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By Bob Skolnik
How badly does Matt Sinde, the former president of the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education want to get back to the board table?
Apparently badly enough to be first in line on the morning of Dec. 10 to file his nominating petitions.
Sinde, a Brookfield resident, served on the RBHS school board for eight years, four as president, before losing a bid for a third term in 2017. He has not returned multiple phone calls or text messages sent to him by the Landmark asking him what prompted him to make another run for the school board.
Also filing to run on Dec. 10 were incumbents Laura Hruska and John Keen, also residents of Brookfield.
Two other candidates, Tom Jacobs and Deanna Zalas, both of Riverside, filed nominating petitions on Dec. 14, and a third Riverside resident, Bill Durkin, filed less than two hours before the filing period closed on Dec. 17, ensuring the campaign for the four seats up for election on April 2, 2019 will be contested.
In 2017, Sinde finished fifth in a five-candidate race for three seats running in the aftermath of a controversial decision by the school board not to rehire a teacher who was especially popular with activist students.
Sinde may have also suffered from the fallout from the school's fight, ultimately resolved, with the village of Brookfield over a new parking lot.
He was elected to the RBHS board in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, when he ran as part of slate with Mike Welch. Ed Jepson was also part of that slate in 2013. Jepson was also not re-elected in 2017. Welch chose not to run for a third term.
Zalas is the mother of three children, a RBHS sophomore and twins who are in 7th grade. She works as the director of risk management for the Cook County government. Her husband, Michael Marrs, serves as village attorney for Riverside.
A 1996 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, majoring in history and political science, Zalas earned a master's degree in political studies from the University of Illinois Springfield.
Zalas could not be reached for comment.
Jacobs, 50, is the father of a daughter who graduated from RBHS in May, and of a son who is a sophomore. He has lived in Riverside for 14 years.
An architect and principal/ partner at the firm Krueck and Sexton Architects, Jacobs is also an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture. Jacobs grew up and was educated in Switzerland and came to the United States in 1996.
Jacobs has written occasional opinion columns for the Landmark and is known for his strong views about climate change.
He says that he believes RBHS is an excellent school academically, but can do more in the area of civic education.
"It isn't driven by a concern over academics or anything like that at all," Jacobs said of his reasons for running. "We need to achieve more on other levels.
"I actually think that the true purpose of education should be to make our young society members effective citizens. I see in my teachings at the college level that they are underprepared when it comes to thinking about our democracy, the overall systems, their responsibilities as citizens. It's just not in the front of their minds."
Durkin is the brother of Illinois state Rep. Jim Durkin, who represents the 82nd District and serves as Republican leader of the Illinois House.
As previously reported, Hruska and Keen are both running for their third consecutive terms on the District 208 Board of Education.
Hruska, the certification director for the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians, has a master's degree in education from University of Illinois at Chicago and has bachelor's degrees from both UIC and the Moody Bible Institute.
She previously served on the District 208 school board from 2005-09.
Keen is an RBHS graduate who is a radiologist at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. He earned a bachelor's degree from Stanford, an MBA from the University of California, and received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.
Incumbents Garry Gryczan, who is presently the RBHS board president, and Tim Walsh, have chosen not to run for a third consecutive term on the school board.