The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Photo Courtesy of Robert Riti

Robert Riti

What are your top three most important things in life?

“My family is definitely number one. Their wellbeing, safety, security and ability to self-actualize are very important to me. I think equity and inclusion are very important to me. I think we are at an inflection point in our country and there’s a lot of energy behind trying to send the message of equity and inclusion. There are a lot of allies now that didn’t exist even just a few years ago. I feel compelled to say that a public school system [should] have all children’s best interests [in mind,] irrespective of race, disability, ability to learn, gender [and] sexual preference. [I think] a public school system that helps everybody [is important].”

What were your elementary, middle and high school days like?

“I grew up in North County St. Louis, and had an enjoyable elementary school experience. I was a late bloomer and had body image issues, and I always felt a little bit of anxiety about where I fit into things, but had good teachers and made good friends. I went to Hazelwood West middle and high: [in] a combined building that had seventh through 12th grade. That creates a lot of anxiety. Seniors and juniors would walk around, and some would give me a hard time. That was tough, but I ultimately had a good experience there. In ninth grade, when I transitioned into high school, I started participating in sports.”

“Prior to that point, I was a couch potato. [I didn’t have] many extracurricular things, but I played football, and by the time I was a junior, I was having a lot of fun. I ultimately got a scholarship to college, but I don’t think that defines my high school experience. It did give me a lot of confidence to help me blossom as a young person. I also enjoyed academics. My favorite subjects were English and social studies, and I really enjoyed that area of schooling. The town where my school was was very diverse. I think being around all types of people in your younger years and speaking about empathy and communication and just knowing where other people are coming from created strength for me as well. I really liked my public school experience, and honestly, that’s part of the reason why I am doing this now. I strongly believe that public schools can have a big impact on kids in society at large. I want to be part of positive change.”

What is your connection to Parkway?

“My wife and I moved into Parkway nine years ago, and we’re a blended family. I have three stepchildren who all graduated from Parkway West. Lucy, Luke and Lance graduated over the last three or four years. Lance was actually Mr. Longhorn. I get to go to a lot of different things and participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. Comparing it to my high school experience, I thought that Parkway was doing a whole lot of things the right way, and I enjoyed the facilities and teachers. Now, my wife and I have two young children, one in Claymont and one in pre-K, so we’re really invested in the district because we’ve had, frankly, so many children go through it.”

What is your favorite thing about Parkway?

“I think my favorite thing about Parkway is a universal commitment to the mission statement. Everywhere I’ve been, they’re creative, caring [and] collaborative learners that are prepared for an ever-changing world. The mission statement is interwoven in everything I see. In teachers and administration, I love that message. I love the energy and worldview that it helps to expose children to. In addition to that, I love academics and have a strong commitment to academics. There’s a variety of extracurricular activities that span all different types of sports and programs, and I just think it gives kids a lot of access to things that give them a good foundation for life. So it starts with the mission statement, but I think it spans down into all the different facets of school.”

Why are you running for the school board?

“I feel compelled to contribute to something civically. I want to pitch in and when I think about myself being a product of public schools, and having so many kids involved in Parkway and because of that seeing how wonderful the school district Parkway is, it just seemed like a really natural fit that I can defy energies. I’ve got a long business career. I’ve learned a lot about how to collaborate with groups, how to advance a message and how to achieve goals and how I can take that energy and put it into something really meaningful in the school board. So it’s a natural progression of this that started with me wanting or having the bandwidth and the energy to help in some way and then realizing that the way that I can best contribute.”

Are there any changes, big or small, that you would like to see happen in the district?

“My areas of focus, where I’d like to give a lot of attention, are areas of mental health. I [had] anxiety and curiosity about my [place] in the world when I was in elementary and middle school, and I see a lot of that still today, especially exacerbated by the pandemic. Mental health is an area that I would like to see that first energy going towards. The other is this area that I also described: equity and inclusion. I think Parkway does a lot of things right in that area. They actually commissioned something called the equity task force a few years ago, but there needs to be continued effort there to focus on areas where the staff of teachers and other staff try to encourage a more representative percentage of people of color but also find ways to make sure that the curriculum is representative of all the different types of students. We have a very, very diverse student population. So the curriculum is representative of that and just trying to find ways to make sure that the cultural touches are there to make sure that there are books in the library that represent all the different cultures that are attending Parkway and things like that. So those are two areas that I’m particularly interested in where we need to continue to experience improvements.”

What do you do for work? Can this help you perform your school board duties any better?

“I’ve had a long career in different commercial roles in the medical device industry, where I’ve sat on different cross-functional teams. I’ve led teams, I’ve been led by others in teams and in all of these settings, we’ve had to take an idea and turn it into something actionable, and then build support for it so that we could get it approved. Why I think that would be helpful is that it’s very similar to what you do on a board. You have to learn things. You have to see what is needed and then you have to work together to create an idea to make an improvement, to make some change. Then you have to get others to agree with that change moving forward. So I think those experiences that I’ve had are directly applicable to being a valued country contributor to a school.”

What can you bring to the school board?

“I bring a passion for public education and bring the experience of a parent who had five children directly in the school district. I bring a background of experience of collaboration and advancement of ideas, and I bring a strong passion for mental health, equity and inclusion.”

Why should people vote for you?

“I think people should vote for me if they agree with a lot of the things I want: a school district that maintains a strong focus on academics while also focusing on helping the most vulnerable kids with mental health issues, being able to detect those and help them find treatment and mitigation. Also, if people think [having] a school district that’s focused on all the students introspective of race, cultural heritage [and] sexual preference is a good idea, they should vote for me.”

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