We believe sustainable quality education at Riverside-Brookfield High School depends on advancement toward the school goals adopted March 12, ongoing financial stabilization, a fair and equitable contract with Riverside Brookfield Education Association and continued community involvement in District 208 and the school.
RBHS is transitioning from a very difficult period in which the very credibility of the district, school and administration was questioned. That rupture was seen in the nearly 4-to-1 rejection of RB’s last attempt at a referendum.
Since the referendum, the board, with new leadership, a new majority, a new superintendent and the new principal, has restrained spending, investigated needs, initiated a school goal discussion with the teachers and administrators and prepared for the upcoming negotiations with RBEA.
The new administration started at zero. Upon entry, there was no curricular plan, job descriptions, evaluations, financial controls, established procedures, control over new hire salary offers, inventory control, accounting for the $66.75 million construction project, operating or maintenance manuals for the systems purchased in the construction project or maintenance plan for the new structure we fund yearly in our property taxes. There was a “doomsday” budget from the prior board that hurt students by ending most non-academic activities.
The board addressed each of these issues. Its budget restored most cuts to student life and finished with a surplus. Most importantly, the board addressed curriculum head on. Collaborating with all education professionals in the building, the administration built up a set of “school goals” that give parents and taxpayers objective measures of learning success. These goals are a first for RB, and are noteworthy for their embrace of special education, non-college bound and college prep tracks. Our top job is to help lead achievement of these goals.
The board also learned about underlying issues. Despite promises of new roofs everywhere, no new roofs were installed on existing structures. The football stadium and tennis courts were ignored. Construction issues in the boiler room, fieldhouse, pool and other areas have been identified. The football/soccer field itself is now nearing the end of its useful life and will soon need replacement.
In response, the board has hired a new architect, which is one of the most highly regarded school life-safety firms in Illinois. RB’s life safety needs, despite the construction project, are apparent and will require action. But, none of the action items will bust the budget. RB’s strict cost controls will remain in place. No taxpayer or parent will find any irresponsible or unsustainable spending on our watch.
The current five-year contract with RBEA ends June 30. Under its terms, in the first four of its five years, full-time teachers saw their compensation grow by an average of 27.7 percent. Just as the current contract was a product of its time, before the economic crash and resulting recession, the next contract must reflect today’s realities. Further, gaps in the contract that preclude the District 208 superintendent from operating the school on the board’s behalf must be remedied.
Finally, we invite you, your family and your neighbors into the high school. RBHS occupies a special place in our community, and volunteer residents occupy a special place for the Boosters, the Patron’s Council, the foundation, board task forces, and the many other activities the school fosters. RBHS is a shared enterprise in which we hire the best to achieve the best for our kids. We seek your support to strengthen that sustainable quality education for today, tomorrow and many years to come.
Matt Sinde, Mike Welch and Ed Jepson are candidates for the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education.