There are three things that matter when considering the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education candidates: Finances, academics and respect
In all those areas, I believe the current board members and, more largely, the school administration have fallen far short of what we should expect as voters and citizens.
Finances. RBHS received a no-strings-attached $8.9 million grant from the state in 2013. This grant was applied for a decade earlier by the previous administration. In 2015, the board sold $6 million in bonds, an action that did not require voter approval. With that kind of influx of money, it is unacceptable that the school is forecasted to have budget shortfalls expected to rise to about $2 million by 2021.
Academics. The Landmark article on March 21 (“RBHS board hopefuls hear from faculty at forum”) shared that RBHS faculty express concern about falling test scores. They are right to be concerned.
In 2011, the state-administered ACT college-readiness score was met by 70.6 percent of the graduating class. By 2016, that percentage had fallen year-over-year to 59.5 percent. During the same period, average class size went from 21.3 in 2011 to 24 in 2016.
Similarly, while the RBHS course catalog shows electives that would indicate support of students not planning to attend college, those classes are not offered every year. In at least one case, such a course consistently listed in the catalog hasn’t been offered for 11 years.
All of these things tell me that college-bound students and those who intend to pursue immediate employment or trade school are not being served by the current board or administration.
Respect. The recent situation with the social sciences teacher and the student/parent outcry, as well as the events preceding these things (unaddressed racist graffiti) and the apparent morale issue with the school’s teachers indicate that there is a problem with respect from the top-down at the school.
Students must be able to talk openly about the many issues that concern and confront them. We need teachers able to facilitate and lend an open ear to those concerns. Similarly, a school board whose immediate choice when it doesn’t get its way is a lawsuit against the community it serves shows a lack of respect for taxpayers.
As a parent with one RBHS graduate and another child about to enter the school, I think it has great teachers and potential but new guidance is needed. Only Wes Smithing has shown an awareness of RB’s needs. Your vote matters. Please vote for Smithing on April 4.