Mike Welch

Mike Welch and Carolyn Lach sit next to each other at Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education meetings. But in two months one of them won’t be there. 

That’s because the two appointed board members are running against each other in the April 4 election for a two-year term to complete the term Ramona Towner won in 2021. 

Towner resigned last October when she moved out of the district. Lach, a member of the Komarek District 94 school board from 2015 until 2021, was appointed to the RBHS school board to replace Towner.

Welch, who had served on the RBHS school board from 2009 until 2017, the last two years as board president, was appointed the board in September 2021 to replace Tom Jacobs, who also had moved out of the district. 

After the school deadlocked 3-3 trying to pick a replacement, Welch was chosen by West 40 Intermediate Service Center Executive Director Mark Klaisner. Welch had not initially applied to replace Jacobs but did so once the board deadlocked.

Carolyn Lach | Provided

Lach and Welch both said they did not want commit to four more years. Lach believes a school board member should have a child in the district or a child who will be attending the school shortly. Being the parent of a current RBHS student gives her a better understanding of what is going on at the school, she said.

“I just think you have a better handle on what the students or the youth are facing, going through,” Lach said. “My son will come home and tell me about things that happened at school, just in general, and I think if you don’t have that you might miss out on that.”

Welch, whose two daughters graduated from RBHS more than a decade ago, has a different viewpoint, though he once thought the same thing.

“Years ago, I did think that and I said that one time to a former board member, and then they reminded me that it was a community high school,” Welch said. “It belongs to the entire community, not just the parents whose children are in the school.”

Other than Lach having a child at RBHS, there is not a lot to differentiate the two except for Welch’s much longer time on the RBHS school board.

“We both really care about the school,” Lach said. “We both bring different assets to it.” 

Both Lach and Welch are soft-spoken, and neither is campaigning very hard. Neither has campaign signs, Facebook campaign pages or campaign websites. 

“I’m just hoping people will recognize my name from my experience at Komarek, or with the Boy Scouts, or with Little League or soccer and recognize that I care about kids, I care about the school,” said Lach, who works as the director of financial aid at North Park University and once was a high school math teacher.

When he ran for the school board in 2009 and 2013, Welch was an indefatigable campaigner, knocking on doors throughout the district. This time around, with his knees bothering him, he is not going door to door and is relying on a low-key campaign.

“I’ve done basically nothing but word of mouth,” Welch said.

Welch, who was elected to four-year terms on the school board in 2009 and 2013, said this campaign will be his last.   

“It’s another opportunity to serve my community,” Welch said. “I would not run again.”

Welch, 62, is an IRS agent assigned to the United States Attorney’s office who typically works on criminal prosecutions. He has focused on finances during his time on the school board. Welch says maintaining balanced budgets and a strong financial position are priorities for him. 

“I would also like to see progress on the communication goal and have the high school better communicate with the community,” Welch said.

Lach, 55, said she also thinks it’s important that North Riverside has representation on the school board. Another North Riverside resident from the Komarek district, Lorena Gasca, is already on the school board having been elected two years ago.

Lach and Welch do not have any strong disagreements. Running against each other was just a product of neither one of them wanting to commit to serving four more years on the school board.

“I think there’s a mutual respect there, there’s not any animosity at all,” Welch said. “I think either one of us would do a fine job if elected.”

Lach agreed.

“There’s no hard feelings,” Lach said. “We both knew early on that we were going to be going against each other, so we’ll just leave it up to the voters.”