DOWNERS GROVE – After 38 years as an educator, including 28 at Downers Grove South High School, Principal Steve Bild announced he will retire at the end of this school year.
The Woodridge resident was hired as a special education teacher at South High School in 1986. He became principal in 2008 after serving as associate principal for curriculum at the school for three years.
In a phone interview last week, Bild discussed the past, present and future of the school.
What has changed at South since you began?
I don’t think much has changed here as far as how the building has operated. We’ve always been focused on students first, and that’s what attracted me to South High and kept me here. ... I think that’s one of the hallmarks of this school, we’re focused on helping kids as much as we can.
U.S. News and World Report ranked South 52nd out of the 667 public high schools in Illinois. What does that say about the school?
Those things are just pieces of data. They collect that kind of data in several categories. ... It’s a very nice thing, but it’s not something we seek. The last several years they asked us for our data and we contributed. Not every school is asked to contribute.
Why did you decide to retire?
Every job has a shelf life. It’s good to have new blood and new people with new ideas contributing to the organization. I felt that 38 years was probably enough time. I love my job and I’m happy in it, but it was probably just time to go and move on to let someone else to take over the reigns.
What will be the school’s biggest challenge moving forward?
I think the biggest challenge is meeting all kids’ needs – meeting kids where they are and helping them get better and helping them succeed. That has always been our challenge but it continues to be a bigger challenge. Because we’re seeing more diverse needs, maybe we’re just looking for them now. The demands on young adults is larger now than it was before. And preparing them to be successful in the [real world] is more challenging. They need different kinds of skills than you or I needed in school. And we need to negotiate what those new skills are with what we’ve traditionally done.
I think the schools are expected to educate the whole child, and although we always did that there was a different expectation on schools in years past on how much school delved into social and emotional learning. Usually that was reserved for home and family. I don’t think that’s true any more.
Editor’s Note: Answers were edited for length.