Eric Beltran has joined the D91 administration as the assistant principal at Field Stevenson and the Forest Park Middle School, working with Principal Tiffany Brunson to oversee both schools.
Last year, the district decided to have a principal and assistant principal in charge of the two schools rather than a separate principal for Field Stevenson and a principal and assistant principal team for the middle school.
The decision was made after a domino effect of retirements, promotions and job changes: Bill Milnamow retired as Betsy Ross principal, and the middle school assistant principal Tinisa Huff was promoted to his position. Middle school principal Joe Pisano took a job in another district, and Brunson, formerly the principal of Field Stevenson, was promoted to principal of both schools.
Beltran starts at D91 during a school year unlike any other. Since D91’s classes are all being held remotely for now, there are no students on the playground or in the classrooms. Teachers hold classes remotely from their classrooms, so the environment is different than it would otherwise be, and that’s a huge change for Beltran, who said he’s not an “office-body.” He likes to walk around the school and interact with teachers and students.
But while Beltran acknowledges the difficulties of beginning at a new district during a pandemic, he said it’s “challenging but fun.”
“COVID definitely presents a challenge,” said Beltran. “But it’s a unique situation, and I am looking for opportunities to meet the students. I pop into Google classrooms, and I actually think the students are more open to talk to me when I’m not in front of them. In some ways, it’s less intimidating to them.”
Beltran brings over two decades of experience in education to the district, including being a band director at Catholic elementary schools and Nazareth Academy for 15 years. He served as dean of students at St. Joseph High School, which he attended. He was assistant principal at St. Cletus in LaGrange. Most recently, he was the dean at Wilford Elementary School in Cicero for three years and assistant principal for a year.
But he always kept his eye out for an opening in Forest Park. As a band director at Nazareth, he developed a great relationship with D91’s former band director Dave Weinstein, who retired in 2015, and used Forest Park’s middle school as a feeder school for exceptional student musicians.
“I got some fantastic kids from Forest Park Middle School,” said Beltran. “I worked as a judge for contests in the district and did clinics with the kids.”
When he saw the opening for an assistant principal, he applied right away.
Band and music have been an important part of his life. A trumpet player, he has studied with members of the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He still plays regularly with a symphonic band in Elmhurst.
But Beltran is also an athlete. He played soccer for St. Joseph High School and was a walk on player at DePaul University before switching gears and becoming a power lifter. He won two state titles and qualified for the national championships in 1999.
He is also passionate about reading, and his personal goal is to read two novels every month; he particularly likes John le Carre and the espionage and spy genre.
“I want kids to know that you don’t have to do just one thing,” said Beltran. “It’s important to be a well-rounded person.” He wants the students to see him playing the trumpet, shooting hoops with them during physical education or at recess, and putting a strong focus on academics too.
A proponent of the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Beltran said he believes strongly in being proactive and in setting goals.
“A student might say, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ but it’s important to realize that it takes a strong work ethic to get to that point,” said Beltran.
For the district, his goal is to help build the academics and reputation of the schools.
“I want to build a positive culture here,” said Beltran. “I want people to talk about District 91 and say, ‘Oh, those are good schools.'”
“Developing a climate and culture of positivity is what I want to do so we have schools that service kids both academically and socially,” Beltran said.