Humanities Department Restructuring Impacts Boys Water Polo


By Diana Panoutsos, Sports Editor

As a result of the $41,000 administrative restructuring audit approved by the board of education earlier this year, administrative positions in the humanities department have been eliminated. The director of humanities, assistant director of English, and assistant director of social studies positions will be replaced with two separate positions: one director of English and one director of social studies. 

The English and social studies departments were initially joined into one humanities department following a board of education vote on December 17, 2012. At the time, many were unsupportive of the change, including social studies teacher Chris Schwarz, who argued against the decision prior to the vote.

After experiencing the joint department, Schwarz stands by his opinion in 2012, despite the efforts of those responsible for executing the board’s decision.

“I am in favor of going back to two separate departments. I think that it better serves the needs of students in the individual departments. It gives us an opportunity as a social studies department to work closer together and consult with one another, and be able to build up our department, which I think has declined in numbers a bit in terms of the number of students taking the classes,” Schwarz said. “At the same time, I think that the people in our building who were responsible for administering the humanities experiment did as good a job as anyone could possibly do in trying to make it work. But I just think that the old system is the better system in terms of fulfilling the needs of our students.”

In fact, the past few years have left many opinions unchanged; other teachers are also supportive of returning to the previous two-department system.

“The decision to make it into one department was an unfortunate one and going back to a separate English and social studies department, each with their own director, is a very wise move,” English teacher Sharon Swanson said. “Despite the fact that this change was meant to bring the two sections to work together as a team, we really don’t. I really didn’t see any benefits of making English and social studies one department in the first place.”

However, the elimination of the assistant director of social studies position also affects athletics, as head water polo coach John Przekota currently holds that administrative position. Although the coaching position still belongs to Przekota and is not linked to his role as an administrator, water polo athletes have expressed concerns about the possible absence of their head coach for next year. 

“I am disappointed because he is not just a coach to us, he is a great mentor and person we can look up to. He has shaped a lot of the players into the men they are today. He taught us values through water polo that books can’t teach you,” sophomore Stefan Simic said.

Przekota has lead the water polo team to its current success, as the team is currently ranked 8th place in the state of Illinois. 

“Coach Przekota has made a really great program here at Niles West. Next year we won’t get the same support system and the same bond that we do now. He has really instilled that sense of camaraderie and trust within your own team which is what will make us successful. The team will definitely face a huge detriment without our head coach,” junior Jack Shimabukuro said.

Parents also share in the feeling of disappointment that Przekota may no longer serve as a coach.

“John leads by example. He is devoted not only to developing the best water polo players he can, but also the best young adults. He emphasizes academics over athletics, when applicable, and helps his players to focus on character, both in and out of the pool. He communicates his expectations, pushes his student-athletes to do their best but isn’t afraid to point out when mistakes are made. As we’ve seen from our own children and their teammates, this inspires them to try harder, to support each other, and to grow as leaders,” parents Terri Lefler and Kurt Lefler said.

Parents and players also credit Przekota with building a culture of support that extends beyond the sport.

“When my father died, John brought the whole team to his wake. To see those young men, dressed up for their game in honor of our relative, was an emotional moment for our family and son. It spoke to us about how much John values not just family and team but demonstrated how loyalty also extends outside of school,” the Leflers added.

Przekota declined to comment for this article.

The changes to the humanities department are the first in a series of anticipated administrative changes, stemming from the audit.