Garry Gryczan is the new president of the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education.
Gryczan unanimously was elected to the post shortly after three new board members, Gina Sierra, William “Wes” Smithing, and Ramona Towner were sworn in at a special meeting on April 27.
Tim Walsh unanimously was elected vice president of the school board.
Gryczan, 57, has lived in Riverside since 1999. He was first elected to the District 208 school board in 2011, running in tandem with John Keen. He has a son and daughter who are students at RBHS. His oldest child went to Mt. Carmel High School where he played football.
Former board President Mike Welch chose not to run for re-election and former board Vice President Matt Sinde, who served for four years as president, was defeated in his attempt to win a third term on the board on April 4.
“It’s an honor,” Gryczan said of being elected president. “I’m following in some great footsteps and I appreciate all the insight that Mike and Matt gave me.”
Gryczan has a background in finance. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Loyola University. He is a certified public accountant and works as a managing director for Warbird Consulting, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in offering high-level financial consulting services. He has worked as the chief financial officer for two companies.
In his six years on the District 208 school board, Gryczan has concentrated on financial issues. He played a key role in negotiating two contracts with the teachers’ union and has pressed the administration to recoup all costs from groups renting school facilities.
“I think Garry has shown tremendous leadership, especially behind the scenes, and I think he’ll be a great president of our board,” Keen said at the school board meeting.
Gryczan has also pushed for ambitious academic goals, including setting the goal of having an average composite ACT score of 26, which many consider unrealistic and unattainable. The RBHS Class of 2016 had an average ACT composite score of 22.1.
Since the defeat of a tax referendum in 2011, at the same time as Gryczan was first elected to the school board, RBHS has focused hard on controlling costs.
“We have some challenges going forward with finances,” Gryczan said. “We’ve been running this school without the need for a referendum. We’ve been able to keep the taxpayers from having to suffer from a referendum.”
Gryczan has pushed for making data-driven decisions and he praised the current school administration for moving in that direction.
“I think they’re doing a great job as they evolve to data-driven type of analysis,” Gryczan said.
The composition of the RBHS board has now changed with Sierra, a grammar school principal, and Towner, a career educator who currently works as an instructional coach in Berwyn, joining the board.
“I’m looking forward to hearing different viewpoints with the new board members and seeing what their insights will bring us,” Gryczan said.
Before the three new school board members were sworn in, Sinde and Welch, who were both first elected to the school board in 2009, made valedictory remarks. Ed Jepson, who was not re-elected after finishing just 66 votes behind Smithing in the April election, missed the meeting because a family responsibility.
“I have made two good friends that I’ll have for life,” Sinde said referring to Welch and Moon.
Sinde said that he and Welch have left the school in better condition than when they joined the board in 2009.
“Our school finances are strong,” Sinde said. “We’re not on a watch list. We’re very smartly budgeting and making sure that we are spending money wisely.”
Both Sinde and Welch praised RBHS teachers.
“I think the teaching staff in this building is excellent,” Welch said before stepping down from the board.
Welch said that he would like the community to explore merging the elementary school districts that feed into RBHS into one school district, a move that could potentially save money and perhaps improve student performance.
“If we put all of our eggs in one basket and under one set of leadership, we can certainly try to do better for our kids,” Welch said.
The understated Welch closed with a simple statement.
“It was an honor and privilege to serve my community,” Welch said.