Nicholas Novak is a relative newcomer to North Riverside, relocating his family there from Forest Park in 2016 when his son, Matt – who in 2021 would go on to kick a season-opening, last-second, 49-yard field goal to lift the Riverside-Brookfield High School football team to a win over Morton — reached middle school age.
At that time, Nicholas Novak had not yet contemplated running for elective office; he simply wanted his children to have access to Riverside schools.
When his son entered high school, Novak became involved in the Riverside-Brookfield High School Booster Club.
“It’s been nothing but positive meeting all these families from RB,” Novak said. “[My children] had such a good experience there. Academically they thrived, socially they thrived.”
With two sons already graduated from the school and a daughter in seventh grade soon to enroll at RBHS, Novak said he felt the time was right for him to run for a seat on the school board.
“It was time to get involved in the school side to make sure these kids and my daughter have the same success that my boys did,” Novak said.
Novak is one of five candidates seeking four four-year terms on the District 208 Board of Education, running against incumbent school board President Deanna Zalas, incumbents Laura Hruska and William Durkin and fellow first-time candidate Keyon Duner.
All of the candidates appear to be running independently.
“I enjoy the public service aspect of it, the community involvement, playing a positive role in our children’s lives, making sure that RB continues on the success path that they are on,” Novak said. “I enjoy working with people, I enjoy being part of a board.”
In Forest Park, Novak ran the Little League organization, and he has plenty of experience working with an elected board as the superintendent of projects and special events for the Wheaton Park District where he’s worked for 20 years. His brother, Dan, is the park district’s executive director.
That the Novak brothers would end up working as park district leaders isn’t a surprise. Their father, Dave Novak, was the executive director of the Park District of Forest Park for 23 years, retiring in 2007.
It’s also not surprising Novak might seek elective office. His brother Dan was elected Forest Park village commissioner in 2019, serving in that capacity for two years before moving out of Forest Park.
Nicholas Novak, who goes by “Nic,” is not looking to be a change agent on the school board, but he does see some areas where RBHS can improve its offerings.
“I believe the education services are great,” Novak said. “I believe the AP courses that they have are great for kids who go to the college level. But I also want to make sure they have things for the kids that just want to go into the job field, and go right into trades or not go to college.”
Novak had two children attending RBHS during the COVID-19 pandemic and said he thought the school board and administration handled the situation well.
“Erring on the side of caution was probably the best move,” Novak said. “I was definitely in favor of them going back to school when they had that split where half the kids could go and half the kids couldn’t.
“I thought that was a nice option for those families that wanted to stay home, they could, and then for those who wanted to go the school, could go.”
Novak said he also supported the school board’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals and initiatives.
“Those are important core values and I know RB has put that in their mission statement,” Novak said. “I just want to make sure that we do what we say, and make sure we apply those practices to treat everybody with respect, make sure everybody’s characteristics are included. I believe strongly in that.”
That includes, Novak said, making sure the teaching staff represents the diversity of students enrolled in a school that is now nearly 40 percent Hispanic.
“Making sure everybody treats everybody with respect is the main thing,” he said.
Novak said that as a board member his experience working with facilities would be a benefit when it came to buildings and grounds matters at RBHS, adding he would be happy to be involved in any initiative by the school board to acquire additional land for the landlocked district.
“I would love to see if there was any way to get more land,” Novak said.