The school boards for Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School both said goodbye last week to one popular and highly respected member and each board swore in one new member. 

Mike Welch left the RBHS board after being defeated by fellow incumbent Carolyn Lach in the April election. Alison Kelly left the LTHS school board after deciding not to run for a second term.

Welch served on the RBHS school board for nearly 10 years in two different stints. He was first elected to the school board in 2009 and was reelected in 2013. He served as school board president from 2015 until 2017 when he left the board. 

In 2021 Welch came back to the RBHS school board when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. Mark Klaisner, executive director of the West 40 Intermediate Service Center, an arm of the state board of education, appointed Welch after the school board had deadlocked on choosing a replacement for Tom Jacobs, who had moved out of the district.

Welch, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and works as IRS agent assigned to the United States Attorney’s Office, was lauded by his colleagues.

“Your financial expertise and knowledge have been unparalleled,” said school board President Deanna Zalas.

Board member Laura Hruska praised Welch for what she described as his “acute” financial knowledge and said that other board members will have to up their game without him examining financial affairs.

“You always asked the right questions at the right time,” Hruska said to Welch in his final moments on the school board.

In his final remarks from the board table, Welch noted that when he was first elected to the school board in 2009, RBHS was running a structural deficit and spending more money that it was taking in.

“I’m leaving this school and this district in a better place,” Welch said.

Welch, a soft-spoken school board member who never sought to call attention to himself, was an indefatigable door to door campaigner in his first two campaigns for the school board, but this year he didn’t really campaign. 

Lach, a former Komarek District 94 board member who was appointed last fall to succeed Ramona Towner, didn’t campaign much either in the low key-race for a two-year term. Lach benefited from a strong turnout in North Riverside which, unlike Riverside and Brookfield, had a contested municipal election. 

Nicholas Novak

However, Lach ran strongly throughout the district, receiving 55 percent of the vote in the Riverside portion of the district.

Welch will be replaced on the school board by Nicholas Novak, who ran for a four-year term. Novak is now one of three residents of North Riverside on the RBHS school board, the others being Lach and board Vice President Lorena Gasca.

Zalas was re-elected school board president by a 6-0 vote as Gasca missed the meeting. Gasca will remain as board vice president.

New D204 school board president

Kelly, who will be replaced by on the LTHS school board by Tim Albores, was praised by her colleagues for her radiant smile and her enthusiasm for all things LTHS.

“You’re a true inspiration,” said board member Julie Swinehart. “You always put students first.”

Tim Albores

Kelly, who graduated from LTHS in 1984, thanked her colleagues.

“It’s been an absolute honor and an absolute privilege to serve the community for these last four years,” Kelly said.

The LTHS school board unanimously chose Dawn Aubert to replace Kari Dillon as school board president for the next two years. Dillon did not seek another term as school board president.

Aubert has been on the LTHS school board since being elected in 2021. She served on the LaGrange-Brookfield Elementary School District 102 Board of Education for eight years, from 2007 until 2015.

“We would like to just continue our work and progress on the strategic plan and continue making LT the best educational system for our students and our community,” Aubert said after being selected as school board president on May 8.