Riverside-Brookfield High School
Riverside-Brookfield High School has been in a period of transition for two years now. But that’s about to end.
With a new administration in place, the school district is about to get what amounts to a brand-new board. No incumbents chose to run for re-election, leaving the field open to seven candidates, only one of whom has any experience as a high school board member.
The challenges facing the board have been overshadowed by the district’s financial condition and the concurrent referendum campaign. But voters should keep in mind that finances are just part of the story at RB, and focusing too closely on that part of the equation has the potential to shortchange the district’s mission: educating children.
That’s why we are endorsing Thomas Powers, John Keen, Timothy Walsh and Laura Hruska for the four open seats on the RBHS school board.
Powers and Keen are easy calls. Powers brings experience as a two-term board member in District 95, where he was a leader. His experience in tackling both curricular and financial issues in that district as well as his level-headed approach will serve RB well. He understands the issues facing RBHS and will be an advocate for both students and taxpayers. Powers is the kind of candidate who could grow into a leader on the high school board.
Keen is a thoughtful candidate, quiet, but with a strong understanding of the financial issues facing the district and ideas on how to approach them. A medical doctor who also has a background in economics, we like that Keen is a strong supporter of the kind of education RBHS provided its students but is also unafraid to examine that curriculum to see if there are different ways to deliver it. He’s also a proponent of more open communication between the board and stakeholders, from faculty to parents as a way to continue to build trust in the district’s leadership.
Communication is also high on the list of priorities for Walsh, who also possesses a solid financial background. A proponent of the tax referendum, like Powers, he has also said the new board needs to keep a lid on costs, including in the next teachers contract, a document in which he’d like salaries and benefits to reflect the reality of the economy. Amen to that.
Hruska, an opponent of the referendum, spent one term on the board before she was voted out in 2009. Her personality is not everyone’s cup of tea, and during her time on the board she was often alone in opposing what she felt were too generous agreements with teachers, both in terms of their regular contract and especially with regard to stipends.
We like the watchdog aspect Hruska brings to the table, though we are a bit concerned she may be interested predominantly in financial issues. The way her lone term ended, in a dispute with outgoing board President James Marciniak, was also unattractive.
The three candidates we are not endorsing, Garry Gryczan, Louis Surprenant and Lenora Giurini, are all strong candidates in their own right. Gryczan has a sound financial background and is focused on the financial issues facing the district.
Surprenant is a fan of the school and has seen his daughter thrive there and would like RBHS to maintain its tradition of excellence. Giurini has a solid business background and would bring the perspective of someone with no children in the district. She could use a bit more seasoning with regard to understanding all the issues surrounding RBHS.