It’s not a surprise that Brookfield resident Kenyon Duner would look to serve as an elected official in his hometown since birth. The 48-year-old father of an elementary school age daughter already has served on the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission since 2014, and his mother, Dianne Duner, is retiring after 24 years of service on the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees.

That he’s looking to serve on a school board is also not surprising. His mother was a school teacher, and after graduating with a degree in philosophy from Clarke University in Dubuque, Duner’s day job is recreation supervisor for New Star Recreation Services, a special recreation cooperative serving the south suburbs as well as Broadview and Maywood. He also serves as an IHSA umpire for girls softball.

This spring, Duner is one of five candidates looking to be elected to one of the four four-year terms on the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education. Early voting starts March 20, with Election Day on April 4.

It’s his first bid at elective office.

Kenyon Duner| Provided

“With a background in special recreation, I feel I’m a strong advocate for  special education, for job training, for that population,” Duner said. “Having somebody to actively advocate for that, I’d be willing to do.”

Duner said while his daughter is still a few years from attending Riverside-Brookfield High School, the chance to impact learning there before she gets there is appealing. He also believes electing another Brookfield resident to the school board was important.

“There’s only one other board member from Brookfield, Laura [Hruska], and I felt that having the perspective of a second board member whose kids are going through the programs in Brookfield [was important],” Duner said.

Duner, in both a face-to-face-interview with the Landmark last week and in response to a questionnaire from the newspaper, expressed particular interest in ensuring the high school administration and board followed through on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

With Riverside-Brookfield High School changing demographically, the school board and administration need to meet the challenges and opportunities that change provides. The school should do all it can to hire faculty that represents the student population, which is a benefit to everyone, he said.

“Diversity is important not just for the students to feel represented, it’s also important for the majority of students, because they also get experience dealing with people that don’t share their background, don’t share their upbringing,” Duner said. “That’s an easy way to criticize DEI initiatives – oh, that’s only helping the minorities – but it helps everyone in the school, and I think that helps the community as well.”

Duner said that while it was important for the District 208 board to have set a revised set of goals last year, it was just as important to do the work to achieve them.

“I see in a lot of organizations that they state their goals, and when the next shiny thing pops up, they kind of veer their attention to that and they don’t follow through with what they had planned to do,” Duner said. “As a board member, that would be one of my focuses, is to make sure they follow through with what the previous board and administration have decided and not just rock the boat for the next big thing.”

Duner supports expansion of RBHS’ dual-enrollment offerings, which allow students to obtain college credits while working to complete high school graduation requirements. That view, he said, was borne out of his experience attending College of DuPage for two years after graduating from Lyons Township High School.

The community college option, provided him with a low-cost, low-risk entry into post-high school education.

“Sometimes students need that space between high school and making a big financial commitment to college,” Duner said. “I think it’s important to have an opportunity – those dual-credit options for Triton College – not to just focus so much on ‘the result of high school is getting into a college.’ The result of high school is having the resources needed to succeed in the next step, whether that’s through a trade school, through a community college or a four-year institution.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Duner said the experience demonstrated a recognition that high school was not just for those on a college track, but for those looking to enter the workforce after graduation. 

It also showed how important it is for students to be around other students, he said, and reinvigorated parent involvement in the discussion of how education should be delivered.

“I think it empowered parents to take an active role,” Duner said.

That involvement has not always been positive and school board members have encountered parental hostility as well. Duner said it’s important to hear those voices, but at the end of the day, educators should be making decisions regarding curriculum.

“While I would of course listen to any concerns or opinions the community had in regards to curriculum and would express my opinions on it during meetings, I feel the curriculum is best developed by the school administration,” he said.