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: William T. Durkin
Previous Political Experience: District 208 RBHS Board, running for re-election
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Assistant coach and volunteer for multiple organizations
Occupation: Insurance broker
Education: B.A., University of Illinois Champaign Urbana
1.Why are you running for the board of Riverside Brookfield High School?
Running for re-election to continue the progress made in promoting opportunities for our students in the trades and would like to explore potential internships for our students. I also want to work on the continuation of the school being fiscally responsible.
What motivates you and what experience and perspectives would you bring to the job?
My motivation to run for re-election is mainly based on witnessing firsthand the energy and engagement of the students at the Trades and Career fair last year. Students need to be aware of meaningful and respected opportunities besides college. These programs allow you to earn while you learn and are great opportunities. I want to continue being a voice and advocate for our students interested in the trades.
My background is in the private sector as an Insurance broker. For the past five years, I’ve served as a co-managing partner of a 100+-year-old mid-size insurance brokerage. Every day is filled with negotiations, compromise, and problem-solving for internal duties and for my clients. I believe these and having a business mindset and background bring value to the Board.
How would these be valuable as an elected official?
Being an entrepreneur and managing a business requires me to know a little about everything. With my contacts and relationships, I’ve introduced a dozen or so apprentice programs to our admin and counselors. The goal was to establish direct connections between RB and these programs. Linking them together has been very rewarding, and I’d like to continue building something that can positively impact our student’s futures.
2. Do you believe it is necessary for Riverside-Brookfield High School to do more to serve all students better? If so, what areas do you believe need improvement?
We’ve made progress over the last year as there appears to be a substantial interest in career and tech education (CTE) courses. We need to remain flexible and open-minded to new trends and needs. This week, we approved a new hire with a great background to expand CTE. Exposure to and educating our students on opportunities within the trades has made great strides. We need to continue listening to the needs of the students.
Do you believe the high school focuses too much on one particular area?
How can RBHS better prepare students for college and career?
We are making positive strides in exposing our students to career opportunities. There’s always more work that can be done, and we must remain flexible and open-minded. We need to work on dual credit opportunities.
An area that I would like to work on besides apprenticeships is looking for internships for our students. Many RBHS alum, families, and community members own businesses and work in various industries. It would be great to connect our students with this group and others. It would be much work to establish, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle in making an effort to build it.
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?
Yes, I do. However, the RB faculty doesn’t turn over very often, so it’s just something we have to be mindful of when there are opportunities.
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?
Again, the turnover factor comes into play. However, we have made good progress at the admin level by hiring Dr. Freytas and Alberto Jaquez, who are both excellent at what they do.
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?
Equity isn’t a one size fits all category and we need to continue to listen to the needs of our students and community. I’d like to point out a recent positive and quick change as described in a 2/14/23 RB Landmark article. One of our student reps to the board (Paulina Carmona) made a fantastic suggestion. Our school phone system was English only, and she recommended we look into a Spanish option since our district is almost 40% Hispanic. This was easily approved and quickly implemented. We are fortunate to have both Paulina and Aja McKay as student reps, as their voices and ideas matter.
One of last year’s trade and career fair participants was a non-profit called Hire360. They focus on assisting the underserved population in career paths in the construction or culinary field. The students appeared very interested in how this organization could help them. This was rewarding to see, and I was proud to have made the intro between RB & Hire 360.
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?
What’s best for the students is the top priority while being fiscally responsible for the community members.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?
The increase in unfunded state mandates now and in the future. We need to continue to be fiscally responsible and flexible.