Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (second from left) and state Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (third from left) take a tour of Riverside-Brookfield High School on Aug. 9, guided by school board President Deanna Zalas (far left) and Superintendent Kevin Skinkis (far right). | Photo courtesy of Riverside-Brookfield High School

Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and state Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid stopped by Riverside-Brookfield High School last week for a get-to-know-you visit. 

School officials had invited Rashid (D-Bridgeview), a first-term state representative to come to the school and meet with top officials. Garcia (D-Chicago), who along with Rashid has been visiting area schools before the start of the school year and making the rounds at local municipal board meetings, decided to come along. Garcia and Rashid are longtime allies. It was their first visit to RBHS.

Garcia and Rashid visited the school for approximately 90 minutes on Aug. 9. They met with Superintendent Kevin Skinkis and school board President Deanna Zalas, who gave them a tour of the school. 

They also talked in the school’s conference room and met briefly with Principal Hector Freytas and the rest of the school’s administrative team, who were in the midst of the training session.

“The discussion was about adequacy of state and federal funding,” Zalas said. “We briefed them on the zoo [strategic planning] project, our cooperation with the zoo and then we talked about the upcoming school year.”

Rashid was surprised that the gate to the school’s faculty parking lot was locked when he and Garcia arrived at RBHS. Skinkis explained that Brookfield Zoo owns the lot and only rents it to the school during the school year. 

Skinkis and Zalas briefed Rashid and Garcia on the ongoing discussions Skinkis has been having with zoo officials. RBHS has long sought to gain control over the athletic fields between the school building and Brookfield Zoo, which are also owned by the zoo. 

Because the zoo uses the fields for overflow parking, RBHS at times cannot use the fields for games and vehicle tires chew up the area, making the surface unusable or unsafe. Skinkis said that Rashid was interested in the issues with the zoo.

“It was a nice visit,” Skinkis said.

Rashid said the visit was part of his ongoing effort to learn about education issues faced by schools in his district.

“For me, the purpose was to really learn more about the needs of schools and public education in my district,” Rashid said. “Meeting superintendents is a fantastic source of information and insights on education issues.”