To the surprise of no one, the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education took the word “interim” off of Principal Kristin Smetana’s title last week.
On Jan. 13 the board approved a two-and-a-half-year contract to make Smetana’s principal through June 30, 2017. Smetana has been serving as interim principal at RBHS since July 1, 2014, when she replaced former Principal Pamela Bylsma, who resigned last year to take an assistant superintendent position in Hinsdale.
Her six months as interim principal essentially served as a tryout for Smetana, who, despite her youth, has continued to impress those with whom she works with her keen intelligence, quiet competence, collaborative nature and work ethic.
“Kristin has done a nice job first semester,” said Matt Sinde, the president of the District 208 Board of Education. “She works well with the superintendent, staff, students and parents. She is a great fit for RB.”
Superintendent Kevin Skinkis recommended that Smetana be named principal and a did not interview any other people for the position.
“Kristin has a strong background in curriculum and has demonstrated the ability to be the instructional leader of the high school,” Skinkis said. “She is committed to staff development and student achievement. She is ready to be named the principal of RB. Her work ethic and dedication to doing what is best for the students was demonstrated throughout the first semester.”
Smetana’s salary was raised to a $121,300 annual rate for the rest of this year. Next year she will be paid $125,000.
Smetana, 32, came to RBHS in 2012 as the assistant principal for curriculum and instruction. Prior to that she spent seven years at Hinsdale Central High School, where she was a math teacher and served as the chairwoman of the math department for two years.
Smetana said that she is honored to be named principal of RBHS.
“I’ve really enjoyed the first semester, and I’m thrilled to be able to continue in this role,” Smetana said. “The role has given me more opportunities to continue to build and enhance relationships, especially with students, but with staff and parents as well that I didn’t have as the assistant principal of curriculum and instruction.”
As assistant principal of curriculum and instruction Smetana mostly worked with teachers. In an effort to get to know students better this year Smetana invites a different small group of students to her office once a week for lunch.
“Every Friday I have lunch with six students,” Smetana said. “I randomly select three students and I select students from the same grade level, so that either students know each other or have the opportunity to get to know each other, and those three students each get to bring a friend. I do it because I love being able to interact with the students and I want to know as many students on a personal level at RB as I can and it’s a great opportunity for me to hear what they enjoy about RB.”
Smetana also asks students what they could change at the school. What do the students suggest?
“It’s been a wide range of comments,” Smetana said. “Some are a little more realistic than others.”
She said that more realistic students have suggested bringing back specific clubs that were cut in the wake of a failed 2011 tax referendum or asked for ways to recognize staff on a regular basis.
Now that Smetana is firmly ensconced as principal, she and Skinkis will begin the process of finding replacements for two high level administrators, Assistant Principal for Student Affairs John Passarella and Special Education Director Gayle Brankin, who will be retiring at the end of the school year.