By Bob Skolnik
With the filing period for submitting nominating petitions for next year's school board elections less than one week away, incumbent school board members have made their decisions about whether to run for another term.
Of the four members of the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education whose terms are expiring next year, two have decided to call it quits after eight years on the board. Two others have decided to run for a third consecutive four-year term.
Board President Garry Gryczan and Vice President Tim Walsh have decided that eight years is enough, but Laura Hruska and John Keen are both seeking another term next April.
If Hruska is elected to another term, it will actually be her fourth term on the board. She was first elected in 2005, but was defeated when she ran for a second term in 2009. She tried again and won in 2011.
In 2015, Hruska, Keen, Gryczan and Walsh were the only candidates who ran, so all were assured of victory.
"I am going to run," said Hruska, who is the certification director for the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians. "I'm an educator by trade in the professional area, so this is an area where I can contribute."
Hruska earned a master's degree in education from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1995 and has bachelor's degrees from both UIC and the Moody Bible Institute.
"I'm proud of how we've maintained the budget," Hruska said. "When we came on eight years ago we were in the red. I'm proud of the athletic facility, how beautiful that is. … I'm proud of all the activities we've brought back. The AP is just as strong. We have as many sports even as this financial crisis happened. We've not cut anything."
Keen is an RBHS graduate who is a radiologist at Cook County Hospital and the VA. 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.
He said that he thinks it is important to have some experienced school board members because RBHS is facing tough financial decisions in the future.
"We still have work to do," Keen said. "There's financial challenges ahead. I think it's important that we have experienced members with the perspective of what we've gone through and the crisis we had when we first entered."
Gryczan, who has been board president for the last two years, said that for him eight years was enough.
"It's an opportunity for somebody else to get on the board," Gryczan said. "I encourage people to go out there and run. You only need 50 signatures to get on [the ballot]."
Walsh said one reason that he is not running for a third term on the board is because he believes in term limits.
"If I'm going to have that belief, I follow my beliefs and it's my second term," Walsh said.
Walsh also said that he just turned 60 and plans on retiring sometime in the next four years.
"I'm not sure whether I'll want to move or not, but I do want to be able to have the opportunity," Walsh said.
Walsh also said it is good to have new people come on to a school board.
"After a time you need some people with fresh ideas too," Walsh said. "And there's plenty of good people that live in our school district that you hope will step up and fill the boots and keep the board running strong."
Hruska, Keen, Walsh, and Gryczan were elected in 2011 at the same time a tax referendum was defeated. They approved some painful budget cuts and raised fees, including implementing a pay-to-play fee for student-athletes.
Two incumbents running in D96
In Riverside Elementary School District 96 two of the three incumbents up for re-election have decided to run for a second term.
Shari Klyber and Lynda Murphy are running again, but Rich Regan, the board's finance committee chairman, has decided to step away in order to run for a seat on the Triton College Board of Education.
Regan initially was appointed to school board in 2014 after two board members abruptly quit. He won a full four-year term in 2015.
Regan said that District 96 has stabilized and improved during his time on the school board.
"At the outset, the short-term goal was stability," Regan said. "It took us a little while, but I think we achieved that."
Regan, who began his college studies at William Rainey Harper Community College before transferring to Western Illinois University, said he is running for the Triton board because he believes community colleges can play an important role in today's economy.
"We need more tradesmen," Regan said. "You can go to Triton or any other community college and learn how to weld or learn carpentry skills. It intrigued me, so I've shown up at a few of their board meetings, just to kind of sit in the weeds and listen."
Wesley Muirheid, the father of twins who are in kindergarten at Ames School, is going to run for a seat on the District 96 board.
Muirheid, 37, is an underwriting manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance. He moved to Riverside four years ago.
"I feel like this is a good way for me to be really involved in the school and stay connected in a capacity that my schedule will actually allow," Muirheid said. "I really like to be involved in these higher-level decisions and working with other people."
Currently there are no Ames parents on the District 96 school board, and with an expansion of Ames coming up in the next couple years some parents thought it was important to have someone from the Ames community on the school board.
"I think it's good to have the diversity of viewpoints," Muirheid said.
Candidates for the school board can file nominating petitions from Dec. 10 to Dec. 17.