Richard Rykhus made his last appearance as a School Board member at District 65’s Jan. 10 Board meeting. Mr. Rykhus notified the Board at its Dec. 19 meeting that his new job would require him to travel more, making it difficult to keep up with family and Board commitments. He was first elected in 2011, and his term would have expired in 2019. During his tenure he served as Vice President of the Board and as Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee.
Board members and administrator thanked Mr. Rykhus for his service to the Board, the District, and the children of District 65, noting in particular his advocacy for special education students, his commitment to equity, and his work in changing the District’s policy on suspensions.
Dr. Marlene Grossman, principal of Park School, and former District 65 Board member Eileen Budde attended the meeting to thank him for his work.
Superintendent Paul Goren said, “I think about your strong commitment to serving others, to serving children and their families in Evanston and Skokie. I think about your commitment to social justice and to equity. Thank you for pushing the plan to embrace the whole child.”
Board members spoke of Mr. Rykhus’s dedication, leadership, and preparedness.
“Your level of preparedness upped my game, especially when we were not on the same side,” said Suni Kartha.
“You helped me be a better Board member,” said Claudia Garrison.
“I don’t think I can do justice to the debt I owe you for your service, for your kindness, and for your perspective,” said Tracy Quattrocki. “You brought to the Board a perspective for the youngest, the most vulnerable, and for those who didn’t really have a voice at the table. … You recognized that the role of the Board to change policy could have such a significant impact on students. That has been one of your greatest accomplishments on the Board.
By text from a plane on a runway at O’Hare, where he landed after a delayed flight, Omar Brown thanked Mr. Rykhus for his advocacy and “always being an ear when I had a question.”
Joyce Bartz, Assistant Superintendent of Special Services, thanked Mr. Rykhus for his work on behalf of special education students.
“So many things have been said, the only thing I would add is that when I was considering running for the Board and met Richard, I thought, ‘If this is the standard for competence and commitment on the School Board, this is a body that I would be privileged to join,’” said Board President Candance Chow.
Mr. Rykhus thanked teachers and administrators for their work, and acknowledged each Board member’s contributions to the progress the Board and the District made during his tenure. The Board is more strategic, more transparent and more cohesive now than when he first became a member, he said.
He also said, “I have a request of the community. The Board is so deeply committed to doings things well and doing the right thing, and when it looks like things don’t make sense, come to the Board seeking to understand and ask questions – because there’s more than meets the eye. If the community will engage the Board in that way, it will help us to be more productive.”
Turning to the upcoming federal administration, he said the president-elect plans to put at the head of the Department of Education a person “who wants to undermine public education and divert funds for public education to private schools. We know public education will be under attack. And we know that public education is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy, and Districts like ours are going to need to be role models to show how public education can really work – and to prove that it can work.”