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: Nicholas J. Novak
Previous Political Experience: None
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Youth coach for 16 years, with Forest Park Little League, Forest Park Youth Soccer Association, Riverside Little League and North Riverside Little League; president and board member, Forest Park Little League; Riverside Brookfield Parents Sports Boosters, including service as board member and vice-president
Occupation: Superintendent of Projects and Special Events, Wheaton Park District.
Education: St. Joseph High School, Westchester; B.S. in Criminal Justice, with a minor in sociology, Illinois State 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?
A strong belief in community involvement and my family are two reasons I am running for District 208 School Board. Public service and community involvement are values of mine that are enriched in my everyday life. I have worked for the Wheaton Park District for over 20 years. During this time, I have been involved in the planning, building, and maintaining of several parks and facilities. Budgeting and hiring full time staff are other essential functions of my job that correlate with the duties of a school board member. My wife, Jennifer Novak, has been an educator for 19 years with Forest Park School District 91. We have three children. Nicholas Novak Jr. (20), Matthew Novak (18) and Katie Novak (12). Our family moved to North Riverside in 2015. Riverside Brookfield High School was a big reason we moved to North Riverside. Nic graduated RBHS in 2021 and is a Sophomore at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Matt graduated RBHS in 2022 and is a Freshman at the University of Dayton. My daughter Katie is in 7th grade at Hauser Middle School. Katie will be attending Riverside Brookfield High School in the Fall of 2024. I am vested in this community and want to make a positive impact for all students. If elected, I believe my 20 years of public service and dedication to community involvement would be an asset to Riverside Brookfield High School Board of Education.
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?
Riverside Brookfield High School does a great job of providing services to all students. If elected, I would like to hear from teachers, administrators, and students to get their feedback on services RBHS can provide to better prepare our students for College and/or Career opportunities. With busy school schedules and after school activities, it can be challenging for students to think about what their future looks like post RB graduation. Implementing programs that give all students more exposure to career paths vs. college experiences should be explored.
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?
It is undoubtedly important for a school’s faculty to represent the diversity of its student body. A diverse teaching staff can provide students with role models and mentors that can relate and understand each student’s perspective and experiences. When recruiting teachers, I would like to see RBHS hire qualified teachers that strive to learn the defining characteristics of every student, including their social, economic and cultural backgrounds.
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?
I believe Riverside Brookfield High School has shown that equity and diversity are important core values. As an elected school board member, I would be dedicated to creating a learning environment where all students are valued and treated with respect. Creating and implementing programs to help diverse students succeed in the classroom is a way to improve equity. Treat every student respectfully and value their contribution to the school.
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?
Any member of an elected school board must play a role in the school’s budget. When using public tax dollars, we must make responsible decisions and apply the best business practices to ensure we are accountable to all students and taxpayers. The best way to be fiscally responsible is through transparency. Open and honest communication between all levels of leadership is how responsible school budgets are formed.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?
Continue to address and improve on diversity and equity. Strive to make these values reflect everyday practices and priorities of RBHS. Identify new areas and programs for our students that can assist them in identifying potential career pathways.