Thumbnail Profile: Michigan State University, B.A. in marketing and B.A. in Spanish (1991); Northwestern University, School of Education and Social Policy, M.A. in Learning Sciences (2000). Currently director, Strategic Learning at Grant Thornton LLP (2002-present), drive strategy, innovation, technology and measurement for learning and performance initiatives. Previously, vice-president, Business Development at Mesirow Financial (1994-99). Has served as an English as a Second Language instructor, and as a technology and learning consultant to various area public schools, helping them to integrate technology into the school and classroom. Evanston resident since 2006. Son at Dawes school.

Civic Activities: Board member of Evanston CASE (Citizens for Appropriate Special Education) (2009-present), advocate for appropriate special education for students with special needs. Board member and subsequently Executive Director of GLSEN Chicago (1995-2005), advocate for safe schools for gay and lesbian high school students and teachers. Member of District 65 PTA liaison committee for special education.

The importance of preparing students to be on track for college and career readiness, what the Board should do to ensure that is done:

“Having clear and reliable data upon which we can base our students’ success is essential to our district and families. Various sources have determined that the SAT-10 scores are lacking in their effectiveness to predict college and career readiness. The board must determine the test achievement data we will use to monitor student progress and conduct a formal vote to ensure alignment on this issue. Once resolved, the board must establish measurable progress for these tests and build these targets into our superintendent’s evaluation.” 

A summary of two or three top priorities as a Board member:

Responsiveness to our community: People in the community tell me that they desire greater responsiveness from our school board. The recent district survey results show that just 1/3 of parents agree that the board understands and represents their needs. This needs to change and as a board member I will do my part to listen to and represent our community’s diverse perspectives.

Recruitment and retention of top teachers: Teachers are the number-one factor in our schools that support student success. We can improve the practices we use to recruit teachers and ensure competitiveness with surrounding districts.  Once we have secured talented teachers, the board must monitor retention rates and causes of turnover to ensure policies that will keep the highest performing teachers in District 65.

Focused strategic priorities with outcome-based measures: Our district requires greater depth on fewer priorities and we must review our district strategy to ensure focus on the most critical priorities, especially academic achievement for every child.  For example, a Middle School Study was completed 5 years ago. Though some elements have been implemented, many people I speak with observe that they have been implemented incompletely or inadequately. If we invest in a study and start implementation of an initiative, we must then continue to monitor and evaluate it until completion. Once we have determined our top priorities, the board must establish specific measures and/or deliverables to align with our district evaluation process for our superintendent.”

What Mr. Rykhus says he brings to the table that would make him an effective Board member:

“In addition to my business and educational experience, I bring:

• A multi-cultural perspective. My parents positively shaped my world view by choosing to bus me to diverse schools. At age four, I was the only white child in an all-black school, and a student in a primarily Latino and black Kindergarten.  That formative experience, along with my family (husband from Mexico and son who is black), helps me see life and education through multiple cultural lenses.  This will help me navigate some of the complex issues brought to the board.

• Advocacy for education-related change. I have learned through volunteer and work experience how to advocate successfully for change in schools.  As a board member, these insights will be valuable to identify and drive important changes throughout our district.”

Mr. Rykhus’ website is
http://richardfordistrict65.com

The candidate profiles were compiled by the RoundTable based on information provided by the five candidates for the District 65 School Board. The RoundTable asked each candidate to provide background information and to respond to three questions: 1) What is your view on the importance of preparing students to be on track for college and career readiness, and what the Board should do, if anything, to ensure that is done?; 2) Provide a summary of two or three or your top priorities as a Board member; and 3) what do you bring to the table that would make you an effective Board member? The RoundTable set a word limit for these three questions, so the candidates’ responses should be regarded as only a summary of their views.