For the first 26 years of her career at the school, Sharon Sedivy worked as the receptionist/switchboard operator, where she became the first contact with the school for many parents and visitors.
Now, the woman known for decades as the “Voice of RB” has retired after working for 30 years at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
“She’s always been the face of the school,” said science teacher Dave Monti, who has taught at RBHS for 25 years. “What a wonderful and welcoming person, always made parents and visitors and everybody just feel like this is a great place to be.”
Sedivy grew up in Brookfield, graduated from RBHS in 1957 and married her high school sweetheart a year later when she was just 18. She began working at her alma mater in 1987 after getting divorced after 30 years of marriage.
At the time, she was working part time at the now-defunct women’s clothing store Charles A. Stevens in LaGrange Park. A coworker whose husband was the business manager at RBHS told her the school was hiring.
She’s been at RBHS ever since. She worked as receptionist/switchboard operator for 26 years — a perfect fit for her friendly nature. The only current RBHS employee who has worked at the school longer than Sedivy is Gary Prokes, the head of RBTV.
“I’m a people person. I love working with the kids,” Sedivy said. “It’s such a great place. I’ve always felt like this school is like a family and everybody that’s new that comes here says that too.”
For many years she was known as “the lady in the box,” a reference to her the former welcoming station by the old main entrance on Ridgewood Road.
She always had a smile and a kind word for every visitor and her friendly nature was infectious. Before the phone system was fully automated, she answered all phone calls to the school and was the point of contact for parents wanting all sorts of updates. She also did typing and copying for teachers.
“I made it a point to know everything that was going on,” Sedivy said.
But four years ago, the school, in a security and cost-saving move, switched to a fully automated phone system where callers to the school now get automated prompts when instead of a person. Security guards, sitting behind a glass window, man the entrance and check visitors into the building.
Sedivy was switched to a part-time position as an assistant in the nurse’s office. Many have noticed the change.
“I always thought it was huge mistake getting rid of the personal touch,” said former history teacher Jan Goldberg, who retired in 2012 after 34 years at RBHS. “She really was helpful to everyone: other teachers, other school administrators, parents, kids and she was so friendly. Oh my God, so nice, so friendly.”
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said that the change was made for security purposes.
“The entrance at door-A is our main entrance and was made into a security post for checking in and checking out visitors during the school day,” Skinkis said in an email. “
Entrance improvements included installing a bullet-proof check-in window and a door buzzer for lobby access. All the glass doors had a bullet-protectant clear-coat shields applied to their surfaces.
Many of the changes were made at schools across the state and nationally after the Sandy Hook incident in 2012, said Skinkis, who added that RBHS received grant money for the improvements.
Sedivy said the change was hard, but she recognized the reasoning behind the move.
“They were changing everything up front as far as security,” Sedivy said. “They figured they needed more security than an old lady sitting there.”
Sedivy, who had worked full time as the receptionist, cut back her hours in the nurse’s office. She told Skinkis four years ago she was not quite ready to retire and said she’s grateful Skinkis found a spot for her.
“I was glad that Dr. Skinkis gave me something to do,” Sedivy said.
Sedivy has worked for five superintendents in her 30 years at RBHS. Former Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann was her favorite.
“He was a mover and shaker, friendly. He’d give you a hug, a high five in the hall,” Sedivy said. “He’d be out in the hall talking to the students. I’ve never seen, before or since him, a superintendent do that.”
In the nurse’s office Sedivy has had a fair amount of contact with students and always provides a friendly face and sympathetic ear.
“She’s just a sweetheart,” said Rosie Nolan, who graduated from RBHS last week. “She’s so nice and always just super friendly and nice and very accommodating.”
Sedivy enjoyed interacting with students.
“I’ve had really good times with the kids,” Sedivy said. “You treat the kids with respect. I’ve never had anybody disrespect me.”
Perhaps the most unusual thing Sedivy saw in her four years in the nurse’s office was when a boy had a house fly lodged in his ear. They couldn’t get it out, and it ultimately caused an infection.
A year ago RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana told Sedivy that if she wanted to continue on in her position she would have a obtain certification as a certified nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse.
Sedivy decided that she was too old to do that and, with arthritis bothering her more and more, decided to make this her last year. Sedivy did mostly clerical and administrative work. She could hand out bandages but could not take a temperature or give students medication.
“The requirements for the position changed, because we felt it was important to have a healthcare professional in that role due to some added responsibilities,” Smetana said in an email. “Next year a CNA will take over the nurse’s assistant and the position will become full time.”
“They were nice about that and gave me a year if I wanted to do that,” Sedivy said. “With this darn arthritis, maybe this would have been my last year without any kind of push along.”
Sedivy will be leaving RBHS the same time as her grandson, Brendan, graduates making her last year at RBHS a little more special.
She has no big plans for retirement except to declutter the Western Springs home where she has lived for the past 53 years.
“I love to work in the yard, but I can’t do that anymore,” Sedivy said. “I think after I get my house in order I’ll have to look for some place to volunteer. You’ve got to have a reason to get up in the morning.”
And she will continue to get together with friends. For the past few years six to 10 members of the Class of 1957 have been getting together for dinner and conversation on Friday evenings. After initially meeting in restaurants now they meet at the Riverside home of Judy Jisa, who was a friend and classmate of Sedivy in high school.
“We were friends back then and we’re friends again now,” Sedivy said. “It’s mostly talking about the old times here at RB and current events and everything. We just go there and sit and talk and have a good time.”
Sedivy said that she was shy when she was in high school. A bout with breast cancer 11 years changed her, she said, although she was outgoing and friendly even before that.
But, she admitted that leaving RBHS will be hard.
“I love it here,” Sedivy said. “I’m going to miss it for sure.”