If the 2009 school board election at Riverside-Brookfield High School was about setting a new course for leadership, then last week’s hiring of Pamela Bylsma as principal was the culmination of that effort.

While all three candidates for the job were strong and obviously capable, Bylsma was the best choice for a school that needs a steady hand on the tiller of a ship that has been tossed about in the storm for the past two years.

From the feedback of those who interviewed her, including Interim Superintendent David Bonnette, Bylsma is just what RB needs – a calm, fair presence and someone who has made character education a centerpiece of her administrative career at Hinsdale Central High School.

Since 2001, when Bylsma was hired as dean of students, she has spearheaded the district’s “Character Counts!” program which, among other things, zeroes in on anti-bullying initiatives.

The program is reinforced daily, in part because everyone in the school district is invested in the program. Teams of people including teachers, administrators, students, parents and other community members helped mold a curriculum and environment that includes character education.

In the past decade, RB has experienced cultural and demographic shifts that will only continue in the future. The district can only benefit from the kind of steady leadership and character-infused environment we feel Bylsma can bring.

In addition, now that Bylsma is on board, it’s time for the school board to begin a serious discussion about what the exact future of the superintendent’s position will be. If the plan is to make it a part-time job, then we hope the board will move to convince Bonnette to remain past the 2010-11 year he has already committed to, and take the interim label off of his title.

The district has the leadership it needs under contract right now. There’s no need, in our view, for the district to continue to search for someone it already has under its roof. On July 1, the district’s permanent leadership team of Bonnette and Bylsma ought to be in place.

New life for township Dems

Speaking of change, the election of John Allegretti as Democratic committeeman of Riverside Township is another welcome development. For too long, the local Democratic Party has been basically invisible.

And while former committeeman John Toman and GOP Committeeman Judy Baar Topinka have had a cordial relationship, it hasn’t given Riverside Township voters much say in electing people for positions in township government or even given them anything to compare.

While we also hope that township politics doesn’t become another partisan political melodrama, the fact is that taxpayer money flows in to the township’s coffers each year and it wouldn’t hurt if more competition produced more innovative thinking on how that money is spent.

Allegretti will basically have to build the organization from the ground up, but appears to be enthusiastic and energized about the role. Here’s wishing him the best in making the organization a vibrant one in the township.