Second time works at SD 103
Hammond educator hired as new superintendent
By Steve Metsch
Kristopher Rivera, the newly hired superintendent of Lyons School District 103, has spent his entire career working in the larger Hammond, Ind., school district.
Lyons, however, is going to be a good fit, he said.
The school board obviously agrees, voting 5-1 to approve the hiring of Kristopher Rivera during a special meeting held on Feb. 5.
The lone “no” vote cast by Jorge Torres was not a reflection of his thoughts about Rivera, Torres said, but rather a comment on the hiring process.
After the meeting, Torres was the first board member to leap up and shake Rivera’s hand, wishing him the best of luck. Torres said he voted “no” because of negative comments directed at Torres by acting Supt. Patrick Patt at a previous meeting.
“I like you a lot,” Torres told Rivera.
Focusing on the immediate future, Rivera, 43, will be a frequent flier at board meetings, even though his official first day on the job is not until July 1. He wants to immerse himself in the district, and learn all he can in order to have a smoother transition.
Rivera resides in Hobart, Ind., with his wife and their five children.
He is assistant superintendent for human resources in Hammond, which has a diverse student population. His entire career has been spent working in Hammond.
“Hammond is diverse and high poverty. Coming to Lyons, a high Hispanic population, diverse, and they have that economic dynamic I’m familiar with,” Rivers said.
He was hired just 12 day after his first interview. On Feb. 5, before the meeting in Lyons, some board members visited the Hammond school district to learn more about Rivera. They were impressed with what they heard, board president Marge Hubacek said.
“They didn’t want him to leave Hammond,” she said.
He’s been in his current position for six years, was a school principal before that for three years at Scott Middle School. Prior to that he was assistant principal at Scott for four years. He also taught in the district before joining the administration.
Leaving is “bittersweet but I felt ready for the next step. It all happened really quick. During the second interview (on Jan. 29), I locked in when I did the tours of the buildings, met some parents, interacted with the students. That’s when it felt (like) home.”
He’s not concerned about joining the politically charged school district in which the entire makeup of the board may change in the April election.
“It sounds like they are looking for someone to come in and lead them. I work with a board now that has differences of opinions. A lot of that comes down to communication.”
The politics on the board “needs to be dealt with” adding “my leadership style will squelch some of that.”
“Once a vote is taken, we’ve got to get behind it. I’ve read articles. I’ve done my homework. One thing we have to is stand together. It does no good to disagree and fight in public. We can’t do that,” he said.
He was surprised to learn he was the board’s second choice after the first choice had turned down the job].
“I don’t worry about things I can’t control. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. I know who I am and what I want to do.”
He said he has an “inclusive” management style. “Strong communication is important as well as including individuals in the decision-making process.”
Hubacek and other board members expressed confidence that Rivera will do a good job.
Robert Madonia, the other current acting superintendent discussed the detailed and lengthy interview process which he said gave the board a better insight into Rivera’s leadership abilities. Hammond school officials, he said, were impressed by the attention to detail.
Rivera gets a three-year contract. He will be paid $155,000 for his first year.
“I’m very excited. I can assure you I’m going to work hard, going to work with you. This is the type of community I want to work for and work with,” Rivera said after the board voted.
Hubacek called Rivera “wonderful.”
“First of all, he wants to be here. He’s committed to the district. We spent the whole morning there meeting with different people
You could tell by their body language, how they talked about him, we heard ‘please don’t take him from us’ and ‘problem solver,’ which is what our district needs,” Hubacek said.
Rivera is “fully aware of all the commotion and not put off by that,” Hubacek added.
— Desplaines Valley News