By Bob Skolnik
Riverside-Brookfield High School will have a new principal next fall. On July 1 Principal Kristin Smetana will move up to a newly created assistant superintendent position, pending board approval which is expected to be a formality.
The odd man out in the administrative reshuffle is Chief Financial Officer Scott Beranek, who will be losing his job.
"We're going to eliminate the role of chief financial officer and Kristin Smetana will be going into the district office as an assistant superintendent," said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis who announced the move in an email to parents on Dec. 20. "Her responsibilities will include the business office, human resources, academic data analysis, state and federal grants and all of the district's purchased services contracts."
Smetana is in her fifth year as RBHS principal. She came to RBHS from Hinsdale Central High School in 2012 as the assistant principal for curriculum and instruction.
In 2014, Smetana replaced former RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma, who resigned to take a job as an assistant superintendent in Hinsdale. Smetana initially was named interim principal. Six months later, in January 2015, the interim tag was removed.
Smetana was hired as principal without any other candidates being considered for the position, a fact that upset some faculty members who thought that there should have been an open and competitive hiring process for such an important job.
This time Skinkis said that he will cast a wide net. In addition to posting the job opening on Illinois Educators Job Bank, Skinkis said that he sent word of the opening to the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Principals Association and also wrote to more than a dozen school superintendents asking for recommendations.
"I wanted to make sure that we do a thorough search," Skinkis said. "I will make sure that there are teachers on the [interviewing] committee, there will be some students on the committee [and] we'll have representatives from our parents' group on the committee. I want to make sure it gets thoroughly vetted."
Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Kylie Lindquist could be the strongest internal candidate should she apply for the job. Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Dave Mannon could also possibly apply. Neither Lindquist nor Mannon replied to questions asking them if they would apply for the job.
"I think Kylie has a good skill set," Skinkis said. "She's done a nice job as an assistant principal. However, I don't think anybody has an advantage in the process. I think it's going to be a wide-open process. If Kylie chooses to apply she'll have to go through the process like anybody else. I would say the same about Dave."
Smetana, who turns 36 at the end of December, began her career as a math teacher at Hinsdale Central and quickly advanced to math department chairman there before becoming an assistant principal at RBHS at the age of 29.
A math major at the University of Illinois, Smetana is completing her doctoral degree in education at Western Illinois University and has already received her superintendent's endorsement.
She is two classes away from receiving her chief school business officer's endorsement, but does not have an extensive background in business or finance.
The administrative shuffle has been in the works for weeks although there has been no public discussion at school board meetings about creating a new assistant superintendent position. In closed session, however, Skinkis has been talking about his plan to board members for a couple of months.
Skinkis said the changes are not being made because of any dissatisfaction the work of Smetana or Beranek. He said that the new position of assistant superintendent will be a good fit for Smetana.
"I think Kristin did a great job as a principal," Skinkis said. "I think she handled the role very well, very professional. I think Kristin's strengths with curriculum and instruction and her ability to process large tasks and to analyze data will make her even more effective in a district office role."
Smetana will still have a role in academics, particularly analyzing test data. Skinkis also said that Smetana's new role will prepare her to be a superintendent one day while also giving him an opportunity to bring in a new principal.
"Her skill set has grown and she's ready to become a central office administrator," Skinkis said. "We think that the role of chief financial officer could be expanded and we think we have somebody inside that can do that role very well. It provides an opportunity for Kristin to get a new experience and it also provides an opportunity for the district to operate more effective and efficiently, and it gives an opportunity to bring in a new principal to take a new look at things in the building."
Smetana said she is excited about the upcoming job change.
"It has been one of my career goals to become an assistant superintendent," Smetana said in an email. "I feel that my knowledge and experience at the building level will provide me with the background information when making decisions at the district level."
Skinkis praised Beranek while eliminating his job. He said that the decision was not performance-based.
"Scott's done a nice job as our chief financial officer over the last three years," Skinkis said. "It's unfortunate that we're making a decision to eliminate that position, but I think Scott will land on his feet and be an asset to another district."
Beranek did not respond to a request for comment. He will remain at RBHS until July 1.