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Thumbnail Profile: M.A. in Learning Sciences, Northwestern University (2000); B.A. in Marketing and B.A. in Spanish, Michigan State University (1991). Currently, Director, Technology & Innovation at Grant Thornton LLP (2002-present), drive strategy, innovation, and long-term technology for national talent. 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. Evanston resident since 2006. Son at Dawes school.
Civic Activities: Member of District 65 School Board (2011-present), current vice president of the Board and chair of the Finance Committee. Board member of Evanston CASE (Citizens for Appropriate Special Education) (2009-2011), advocate for appropriate special education for students with special needs. Board member and subsequently executive director of GLSEN Chicago (1995-2005) worked to create safe schools for high school students and teachers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Top three priorities: “My priorities will align with the priorities that emerge from the strategic planning process, which has engaged multiple stakeholder groups in our community for deep and broad input,” says Mr. Rykhus. He says the three areas he views as critical to the District’s future success are ensuring the District has outstanding people serving in their roles across the District, maintaining financial sustainability, and partnerships with District 202 and the community.
Two Major Decisions of the Board You Agree/Disagree With: Mr. Rykhus said he agreed with the hiring of Dr. Goren as the new superintendent – a unanimous Board vote. He highlighted two other votes.
First in the spring of 2012, he said, he made a motion that the District maintain fine arts staffing at existing levels, instead of reducing staffing as proposed by the administration. That motion failed. He says, strong fine arts programming is important, particularly for struggling students, because it may help engage them in learning.
Second, he said, this fall the Board unanimously approved a change in the District’s suspension policy. The new policy requires that alternatives to suspension be offered to all students, except in the most extreme cases. “This not only reduces the inequity of prior suspension practices; it also reduces lost instructional time for students who may be at risk,” he says.
How You Will Enhance Student Achievement: “The Board must focus on leading indicators to help us project if we are on track to reaching the higher levels of student success and adjust if we are not,” says Mr. Rykhus. He gives three examples where the District should be focusing: 1) The District should work with families and community partners to increase participation rates in formal early childhood programs; 2) the District should ensure that 100% of at-risk students have access to formal learning over the summer; and 3) the District must ensure that it is developing and retaining its most outstanding educators.
“Additionally we need to make sure that we are properly assessing the needs of struggling students and providing the appropriate interventions, not simply labeling a child as having behavior issues without a deeper analysis,” said Mr. Rykhus. “For students in the top quartile, in the short-term, we must continue to improve our curriculum in multiple subject areas to ensure challenge for all students.”
How You Will Influence Fiscal Efficiencies: “As Finance Chair for the past nearly two years, I have worked to influence positively the financial position of District 65. I initiated a new focus on the collection of overdue fees (over $300,000), which has produced some return to the District. We continue to apply a more rigorous lens on the investments made in technology. We have also asked the administration to review our expenses anew with a fine-toothed comb to ensure we are reducing administrative expenses to the greatest extent possible without impacting our students’ learning experience.
“We have already discussed publicly with Dr. Goren that significant budget cuts are a very likely scenario, potentially for the 2016/2017 school year. The Board, and I, need to understand the correlation between the investments we make and the impact they have on our students and schools. We have asked the administration to be prepared to share with the Board their analysis of programmatic impact relative to the expense. Once we have more complete information, we will be able to determine the appropriate priorities.
“As a community we then will need to decide if we are willing to live with the proposed cuts or if we are willing to invest further in our schools, given the current financial climate.”
Preparation of Candidate Information
In the April 7 election, three seats will be filled on the District 65 School Board and on the District 202 School Board.
Omar Brown, Jennifer Phillips and Richard Rykhus are seeking a seat on the District 65 Board. Adrian Dortch is seeking a seat on both the District 65 and 202 Boards. Larry Gavin prepared the profiles of these candidates.
In addition to Mr. Dortch, Jonathan Baum, Mark Metz, Monique Parsons and Anne Sills are seeking a position on the District 202 Board. Kelley Elwood prepared the profiles of these four candidates.
The profiles were compiled based primarily on each candidate’s answers to five of 13 questions contained in a PTA Council Questionnaire.
Each candidate’s complete answers to the questionnaire are available in the “Election” section of the RoundTable’s online site at www.evanstonroundtable.com, and also at the PTA Council’s website, http://ptacouncil.weebly.com/. Videos of candidate forums sponsored by the PTA Council, the Evanston League of Women Voters and ETHS Parents Engaged are also available on these sites.