District 96 Board
No matter who is elected from the field of four in Riverside School District 96, this much is certain. The district will be represented by some very bright, very dedicated folks. It will also be something of a “young” board in that, come May, either five or six board members will have served two years or less.

This next board will be faced with hiring a new superintendent, hiring a new principal (who is also the district’s curriculum coordinator) for Central School and negotiating a new teachers contract.

We feel that the three candidates best qualified for participating in that job are incumbent Hareena Wakely, Brookfield resident Arthur Perry and Riverside resident David Kodama.

Wakely’s involvement in District 96 predates her time on the board. She was a past president of the Ames School PTA. On the board she has advocated for the inclusion of foreign language study (still under review) in the curriculum and for the district’s new kindergarten enrichment program.

While she and the rest of the board have come under deserved criticism for their approval of a contract that will pay the superintendent more than $300,000 in his final year, she was also part of a board that began working to tie the teachers contract with real-world economic factors. We think this next board must travel in that direction more aggressively.

Perry has been about as involved in the school board for the past two years as is possible without actually being on it. After an unsuccessful run for the board in 2009, he has been a fixture at board meetings and even prior to that was a member of district committees, including the middle school study group and flexible boundary policy committee.

We believe he will look out not only for the best interests of students but taxpayers as well. We endorse him enthusiastically.

We are also happy to endorse Kodama, who has proven himself a tireless volunteer as well as an insightful candidate. He has made improving the curriculum and opening lines of communication as his priorities. We also believe he’ll advocate for sensible contracts with new administrators and teachers, ones that both employees and taxpayers find fair.

Michael O’Brien, a Riverside resident and husband of a District 96 faculty member, is an energetic candidate who would like the district’s math curriculum strengthened and technology integrated more closely into the classroom.