In 2000, a website called Digital City ranked all Illinois schools by standardized scores. Blythe Park School was ranked No. 1 out of 1,669 schools. Hollywood was ranked 6. I still have the printouts from this website because in 2000 I was Riverside’s village president. I was proud of my town and wanted to make sure plenty of copies were distributed.
In 2014, during a controversy over release time for teachers, I wondered how Blythe Park and Hollywood were doing. I was stunned to find that Blythe Park ranked 466 and Hollywood ranked 529. What happened? I started going to D69 board meetings and at one meeting I asked the board what happened. No response. I asked the board to bring in an outside expert to figure out what happened. No response.
Money was certainly not the issue. District 96 is one of the heaviest taxing and best-funded districts in the state. It is sitting on huge reserves and, of course, our departed superintendent, Jon Lamberson, was one of the most highly paid superintendents in Illinois.
The students are as bright and motivated as ever. I concluded that a major problem was the lack of supervision of Dr. Lamberson by a complacent, unquestioning board of education.
Things are starting to change. Two members of the old board resigned four months ago for personal reasons and two new members, Juliet Boyd and Rich Regan, were appointed.
Both have spent hours working on student-performance issues and trying to make sense of byzantine financial records. Juliet and Rich didn’t know each other prior to their appointment, but both are committed to the dual tasks of increasing student performance and getting control of the district’s finances.
They are up for election to the board on April 7, 2015. Two other individuals, Dan Hunt, an IT specialist, and Rob McCormick, a quality control specialist, are also running for open seats. Even though they were initially strangers to each other, they are now working together to restore District 96 to its prior stature.
The quality of a town is determined by a number of factors, the most important of which is the quality of its schools. I believe the upcoming April 7 election will be the most important local election in which I have participated during my over 40 years as a Riverside resident.
I encourage every resident to vote and I encourage them to consider the four candidates named above — Juliet Boyd, Rich Regan, Dan Hunt and Rob McCormack.
Paul F. Stack