Former Riverside-Brookfield High School Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann has been named one of three finalists for the national Principal of the Year award that is awarded annually by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. 

Earlier this year Baldermann, who is now the principal at Westmont High School, was named Illinois High School Principal of Year by the Illinois High School Principals Association which made him eligible for the national award.

After reviewing the winners in each state, a panel of judges selected Baldermann and principals from South Carolina and Georgia as the three finalists.

Baldermann will go to Washington, D.C., this month for an interview, and the winner will be named at the association’s annual conference in October.

“It feels great,” Baldermann said. “I think it’s a testament to what our team has done at Westmont. I’m very excited.”

Baldermann was at RBHS for eight years and led the school to high rankings and renown by stressing Advanced Placement classes and recruiting passionate teachers. He also started the School of Environment Education, an interdisciplinary program for freshmen that has since been disbanded. 

He also established the professional learning community model at RBHS where teachers get together once a week to compare notes, coordinate efforts, and learn from each other.

He was a charismatic leader still remembered fondly by many veteran RBHS teachers, who enjoyed his passion, warmth and energy. But some considered him a lax and distracted administrator by the end of his time at RBHS.

Baldermann resigned under pressure from RBHS in 2009 after a rocky year that included a suspension for having a romantic relationship with a staff member. He resigned not long after it was disclosed that he had allowed his administrative certificate to briefly lapse amid a failure to fulfill continuing education requirements.

But he has rebounded. After taking a year off, he worked two years as a district level administrator in Hartford, Connecticut, before becoming the principal at Westmont five years ago.

He is lauded by the National Association of Secondary School principals for creating a culture of safety and compassion at Westmont, which has led to skyrocketing student achievement. 

Since 2015, the Washington Post Challenge Index, which relies largely on the percentage of students taking AP exams, has ranked Westmont as the most improved regular high school in Illinois.

In addition to emphasizing AP classes, Baldermann has boosted achievement among minority students, with all African-American and Latino students at Westmont having graduated on time for four consecutive years.

Baldermann does extensive consulting work, mentoring principals around the country. He has made more than 300 presentations in 43 states and Canada according to a press release. 

The amount of work Baldermann did away from the building became an issue in his last year at RBHS. The National Association of Secondary School Principals lauded Baldermann for serving as a lead mentor to more than 40 principals in 14 states.

Twenty-five people that Baldermann hired for their first administrative positions have become principals, including former RBHS science department chairman Troy Gobble, who is now the principal at Stevenson High School.

Just last week Baldermann was in Arkansas working as a consultant.

“It varies from school to school, but a lot of it has to do with school improvements and leadership and professional learning communities,” Baldermann said of his consulting and mentoring work. “Setting smart goals and trying to get people to work together and come together as a team.”