One Riverside-Brookfield High School club slated for elimination was saved last week when the District 208 school board voted 5 to 2 to remove the Ecology Club from a list of clubs getting the ax this year to save money.
Board member Laura Hruska, a member of the Brookfield Conservation Commission, made the motion to preserve the Ecology Club.
“That’s the one club that gives back to the community,” Hruska said, referring to the Ecology Club’s regular outings to local woods to clear out invasive species.
Hruska said that the original rationale to eliminate the Ecology Club no longer existed after the administration decided to eliminate the School of Environmental Education, better known as the SEE team.
The administration had said that it decided what clubs to eliminate by cutting those whose focus was already represented in the curriculum. But after the elimination of the SEE team, an interdisciplinary program for freshmen focusing on environmental issues, there was no clear counterpart to the Ecology Club in RB’s curriculum, Hruska said.
The Ecology Club had 24 members who came to regular weekly meetings, although more students participated in work days.
Joining Hruska in voting to preserve the Ecology Club were Garry Gryczan, Dan Moon, John Keen and Tim Walsh. Voting to follow the administration recommendation to eliminate the Ecology Club was Mike Welch and school board President Matt Sinde.
Welch said he would defer to the recommendation of the administration.
“They work long and hard and made these tough decisions, of which we hire them for,” Welch said. “I’m going to vote no for anything you want to bring back into the budget, because I don’t want the perspective out there that says, ‘Well we don’t have to vote for the referendum next time because, you know what, they’re going to bring back all this stuff anyway.'”
The cost of the Ecology Club is $1,729, which is the cost of the stipend that will be paid this year to the club’s advisor, which has been science teacher Dave Monti.
Monti is also serving this year as the president of the Riverside Brookfield Education Association, the union that represents teachers and other staff. He was at the meeting and made an emotional statement to the board after the vote.
He said that the vote to save the Ecology club was completely unexpected, and that while he appreciated it, he didn’t agree with it.
“All clubs, all activities, all sports are an integral part of being a student at this building,” Monti told the board. “I know Eco Club has a huge history here. It’s been here 30 years, and I know the things we do are amazing, but it’s not fair to the other clubs who are also are on the chopping block to not get their say and not get their defense. I’m really grateful for Ms. Hruska’s advocacy, but I would actually ask the board to revisit their vote, because I don’t think it’s fair to the other clubs that have been cut to say that Eco Club is more important.”
– Bob Skolnik