RB Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Landmark. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
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 District 208 School Board because as someone born and raised in Brookfield I feel I have the experience and ability to represent the community effectively. With only one current board member residing in Brookfield, it’s important to have someone that knows the educational background of the schools that feed into RB. My college education gives a lot of support to being effective as a board member. With a degree in Philosophy, I’ve constantly used the skills of conflict resolution, mediation, problem solving, and logic that were keystones of the degree.
I’ve been a member of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission for 9 years which has provided valuable experience with community relations, municipal governance, and board operation. During the 9 years that I’ve been on the board, the expansion of programs of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Department and increased services offered have been very exciting. While the credit for that goes to the Recreation Department Staff, I’ve been very proud to be part of the process. As my full-time job is in special recreation, I have a strong background in working with adults and children with disabilities. Special education is an important component of Riverside-Brookfield so I would be strong advocate for that population. Before Brookfield joined the SEASPAR special recreation cooperative I was able to use my position as a commission member and my work resources to offer special recreation programming through the Parks and Recreation department for Brookfield residents where there were no programs previously.
One of the ways I’m in constant interaction with the community has been through IHSA umpiring at Nazareth and Lyons Township and little league umpiring in both Brookfield and Riverside. Seeing kids progress from prep and farm to majors and juniors and finally high school varsity while experiencing it with the same parents for years and years is very rewarding. The flip side is when those people you have relationships with disagree with a decision you’ve made. Weather it be a coach, parent, spectator, player, fellow board member, or an audience member, you need to be respectful and listen as people want the best things for the community as well as to be heard.
The role of a Board of Education member is to represent the community and students. While we of course have different agendas and goals, it’s important to filter decisions through the lens of community needs and expectations. With my experiences in the community through the Parks and Recreation commission and interactions as a longtime community resident I feel very confident in my ability to serve the residents of District 208.
William T. Durkin
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am running for a seat on the Board of Ed for RBHS because I feel as the parent of a current student, I have an understanding of the day-to-day activities within the school. I also understand how difficult it can be to motivate students at this point in their life to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them and want to help RBHS bridge that gap. In addition, in my career, I interpret federal regulations and guidelines on a daily basis and that experience is applicable at the school board level. As board members, we need to stay abreast of changes in state and federal policies that affect schools and pivot to implement changes with minimal guidance and often a lack of funding. Finally, as a resident of North Riverside, I feel it is important our village have a voice on the board; I want to be sure that the students and families of Komarek, the smallest feeder school into RB, have someone who can advocate on their behalf.
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
I have been a member of the Riverside Brookfield High School Board for approximately 9+ years. When there was a vacant position on the board in 2021, I volunteered and was appointed. I am running for a 2-year position to continue my community volunteer work and to help look after our High School which is one of the jewels of our community.
Deanna L. Zalas
I am a strong supporter of the public education opportunities available in our community as a whole and specifically District 208. All of my children are either current or former RBHS students; I am personally invested in the continued strength of RBHS and am committed to supporting its continued evolution to meet our changing world.
As I know from my current service, the volunteer School Board position takes not just time and effort but also dedication to a culture of continuous improvement. Over the past four years we have faced fiscal choices around programs and staffing, set measurable goals for the District, negotiated stakeholder contracts, increased engagement with the addition of a student voice on our Board and community input to the goal-setting process, and addressed a variety of other, important issues while also navigating a global pandemic. My temperament and engagement, coupled with my professional experience, has allowed me to serve as a valuable member of the Board and I would request the opportunity to continue that service.
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?
There’s always an opportunity for schools such as Riverside-Brookfield to do more for students. The question is how best to achieve that with the time limitations in school and after school clubs, staff work load, and budget. With the increased attention paid to student loan debt there has been helpful discussions about schools expanding the vocational pathways available to students as well as a focus on community college options. I think RB has been proactive in acknowledging these tracks for students through classes.
I attended College of DuPage before I went away to the 4-year institution where I graduated and there were a lot of educational, social, and financial benefits from that decision. While the $18 per credit hour tuition I enjoyed is long gone, it can still make a large difference in costs. The dual enrollment programs available through Triton College to RB students is a great opportunity to get a head start. The variety of programs available are strong, but hopefully can be expanded. A strong Applied Arts Program can help with opening up vocational opportunities for students as well. RB’s Television Arts Program and Automotive sequence are assets to the school.
Just as important is the opportunity for college focused students to thrive. RB has a robust dual credit program through Advanced Placement classes that offer the basics like English and Math as well as less traditional options such as studio art and music theory. The opportunity for independent study offered by RB is also a valuable chance for a student to receive credit for curriculum such as foreign languages not offered by the district. Summer internship opportunities through RB also give students a chance to receive high school credit in non-traditional ways. The additional requirement of an interview to be accepted into the program is a valuable experience.
While each individual student will have a different experience at RB, I feel the curriculum does a sensible job at providing meaningful opportunities for the full span of students. With a renewed focus in vocational studies, a robust offering of clubs, activities and sports, as well as the benchmark of college preparatory classes I think RB is in a good place.
William T. Durkin
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.
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.
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.
I believe Riverside Brookfield provides many services to its students, but there is always room for improvement. One area that needs improvement is with the community at large. If you have a student in the school, it is easier to stay informed of the happenings at the school. However, before my own children attended RB, it was not easy to find out about events the high school was sponsoring or the services they offer. In addition, ensuring that the information is readily available to Spanish speaking families in the area is important too. The school has made some recent improvements in this area, but should continue to take steps to maintain that progress.
I also feel my experience as a college administrator provides me with some perspective on what high school graduates need to be successful once they leave the halls of RB. Whether they decide to attend post-secondary education, enter the trades, or join the workforce, I have practical experience in working with 18-22 year olds and helping them navigate those first post-high school steps. I look forward to finding ways to work with RB faculty, administrators and staff to prepare students for lives of significance once they graduate.
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
Deanna L. Zalas
As a Board and as a community, we need to acknowledge that students begin with different resources and we must find ways to equitably support them in and out of the classroom. District 208 is not immune to the challenges inherent to public education, and balancing demands that range from government mandates to Advanced Placement opportunities to extra-curricular support to Special Education requirements to Arts programming to Social Emotional Learning needs – all within a constrained budget – often results in some displeasure. A goal-oriented District can support continuous improvement across all areas, and leveraging RBHS’ small size, dedicated teachers, and parental engagement can ensure, in the words of our Mission Statement, “graduates are well-equipped to be responsible members of a diverse and ever-changing world.”
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?
With the changing demographics of the Riverside-Brookfield High School a lot of attention is being paid to the faculty make up as compared to that of the student body. I believe it is important for students to see themselves represented by the makeup of the faculty. The challenge is that most every district with a diverse population is also striving to achieve better representation and there currently aren’t enough teachers from diverse backgrounds for all schools to accomplish this.
The question that follows is how we can best get as many quality teachers with as much representation as possible in the school. Part of RB’s Executive Summary on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion addresses that through the section on Equal Employment Opportunity and Minority Recruitment. The policy to advertise in minority publications, job fairs, and colleges and universities with significant minority enrollment is a solid strategy to attract these candidates. Diversity in staff isn’t just important for students to interact with staff who share their backgrounds, it’s also important for students to have experiences with staff who do not. While focusing on the benefits of representation for minorities in important, ignoring the benefits for the majority invites criticism that these policies only help minorities.
The increased diversity in the RB student body and our local communities is making us stronger, kinder, more aware community. Principal Dr Freytas is a strong asset to the school and community. In our attention to diversity, we might also look to hire administrators and support staff to meet our representation goals. While it may be necessary to look far outside the area to attract teachers that represent the student body, hiring people from within the district for other student facing positions is a possibility to help match the demographics.
The demographics of the school today will not be the same in 20 years, so it is necessary to have a framework in place to anticipate these changes. In cases where the school may not be able to immediately address these demographic changes, it always remains important to have the best staff available. Retaining the quality staff that are familiar and comfortable with the students at RB will always be in the school’s best interest.
William T. Durkin
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.
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.
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.
While a long-term goal may be to increase the diversity of a school’s faculty, recruiting and retaining quality faculty that are not only experts in their subject matter, but also respectful of diverse cultures is important too. RB has quality faculty and staff, is recognized as an academically strong school within the region, and should strive to maintain these standard of excellence. I believe RBHS has tried to be thoughtful in its hiring process of both faculty and administrators, and should continue to hire qualified candidates that also reflect the changing demographics of the student population
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
Deanna L. Zalas
The goal of the District should be to reflect the communities served and promote a variety of perspectives. Actively recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce has been a priority of the current Board of Education and there has been incremental progress. I have also encouraged diversity among those seeking to fill Board positions.
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?
Any organization should have equity as a value, but having it spelled out in the mission statement along with the detailed Executive Summary on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion shows a stronger understanding of its importance. There’s a big gap between saying you are for something to creating a set of policies, actions, and initiatives you are using to achieve that goal. The work by the school and the board to put the DEI into writing is commendable.
The list of professional development the staff are asked to engage in is appropriate for DEI training. Implicit bias is something we all need to be aware of whether we feel we risk engaging in it or not. Parent inclusion on the Race and Equity Commission is necessary to add direct input from the community as needs and concerns are continually changing and developing. Any additional parent involvement, regardless of the subject matter should be encouraged as well.
As someone with a minor in Justice and Peace studies I am excited to see a Restorative Justice Team in place at RB. Discipline arrived at through mediation and agreement instead of by the numbers punishments keeps students involved in the process and offers a chance for dialogue about issues the student is facing. It also provides additional avenues of prevention and accountability for students, keeping them more involved with what’s happening in their school and the effects of their behavior.
The simple changes from a Western Civilization to World History curriculum introduce many different cultures and civilizations. World history, in addition to the Global Studies and World literature, offers ways to engage with differing perspectives and experiences in a world that is becoming more connected. The Urban Studies class is a particular highlight in bringing attention to the ideas of equity in the community and schools. With a focus on poverty, segregation, homelessness and similar topics there can be a lot of realizations about where we are as a community.
One way equity can be increased is through reducing of class prerequisites. A student feeling stuck and unable to take classes that interest them or feel they can succeed in without extensive parent intervention does a disservice to many students who possess great potential. When students have limited choices they are unmotivated and underachieve. Empowering students to take these classes gives them increased stakes and motivation in their performance. While some interventions may be required for students to succeed, the outcomes are worth it.
William T. Durkin
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.
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.
There is no doubt that during COVID it was difficult for the school to implement many changes, as we emerge from the COVID haze, equity will need to be at the forefront. There have been some opportunities to level the playing field for all students, including having student advisors as part of the Board. In my recent experience, these student advisors provide thoughtful comments and ensure student voices are presented to the Board. The Board should continue to look for opportunities to empower RBHS students to do their best in and out of the classroom.
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
Deanna L. Zalas
Addressing systemic racism requires the long-term focus and investment of government bodies, and District 208 has begun to make these important efforts. A top priority for the Board of Education must be a continued partnership with the school community to support not just the 2021 mission statement but also to advance an annual, detailed goal setting process. Through the Board of Education’s leadership, District 208 has begun to meet the action steps in support of the 2022-23 goals in an effort to “continue on-going training and engagement in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
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?
One of my strongest guiding principles in working with a budget in recreation is ensuring participant outcomes. Making sure there is an open dialog with participants, parents and guardians about what they expect from our programs helps set budgeting priorities. Reviewing which needs have been met and which needs are to be addressed and the costs associated with them are always a priority. The same process is appropriate for schools, prioritizing providing what students need and the community’s expectations for the school.
Working for a special recreation cooperative we are funded in a similar way as a school district, with property taxes based on the agency’s EAV. When looking at the budget of a school like Riverside-Brookfield I am able to use a lot of the same experiences as I use in my current job and the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission. Having a budget tied to property taxes does provide some volatility when there are large economic shifts, but even in those cases there is time to prepare.
A first step in budgeting is reviewing any plans, policies, or procedures that have been set already set prior to budgeting. Most organizations have a strategic plan laid out to guide the process. Keeping those policies in mind before moving on to specifics helps focus on already agreed upon desired outcomes. Valuing and respecting the work school administration and previous boards have done to put the processes in place will ensure continuity and smoother budgeting process.
Ensuring the staff that interact daily with students and provide lasting positive impacts on students are compensated fairly is an important consideration to me in the budgeting process. While there are financial limitations that can’t be avoided, the cost of replacing quality staff in both a financial and quality of education sense must also be considered.
Sustainability is a personal ecological, societal, and financial value. Ensuring we can meet our needs with finite resources, have a positive impact on our community while minimizing negative consequences, and not compromising future possibilities is a consistent goal. In a school setting, money and time are finite resources we need to maximize. RB should be seen as a positive resource for the entire community, not only for students and their families. The school should do what it can within budgetary reason to minimize negative impacts in the community, such as traffic congestion. Lastly any financial decisions made should be strongly discouraged where it may limit opportunities for future students.
William T. Durkin
What’s best for the students is the top priority while being fiscally responsible for the community members.
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.
Fiscal responsibility is a strong value of mine. From my experience as a Komarek School Board Member, I learned first-hand how important it is to utilize every dollar in the most cost-effective way possible. Many people might not realize how dependent our local schools are on property tax dollars and that the timing of those bills directly affects schools. In addition, making cost effective choices might not be the popular choice, but are necessary to maintain the fiscal health of the school. As a board member I will continue to make choices that are cost-effective without giving up the quality education the community has come to expect from RB,
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
Each year that I have been on the Riverside Brookfield board, I have been a member of the advisory finance committee. When I was first elected, the school was in a structural deficit; meaning we were spending more than the resources our community were providing to us. Over the years I have helped steer the school’s finances in the correct direction. During my time on the board, I believe we have had a balanced budget each year. I am running for the board to continue my oversight of behalf of our community and hope to continue having balanced budgets.
Deanna L. Zalas
With 20+ years experience in the public sector, I understand the need to balance competing priorities using limited resources. In my current term, I have led the Board’s efforts to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract with our bargained members and a fair and reasonable contract with our Superintendent. Good government budgeting requires a transparent process that respects both historic trends and anticipated changes while understanding the full array of funding source. The current District budget remains balanced and responsible while investing in staff and programs that directly support student outcomes.
6. What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing District 208 and how should the school board address them?
One of the biggest challenges facing schools going forward is the impact of students growing up with increased access to technology. While there are certainly benefits to having more technology at a student’s fingertips from a young age, there are some drawbacks that are becoming increasingly prevalent that we need to be aware of. Some of these things are being addressed already in the schools but there are also emerging trends such as the impact of the Covid years that need to be accounted for.
A key resource already in place is a curriculum with Social emotional learning. Increased time spent online sometimes leads to feelings of isolation for kids, a lack of communication skills for directly developing relationships, decreased emotional development, and a lack of empathy that manifests itself in bullying behaviors. Brook Park’s hiring of a full time SEL teacher was a good step in addressing these challenges to students.
With the increased screen time many students have seen a decreased attention span. Social media inundates us with shorter and shorter videos to entertain us as our attention spans have responded accordingly. While keeping a student’s attention has always been a crucial skill for any teacher to have, additional time spent with classroom modifications, seating adjustments, and movement breaks to facilitate better attention takes more time away from instruction.
A recent issue of concern in students and adults is media and information literacy. While it’s very easy to find news and opinions about topics, it’s becoming harder to verify the credibility of many of these sources. Having a student attending a school district that currently doesn’t have a full-time degreed librarian in either the elementary school or the middle school, it does a disservice for students for many reasons, including a lack of quality instruction in information literacy, effective research skills, and understanding formats and sources. They then start high school with these deficiencies and need to catch up. While RB used to have 2 full-time librarians, they currently have 1, leaving less opportunities for students to master those abilities before graduation.
There are remedies for all these issues facing education and thankfully many of them are already in place. The question for the board is are they enough to overcome the challenges, and if not, is it best to tweak what is in place (more SEL instruction, tutoring, resources for implementing Move to Learn and other strategies, etc.) or starting from scratch.
William T. Durkin
The increase in unfunded state mandates now and in the future. We need to continue to be fiscally responsible and flexible.
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.
I believe one of the biggest challenges facing District 208 is helping students deal with pressure and anxiety. Students today face many pressures, pressures to fit in, to achieve, social media, etc. Unfortunately, many lack the skills to process these things and start to shut down. Helping students deal with these emotions is important across the board.
Another challenge RB faces is improving the academic achievement of struggling students. Preparing students for successful lives and careers beyond high school is a priority. Taking into account socio-economic and technological gaps, and the job of preparing students for life beyond high school is tougher than ever. The Board must keep equity at the forefront of its decisions and policies.
Finally, one cannot overlook keeping schools safe; the RB school board and administrators needs to continue to keep communication lines open so students feel safe reporting threats to prevent situations from escalating into something tragic.
Nicholas J. Novak
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.
Each challenge that comes to the RBHS board must be addressed. This is what the board does. Providing the best education for our students should always been our goal.
Deanna L. Zalas
When I ran for my first term on this Board, no one was predicting a world-wide pandemic. As we navigated the pandemic period, there were certainly disagreements along the way but ultimately the strong core that IS District 208 (parents, teachers, administrators and community) allowed us to move forward and serve the students. The Board of Education must lead by example – listen to multiple perspectives, understand complex situations and maintain a focus on the educational outcome of District 208. I believe I have the temperament and engagement required to continue this valuable work regardless of the future challenges we may face.