Newly re-elected school board looks to the next four years

Niko Radicanin, Features editor

The last time that board members Dr. John Keen, Garry Gryzczan, Laura Hruska, and Tim Walsh were elected – 2011 – RB was in a precarious state.  Still reeling from the departure of Superintendent-Principal Jack Baldermann and the failure of an operating fund referendum, the school was deficit spending, the board was facing repeated questions about the price tag of the building renovation, a difficult contract negotiation with the union was looming.

That was four years ago.  At the time, the four board members – none of whom were incumbents – ran against a crowded field that also included Tom Powers, Louis Suprenant, and Lenora Giurini.

Flash forward today, and RB seems to be a different place.  The contract was settled with relatively little difficulty, the budget has been balanced for the time being, and some cuts are beginning to be restored.  Teachers have been brought back and class sizes have begun to come down.  New administrators are in place, AP course options are coming onto the books, and a one-to-one Chromebook program has just been approved.  A longstanding pool ventilation issue has been resolved.  Sports programs have strengthened conferences.  Both the Fall play and Spring musical ran in the same year.  A new stadium, locker rooms, tennis courts and parking lot are being built.  The board has made difficult, sometimes unpopular, decisions concerning cost savings.

All four board members up for reelection on April 7 – Keen, Gryzczan, Hruksa, and Walsh – ran uncontested.  Determining why no opposing candidates entered the race is a difficult proposition.

Keen believes it may be a sign of the board’s good work.

“Hopefully the fact that no one is running is a sign that the community is happy with the performance of the Board,” he said.

Although pleased to be reelected, Grzyczan felt disappointed that they faced no competition.

“I am disappointed,” he said.  “While I would think that our board is doing good things, we cannot please everyone, and I would have hoped that those who disapprove of things we have done would come out and run against our policies.  This would lead to discussion and debate.”

Regardless of the outcome, Walsh also agreed that contested elections are an important part of the process.

“Having contested elections allows for a more robust discussion of the issues and the direction of the District,” he said.

As the board moves forward for the next four years, they will be faced with completing life safety and related renovation projects, assuring that the District continues to focus on performance goals, managing finances, and negotiating the next contract between the staff and the community.

“I can only say that I am grateful this board has been able to focus on the work and keep the district moving forward and not be distracted by campaigning.  We are an extremely fortunate district to have the members we have on the board,” Hruska said.

As their next term begins, all of the board members re-elected have spent no time hesitating before getting back to work.

“I feel all the Board members are committed to keeping RB a first class high school that parents want their children to attend and will move to our District to do so.  This requires dedicated staff and facilities that provides opportunities for academic growth and extracurricular activities for all students who want to take advantage of them,” Keen said.

The next board election will take place in 2017, and will focus on the seats currently held by Board President Matt Sinde, Mike Welch, and first-time board member Ed Jepson.