La Verne Magazine
"Education in La Verne"
BUSD Superintendent Leads Students into Next Millennium
by David Serbin
photography by Summer Herndon
School Superintendent Dr. John Rieckewald, poised to lead BUSD into the
next millennium, brings veteran leadership to his office. Though his leadership
tenure within the Bonita Unified School District has been short, Dr. Rieckewald
says he has been pleasantly surprised by the tremendous parental support
in area schools and the progress made to date.
It is not just a motto, nor just an idea. It is a reality. When administrators
for the Bonita Unified School District answer the phone, "Bonita Unified
School District ... leading students into the next millennium," they
are exemplifying the goals of John Rieckewald, Ph.D., district superintendent.
His motto is an integral part of his vision for the year 2000 and beyond.
Heading the troubled district in July 1997, Dr. Rieckewald (pronounced
RICK-Wald) knew what he was getting into and welcomed the challenge with
open arms. He says he does not like to job-hop. "I took this job with
the confidence that this would be the final job of my career, not my next
job. "I am a very stable person," he says. "I don't like
to change every couple of years. That is why I am planning on ending my
A 26-year veteran of the Hacienda-La Puente School District, Dr. Rieckewald
was assistant superintendent in that district for the past nine years. He
sought a smaller district where he would be able to make a larger impact
on its programs. "I am committed to making a difference," he says,
"and I want to have more fun. I want the quality of our programs to
speak for itself."
Dr. Rieckewald knows there are many challenges in preparing students
for the next millennium, and feels his leadership skills and ability to
restore confidence to its programs will make BUSD a stronger and better-quality
A member of the education profession since 1971, Dr. Rieckewald received
his bachelor's degree in sociology from Westmont College in 1969. He later
earned his master's degree in counselor education from the University of
Southern California, then completed his doctorate in educational administration
at Claremont Graduate School in 1985. He rose in the ranks at Glen A. Wilson
High School in Hacienda Heights from vocational guidance counselor to assistant
principal, principal, finally assuming district positions in the Hacienda-La
Puente School District in 1989.
Dr. Rieckewald was assistant superintendent in various departments and
later succeeded the incumbent superintendent. But he believed something
better was waiting for him. "I believed that a door [of opportunity]
had opened here [at Bonita]," he says. "I firmly believe that
God put me in this job for a reason."
One factor that convinced Dr. Rieckewald to accept the position was
the incredible parental support within the district. "The parents know
that we need to challenge our children to do better scholastically,"
he adds. "We need to raise their expectations and reach higher goals.
School has to be their first priority."
High-quality programs are just part of Dr. Rieckewald's vision for the
future of students, teacher and administrators within the Bonita district.
He looks to making all aspects of the educational experience a joy for those
"I want to make teaching in the Bonita Unified School District
fun again," Dr. Rieckewald continues, "People do not celebrate
the good things that are happening here, and they need to do that."
How are Dr. Rieckewald and his staff helping Bonita's students prepare
for the 21st century? Areas scrutinized concern the minimum requirements
for graduation and helping the District set goals for students while helping
them develop career paths.
Meanwhile, the Bonita District is also looking at the way students learn.
"We need to know what fits best for the students," Dr. Rieckewald
says. "We need to look at all options. Do we need to extend the school
day? Should all students go to summer school? Do we need to develop an alternative
method of education? All of these aspects are clearly important."
Education in the 1990s needs to go hand-in-hand with the newest technology,
according to Dr. Rieckewald. He says that, only two decades ago, teachers
and libraries were main sources of students' information. Currently, computers
and the Internet have become key instruments in learning.
"Students and teachers need to have computer skills and know how
to use them," he says, adding that he is especially proud of the computer
laboratory at Roynon Elementary School.
Dr. Rieckewald has seen much change since he began his tenure as superintendent.
"When I took over in July 1997, I had to re-establish trust in the
position," he says. "Nobody knew where to go with a question or
a complaint. Now, people are beginning to feel a lot better about themselves
and the District."
He adds that seeing the enthusiasm within the District is satisfying.
"I knew there were good people here, and better communication and harmony
is starting to show," Dr. Rieckewald says.
Susan Brown, principal at Roynon, agrees. "There is more cohesiveness
and more unity in the District. We are all headed in the same direction
now," she says.
Though he is quite pleased with the changes and improvements which have
taken place thus far, Dr. Rieckewald knows there is much more to accomplish.
"I need to get more involved in both the La Verne and San Dimas
communities," he says. "I need to get out to the schools more.
I need to be more accessible and generate more community support for our
This vision and optimism may indeed enable students to enter the 21st
century well-educated and well-prepared.
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