Eight years ago when Shari Klyber and Lynda Murphy were first elected to the Riverside Elementary School District 96 school board, the district was coming to the end of a difficult year.
The superintendent, Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, was on her way out after only two years, forced out by a school board majority that had not hired her and didn’t really like her.
Sharma-Lewis and the school board president didn’t get along and contentious school board meetings often ran late into the night, typically concluding with extensive closed session discussion.
Eight months before Klyber and Murphy were elected, two school board members who supported Sharma-Lewis abruptly quit the school board.
Last week, Klyber and Murphy left a very different school board and district after serving on the school board for two terms. These days, there is little drama and the board members actually seem to like each other.
The superintendent that Klyber and Murphy helped hire, Martha Ryan-Toye, is a strong leader who seems to be respected by all.
As they left the school board last week — neither chose to run for a third term — Klyber and Murphy took note of how much things had changed.
“It just wasn’t a very professional and productive setting, and I’m just really grateful that eight years later that feels like light years ago,” Murphy said. “Eight years ago I was mad that my kids played in a parking lot, I was mad that there was no full-day kindergarten, I was mad that our school board was making headlines for ridiculous things.”
In addition to hiring Ryan-Toye, the district began full-day kindergarten, built a major addition to Ames School and added minor additions to Blythe Park School and Hollywood School. Central School got a new multipurpose room and elevator as the district’s administrative headquarters moved off campus to a building on Harlem Avenue.
And just last month, the village of Riverside approved plans to separate parking and play areas at the Hauser Junior High School/Central School campus, which was especially important to Klyber and Murphy because their children attended Central.
“I am really proud of what we’ve done in eight years,” Murphy said.
In 2015, Klyber won the final school board seat up for election by just 24 votes. Although soft-spoken, the former high school science teacher had strong opinions and was not afraid to go her own way.
Klyber cast the only vote against returning to partial in-person instruction at the start of the 2020-21 school year and she also disagreed with the decision to end the COVID-19 mask requirement in 2022.
“Shari, you always brought the voice of the teachers to the meeting, so I definitely appreciated the perspective,” said outgoing school board President Dan Hunt, who finished last in the 2015 school board race but was elected to the school board two years later.
In recent years Klyber and Murphy co-chaired the district’s education committee and formed a strong working relationship with Director of Teaching and Learning Angela Dolezal, who Klyber had voted against hiring because she was concerned about a decline in test scores in Dolezal’s previous district in Oak Park.
Board member Stephanie Gunn said Klyber and Murphy were role models for her as she was thinking about running for the school board in 2021.
“Seeing you both as the only two women on the board … as women, as mothers, as professionals, really did motivate me,” Gunn said.
Klyber and Murphy have been replaced on the board by Salina Claps and Marlowe Djuric Kachlic who were sworn in on May 3. Claps and Djuric Kachlic, along with incumbent Wesley Murheid were unopposed in the April election, the third consecutive District 96 school board election without any competition.
Claps, 41, is an investment analyst while Djuric, 43, is a clinical professor of pharmacy at UIC. Kachlic will chair the school board’s education committee while Claps will co-chair the personnel committee.
Wesley Muirheid will take over as school board president as Hunt decided that four years as board president was enough.
“I was happy to hand it off to somebody else,” Hunt said.
Muirheid, 41, was the only person nominated for board president and he was elected unanimously. Muirheid, a senior underwriting director at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, said he got a phone call from board member David Barsotti about a month ago, asking whether he was interested in being board president. That’s when he learned that Hunt was planning to relinquish the post.
“Apparently, the job sought me,” Muirheid said.