New Guerin HS president named
by KEVIN GROSS
Tom Bednar has been appointed as the new president of Guerin Prep High School, 8001 W Belmont Ave., River Grove, replacing Steve Baldwin who will serve as superintendent of Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock.
"I start July 1, so I’ll just be spending my time planning and learning the lay of the land," Bednar said.
Bednar served from 2009 to 2017 as president of Saint Francis High School in Wheaton where he led campaigns to construct new facilities including a new learning resource center, athletic stadium and science wing, and helped implement an international student program and a mobile learning initiative. He was the president of Holy Trinity High School in Wicker Park from 2003 to 2006.
Bednar said that he would seek similar improvements at Guerin, including a new turf athletic field and improved classroom access to technology.
"Right now they already use Chromebooks, its part of the one-on-one program. The school is admittedly already in a good place with tech," Bednar said. "But we’d really love to increase the number of classroom ‘Smart Boards.’"
Bednar spent 13 years as a teacher, campus ministry director and president at Nuestra Senora de Andacollo School in Santiago, Chile, an experience that he said changed his attitude towards education.
"One thing I saw was the importance of the affective element of education, the emotional learning and building relationships. That’s more true now in our (American) system, but in my beginning career in Santiago that was so important, building a solid relationship with students, shaking their hands at the class door," Bednar said. "They really worked for you if you worked for them. It’s almost as if people focused on how much you cared about them rather than how much you knew."
He said his Chilean experiences also shaped his emphasis on the "global perspective" in education, which he would promote at Guerin.
"Guerin has a significant segment of international students. We’ll continue to pursue opportunities, maybe study abroad opportunities," Bednar said.
He additionally said that a large upcoming summer project would be converting one of the sisters’ residences to a dormitory for international Chinese students at Guerin.
Bednar’s work experience have nearly exclusively taken place in Catholic settings, with his teaching experience beginning in 1987 at Notre Dame High School, Niles, after receiving a Bachelor in Economics and a Masters in Divinity from University of Notre Dame.
"I think faith becomes part of the question of ‘Why am I here,’" Bednar said. "You grow up in a background of faith, it’s a deep question of what it means to be human. You develop your relation with God and it develops your relation to others in a realm of service and a sense of community."
Through these experiences, he noted the challenges that Catholic educational institutions face.
"The cost of tuition is still generally less than the cost of education per student," Bednar said. "Typically, a family in need of aid cannot give gifts, so if we can get extra money to cover costs and improvements we always search for that."
He noted that the former president announced a $750 tuition increase in February, bringing tuition costs to $11,250 for the next school year.
He encourages families to apply for the state’s Invest In Kids Scholarship, which could fund up to $13,000 for tuition per student.
"We have a good amount of kids who can qualify for that (scholarship)," he said. "But a big effort needs to be in terms of fund-raising for more financial aid and scholarships, given the demographics of the area."