20 million
Degree: M.S. Education leadership from Benedictine University
Interim assistant principal, Riverside-Brookfield High School
Science department chairman/teacher, Riverside-Brookfield High School
Science teacher, Carl Sandburg High School
Educational consultant, Argonne National Laboratory
Job: Associate principal for instruction, Elk Grove High School
Budget: $750,000 (building)
Degree: M.S. in curriculum and leadership and M.S. education administration from Northern Illinois University.
Associate principal for instruction, Elk Grove High School
Social Studies department chairman, Addison Trail High School
Social studies teacher, Kaneland High School
Social studies teacher, Aurora East High School
Ground defense instructor, U.S. Air Force