Moving quickly after Riverside-Brookfield High School choir teacher Aubrey Prince resigned last month to take a job in Oregon, the District 208 Board of Education last week approved the hiring of a new choir teacher last week.
The new teacher will be Kayley Smetana, no relation to Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana.
Smetana, 25, graduated from the University of Illinois in 2017 and has spent the last four years as a choir teacher in Riverton Community School District 14, a unit school district in suburban Springfield.
A native for Frankfort, Smetana taught fifth-graders through seniors in high school in Riverton, leaving because she wanted to move back to the Chicago area.
“Just with the pandemic it really showed me that I wanted to be closer to family and closer to home,” Smetana told the Landmark.
Smetana was one of three finalists for the position who came to RBHS earlier this month for final interviews and to teach a sample class to 11 students, who were impressed.
“I think she connected with the students when she came in,” said Madrigals singer Brooke Craig, a rising senior who was part of the process.
Smetana was as impressed with the students as they were with her.
“They sounded awesome and they picked up on the music very quickly,” Smetana said.
Smetana said she knows it will be difficult to replace Prince, who was very popular, and said she can identify with the feelings many students had when Prince resigned.
“I was in that same position just a handful of years ago, and I definitely do have some big shoes to fill replacing her,” Smetana said.
Smetana was hired to teach four classes — three choir classes and a studio music production class – and will be classified as a 0.9 full-time-equivalent position.
As a result of Prince leaving, music teacher Matthew Loeb, who will teach both at RBHS and Riverside Elementary School District 96 next year, will pick up an additional RBHS class and become full time. Baum will replace Prince as the instructional coach for the fine arts and wellness departments.
Smetana said she hopes that she, Baum and Loeb can boost enrollment in music classes at RBHS enough to support three full-time positions. She met with Baum and Loeb on July 19 to get to know each other and plan for the upcoming school year.
“I’m hoping that the .9 won’t be for longer than a year or two, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to grow the program and add more to bump me up to a 1.0. But even as .9, it was clear that this school is the right fit for me,” Smetana said.