By Bob Skolnik
Sensing an opportunity to exploit an oversight that allowed a man awaiting trial for attempted murder to be hired as a teacher, a number of local politicians allied with Lyons Village President Christopher Getty attended the Oct. 22 Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 board meeting, with one -- state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-11th) -- calling upon the two co-interim school superintendents to resign.
"They must be removed," Sandoval said of the superintendents during the public comment portion of the school board meeting before more than 100 people who crowded into the cafeteria at the George Washington Middle School.
Sandoval also said that he would explore introducing legislation to require that school districts be notified when a teacher is charged with a serious crime.
Getty, whose orchestrated takeover of the District 103 school board in 2015 was reversed by voters in 2017, also criticized the school district administration when he spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
"Obviously there was a mistake made," said Getty of the decision to hire teacher Andres "Andrew" Rodriguez, who was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 19, the day after district officials learned the teacher had been charged with attempted murder in 2017.
"There was a pretty big mistake. You have to hold someone accountable."
Board member Jorge Torres, one of three Getty-aligned board members who remain on the board, also said that the interim superintendents should resign.
"Yeah they should," Torres said. "They are responsible for the staff. Simple things could have been done to prevent this. It was an obvious fail."
Both Torres and board member Michael Bennett, who was president of the pro-Getty majority board from 2015-17, boycotted both executive sessions the board held at the Oct. 22 meeting.
Bennett, who was among the five school board members voting to hire Rodriguez via a consent agenda item on Aug. 28, castigated the majority before watching the rest of the board meeting from the back of the room and leaving before the meeting was over.
"Is this even a school district or a circus where the main attraction is failed leadership?" Bennett asked. "I cannot acquiesce any longer. It has been almost two years since this board majority has taken control. I thought we could work together for the good of the district. My optimism was short-lived, however, as I got a taste of their dirty tricks when the meetings were strategically moved to Monday nights."
Bennett was referring to the decision by the majority in 2017 to move school board meetings from Thursdays to Mondays. In 2015, the Getty-aligned school board had moved the meetings from Mondays to Thursdays.
Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski was not allowed to speak when school board President Marge Hubacek cut off public comment on the topic of Rodriguez after Sandoval, saying that the board's 15 minutes-limit for public comment on one topic had been exceeded.
In all, nine people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and only two were supportive of the current administration and board majority.
Tobolski was not happy about not being allowed to speak.
"This is not going to endear me them," Tobolski told the Landmark. "I actually came here to try and help them. I have a lot of experience as mayor and county [board member.] I just want to make sure this doesn't happen again. And they tell me I can't speak at a meeting. I'm the mayor of the town of McCook, pay taxes into this school district."
But after meeting Hubacek said that she was just following the rules.
"When he's here he's a spectator," Hubacek said of Tobolski. "I read the rules and we let one extra person go, because I didn't catch it. If Mr. Tobolski wanted to speak perhaps he should have moved up in line."
The big crowd was no accident. Shortly after the news broke late last week that Rodriguez had been teaching this year at George Washington Middle School, fliers were quickly printed and circulated, castigating the board majority and administration for the hire.
As people entered GWMS for the board meeting on Oct. 22, two people stood just outside the entrance, handing out copies of the agenda with the flier attached to it. Fliers was also mounted on stakes planted in the ground near the school.
The meeting looks to be the opening shot of a bitter school board election campaign next year when four seats on the school board, including those held by the board minority of Torres, Bennett and Coleen Shipbaugh.
Co-Interim Superintendent Robert Madonia stated after the meeting that he had no intention of stepping down, saying that many good things were happening in the district.
"We're making a difference," Madonia said.
Madonia said the district is investigating how Rodriguez, who was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 19, was hired.
"The next step is the investigation, which we're in the middle of," Madonia said. "We can't say much until that's complete."