By Bob Skolnik
As students return to Riverside-Brookfield High School in the coming weeks, they will learn, as some already have, that there are two new deans this year.
Hired over the summer, Cara Weinberg and Alberto Jaquez replaced longtime deans Dave Sibley, who retired in June, and Neil Dughetti, who has returned to the classroom as a science teacher after six years as a full-time dean.
Weinberg, 27, is the first full-time female dean at RBHS in at least 20 years, though women have served in the role part time. Weinberg and Jaquez are the only deans at the school, as there are no part time deans.
"To be equitable, I wanted to have a female and a male dean," said Principal Hector Freytas.
Weinberg, who grew up in Orland Park, comes to RBHS from Argo High School where she was an AP Government and history teacher for the past five years. She also directed musical theater productions, coached the speech team, served as a teacher team leader and served as mentor for students in an after-school program.
She earned a bachelor's degree in history and secondary education from the University of Illinois. She holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Illinois in and a master's in school leadership from Concordia University.
Jaquez, 37, comes to RBHS from Morton High School District 201, where he taught bilingual world history and most recently was the bilingual instructional coach at the Morton Freshman Center. Jaquez grew up in Cicero and his first language was Spanish. His ability to speak Spanish in a big plus, Freytas said.
"He can communicate to those families who are Spanish speakers," Freytas said. "I know I'm bilingual, but as principal I'm dealing with so many things it's nice to have another administrator that can speak Spanish and communicate with our families. It's definitely a valuable skill set."
Jaquez earned his bachelor's degree from Millikin University and has earned two master's degrees, one from UIC and another from Concordia. While at Morton, Jaquez also coached football and wrestling.
"They were both very successful teachers at their respective campuses," Freytas said. "They were teacher leaders, they were coaches, they were club sponsors, they had those leadership attributes in many roles."
During the past two months of remote learning, the deans have been busy dealing with the occasional Zoom bombing incident and making sure students sign in to their classes and do their homework.
They have been making home visits to students who have not been engaged in their classes to find out what is going on. They also have been delivering meals to students who qualify for the free lunch program.
Although deans are typically seen as disciplinarians, both Weinberg and Jaquez bring a youthful, friendly and energetic demeanor to their jobs. They hit it off right away.
"I think our biggest strength is that we work really well as a team," Weinberg said. "From the moment I met Alberto, we kind of clicked."
They say that their strengths complement each other.
"We definitely realize that we have strengths in certain settings that make us more inclined to work in certain situations," Weinberg said.
While helping his own children last spring during the statewide school shutdown, Dughetti said he realized he missed teaching. And with his good friend Sibley retiring, Dughetti decided it would be a good time to return to the classroom.
He is now teaching biology and physics. Dughetti taught for 12 years at RBHS before becoming a full-time dean.
"I love the positive experiences with kids in the classroom," Dughetti said. "I missed it. I felt like I did every positive thing I could as a dean, and I was ready to take on a new challenge."
This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Alberto Jaquez's last name.