Has the merry-go-round stopped yet?
This is the time of year where, if you’re going to have some turnover in school administrators, you’ll see it begin to happen. But what’s gone on in and around the Landmark area this year has been nothing less than remarkable.
By the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, Riverside District 96 will have new principals in all but one of its schools. There will be a new principal at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield and a new principal at Riverside-Brookfield High School. That doesn’t even take into account the complete changeover in administration at District 96 in the past year.
Suffice to say, it’s been a whirlwind.
Naturally, we wish all of the departing administrators the best. It’s going to be particularly difficult for parents over at Blythe Park School, who have counted on Bob Chleboun to be the in the principal’s office for the past decade or so.
But we’d like to extend particular good wishes on her new post as assistant superintendent for academics at Hinsdale School District 86 to Pamela Bylsma, who exits as principal at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
To say that Bylsma arrived on the scene at a difficult period in the school’s history is an understatement.
She arrived in the aftermath of chaos. The previous principal/superintendent resigned in the wake of scandal and a political upheaval that changed the face of the school board. In her first year on the job, the school district failed in an attempt to pass a tax referendum and the school set about making budget cuts that included teachers and programs.
As a member of the school’s administration, Bylsma felt heat from teachers, even though she wasn’t directly responsible for their plight. New laws calling for principals to evaluate teachers didn’t help matters.
A survey mandated by the state board of education last year resulted in Bylsma reportedly receiving some low marks from teachers. But even the state school board admitted the survey was flawed and stacked against principals, in particular. Still, the results must have stung.
Upbeat and hardworking, Bylsma focused on improving student behavior and attitudes, instituting a Character Counts program at the school, which was never fully embraced by students or faculty.
And she had the misfortune — though that’s probably too strong a term for it — of being hired by the school board prior to the appointment of her boss, Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. While Skinkis has been unfailingly supportive of Bylsma, it put her in one more tough spot. Simply put, she wasn’t her boss’ choice.
Throughout it all, Bylsma retained her professionalism and exuded positivity, a refreshing change from the period that immediately preceded her at the school. She was content to do her job out of the spotlight and let the school board and superintendent set the policies she carried out.
Now she returns to Hinsdale, where she worked prior to her stint at RBHS, a deserved homecoming. Best wishes, Pam.