Edison administrator jumps to lead rival River Forest
By Shelley Jones Post-Tribune correspondent July 6, 2014 9:14PM
Angela Ruiz, new principal of River Forest High School, sits at the desk where she will officially begin duty Aug. 5. | Shelley Jones~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2014 2:03AM
HOBART — Angela Ruiz is not only the first Hispanic principal of River Forest High School. She’s also the first female principal.
But rather than get wrapped up in celebrating any milestones she represents, she plans to marry her ethnicity and her authority to show the young female students in her school what a powerful Latina can be.
Having come from what she considers a traditional Hispanic home, the Griffith native says it can take time to overcome deeply entrenched ideas of a woman’s role in the home versus the workplace.
“The mother is the center of Hispanic home life,” said Ruiz, a single mother of a son who’s a senior in high school and a daughter who’s a junior in college. “So how can you possibly have a well-maintained home if you’re not home?”
Demonstrating positive gender roles is just one of the big-ticket items on Ruiz’s to-do list at her new school of 800-plus students from fifth through 12th grades. The school serves students from all of New Chicago, as well as parts of Lake Station and Hobart Township. With just over 30 percent of students of Hispanic heritage, River Forest Community Schools Superintendent Jim Rice says the community at large is well reflected in this percentage.
Outreach to that community, which includes many non-English-speaking parents, is very high on Ruiz’s list. “What I really want to do is build a relationship with the parents who don’t speak English and teach them to speak English,” she said, explaining that such simple things as checking their children’s grades on the school portal can be a challenge, as it’s not in Spanish.
Her goal is to partner with a local church to teach free English classes and offer assistance with resume writing, filling out job applications and the like. They hope to begin in November.
She has experience working with a large Hispanic population over the last three years as assistant principal of Edison Jr./Sr. High School in Lake Station. “It took a little time to build up that relationship and that trust and at the same time to expose them to something they have not experienced,” Ruiz said.
One such change Ruiz helped bring about is the anticipated upgrade in Edison’s accountability grade from a D to a B. “I think it had a lot to do with her,” said Dan DeHaven, newly retired Superintendent of Lake Station Community Schools. “She brought a lot of much-needed energy.”