My name is Thomas Jacobs, I am a candidate for Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 board member in the April 2 election. I decided to run because I believe we aren’t preparing our students well enough considering our rapidly changing world. We teach them well academically, but we fall short training them to ask great questions and to take real ownership of their futures. 

The most consequential case in point is global warming, a man-made threat that puts at risk the very existence of humanity. We have 10-12 years to cut emissions in half or risk irreversible damage to the planet. Other challenges include the rise of artificial intelligence and its effects on future jobs, rising income inequality and the growing and socially corroding nature of our tribal politics.

What does this have to do with our high school? I believe the insight of an educator, articulated a few years after the end of World War II, contains a direct answer: “The true purpose of education is to prepare our young women and men for effective citizenship in a free form of government.” 

The educator was Dwight Eisenhower, from his time as president of Columbia University in the years after his decisive leadership service in the war. The global geopolitical crisis from 80 years ago and the current environmental emergency bear a striking resemblance – they both are existential threats. What made the difference then, as it will today, is transformational leadership.

We will always owe gratitude to the members of the Greatest Generation who acted on their citizenship duties by coming together in the face of an overarching challenge. Let us use their attitude and commitment as the example to build and educate Generation Z into a cohort committed to citizenship over partisanship, guided by science and reason, and committed to taking action.

I am advocating that we adopt a culture of courageous leadership at RB, embraced by all members of the community – taxpayers, parents, administrators, teachers, and students. The key word here is courage; for the adults to acknowledge, without blaming each other, that we bear responsibility for our precarious state of affairs, and for students to speak up about issues they care about.

As a business owner and practicing architect, I am used to acting on fiduciary responsibilities, and as a teacher, I understand the challenges and opportunities of the classroom. Yet, all decisions moving forward will only be as good as the extent to which the voices of the community are heard and understood. Therefore, I propose to launch a broadly inclusive RB community visioning process that re-calibrates our aspirations and engages students more broadly, as people and citizens. In addition to addressing the needs of our time, this will rise academic performance which benefits property values.

On April 2, please do your part choosing the future direction of RB by going to the polls. A vote for me is a vote for a sincere effort to moving RBHS forward, together.

Thomas Jacobs is a candidate for the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education.