The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Landmark’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: Laura Hruska
Previous Political Experience: Five-term school board member; liaison to the school board members association and attends our organizational meetings and conferences
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Volunteer, Prairie Restoration group, 1999 – 2018; former member, Brookfield Conservation Committee; election judge for many years; AWANA youth director at church, involved since 1972; Brookfield Cycle Club; member of Sokol, a historically Czech organization, open to everyone; participant, Women’s International Bible Study Fellowship program for about 7 years.
Occupation: Prior to COVID, worked as a medical educator for approximately 20 years in the areas of graduate medical education, accreditation, educational research, high-stake test development, certification, continuing medical education, and assessment; during COVID, part-time worker /supervisor in dispatch department of UPS
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Moody Bible Institute; bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a mathematics minor, University of Illinois at Chicago; master’s degree in educational leadership with a focus on evaluation and research; completed course work toward a doctoral degree in educational psychology. Currently working on a master’s degree in teaching from Western Illinois University.
1. Why are you running for the board of Riverside Brookfield High School? What motivates you and what experience and perspectives would you bring to the job? How would these be valuable as an elected official?
I am running for the School Board because I believe this is an area where I can contribute the most. I have worked in the area of professional education, and I have worked with Industry. I currently substitute teach for the Elmhurst Consolidated School District 205. I have greatly enjoyed my time in Elmhurst, they are a diverse and creative district. They have 27 languages spoken in their schools, they have an entire grade-school devoted to bilingual education. I have opportunity to be in classrooms from Kindergarten through high school, and the opportunity to see different programs implemented such as block scheduling. On the other side I have spent many years on the governance committees of our professional school board organization. The most driving factor for me is out youth, which are the future of our country. Education has looked very similar for many decades, however, currently there are so many advances and new opportunities, students around the world are excelling in science, technology, and other core subjects. Every conference we attend as a Board, we are reminded that we are preparing our students for jobs that do not even exist yet.
2. Do you believe it is necessary for Riverside-Brookfield High School to do more to better serve all students? If so, what areas do you believe need improvement? Do you believe that the high school focuses too much attention on one area in particular? How can RBHS better prepare students for college and/or career?
I believe that Riverside-Brookfield strives to serve all students. I do not believe there is an intentional or glaring gap. I also know that the administration is always looking for ways to improve and the Board has been supportive. Some newer initiatives include real-time access to student data in user friendly format, and the department restructure. RBHS has partnered with a company to provide the Panorama dashboard for teacher to use in assessing their students, this helps teachers identify areas within a class or a single student that students might need extra help. The department restructure now has a qualified designated leader that seeks out new initiatives, works with teacher in each area, advocates for their instructors and resources so we can offer an optimal experience. We are also aggressively pursuing more internships, relationships with trades, and duel credit all of which will greatly help student especially in the area of college and/or career.
3. Between 2006 and 2021, RBHS’ student demographics changed significantly, from 14% Hispanic, 2.8% Black and 79.4% white in 2006, to 39.3% Hispanic, 5.4% Black and 50% white in 2021. Do you believe that it is important for a school’s faculty to represent the diversity of the student body? Do you believe RBHS has made progress in recruiting teachers who reflect these changes and, if not, how can it do more in that respect?
I believe that RBHS should recruit the best teachers we can for any open position. My own children are bi-racial, their father and his family is from Mexico, and they never felt isolated or left out of the RBHS community. Many of our teachers come and they stay which says a lot about our community, our students, and our school. Dr. Smetana and Ms. Lindquist cast a broad net for new positions to attract a qualified and diverse staff. We recently hired a bilingual Spanish speaking mathematics teacher. We also strive to diversify our administration, where students may feel safe and inspired by the leadership of the school. Our principle, Dr. Fretius has been a tremendous addition and his charisma inspires our Latino Youth. We have diversified our deans, our student guidance counselors, and school psychologist. We hired these individuals because we believed they were the most qualified for their positions and would be the best fit for our students.
4. In 2021, RBHS adopted a new mission statement that included equity as one of the values it was committed to achieving. How do you think the school has done regarding implementing initiatives that promote equity? What more can or should it do?
Our mission statement is designed to be a lens we see everything through as we move forward. As we review each policy we look to make sure there are not any hidden biases. As we approve student trips, the Board is conscientious that there is equal access for all our students and not only those from wealthier homes. As we consider new programs or policies, the district utilizes diverse committees. When we send out information, we are ensuring that our Latino families also have access to information in Spanish. We rely on our students, staff and community members to point out new areas. Our club, “Girls who Code,” was a solution to a bias in the field of programming which is typically dominated by men.
5. As a school board member, you will play a significant role in budgeting. How will your values inform your approach to budgeting and fiscal planning?
Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to manage tax dollars. The majority of school funds come from local real estate and we need to be absolutely certain we are spending money appropriately. I myself, like many others have suffered loss in income after COVID, and I myself like may others are feeling the pinch of cook county property taxes. That was the sole reason I voted “no” for the new contract. I believed we needed a little more time to get our families on their feet. I have high confidence in our administration to manage our finances while maintaining a beautiful school building and offering robust course selections.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?
I think the most significant challenges in education will be educational programing and financial stability. Cook county is one of the highest taxing counties in the republic; unfortunately, our state leadership does not understand that the money is finite, families are finding themselves in difficult situations. I know we need reform in this state on how we fund education, but since that is not likely to happen soon, we have to be resourceful. I believe Duel Credit courses are a viable option helping families with the cost of college, and being a better fit for students. I am excited with the work that the high school is doing with the trades and working out internships. While I was at our annual conference we saw a superintendent from down-state Illinois who was implementing several certificate programs in their high school so that when the students graduated they were qualified for a job. I support the concept of a consolidated district should the citizens believe that is how we can maximize our resources. I think we will begin to see some exciting advances happening in the American educational system, and I believe Riverside-Brookfield High School will be a strong participant in these innovations.