D103 forum back on after being nixed at school

Superintendent: Candidates barred from schools to keep politics at bay

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 Superintendent Carol Baker does not want school board candidates in the district's schools during this election season.

Last week, she apparently told principals to tell PTA leaders that school board candidates are not to appear before parent groups at the schools.

As a result, the Edison School PTA has had to change the location of a school board candidate forum scheduled for March 20. Now the forum will be held at the American Legion Hall, 6431 W. Pershing Road in Stickney from 6 to 8 p.m., instead of Edison School.

Baker, in her first year as superintendent, said that she is trying to keep politics out the schools.

"It's been my goal since I've been hired to try and push back and keep the politics out of our walls as much as I can," Baker said. "I know that there are some politically charged elements in this community, so let's keep it outside of where kids are." 

Baker, herself a former school board member at High School District 230, said that she did not believe that candidate forums should be held at schools, even in the evenings.

"That does not belong within our schools," Baker said. 

Baker took action after finding out that candidate Shannon Johnson had visited with teachers and parents at Lincoln School and George Washington Middle School and after school board candidate Marge Hubacek appeared at a pep rally event at Edison School to kick off PARCC testing on March 7.

Johnson and Hubacek are running together on a slate with incumbent Sharon Anderson against a slate consisting of incumbents Katie Broderick and Kendra Pierce and newcomer Olivia Quintero.

All of the candidates are welcome to appear at the March 20 forum, said Shawna Olsowka, the president of the Edison School PTA and organizer of the candidate forum. However, only Anderson, Hubacek and Johnson have agreed to show, for now.

Broderick, Pierce and Quintero, who are running under the banner Parents for Student Excellence, a political committee aligned with Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, have been reluctant to let their positions be known publicly.

Reached in February by phone, Pierce would not give the newspaper email addresses for herself or her running mates and said she would not answer questions posed to candidates by the newspaper. 

The Landmark sent the questionnaires to the Parents for Student Excellence candidates via the U.S. Mail. None has responded and none participated in an endorsement interview for District 103 candidates held at the Landmark's offices last month.

Pierce complained about the newspaper's coverage of her when candidates filed in December. The story published at that time pointed out that Pierce is the daughter-in-law of a village of Lyons employee and quoted her as saying she was not part of any slate of candidates. Pierce's name and photo have since appeared on campaign materials with Broderick's and Quintero's.

Baker denied that her actions were aimed at Johnson and Hubacek. "I wouldn't allow it for anybody," Baker said.

Hubacek, a Stickney resident, said she often attends Edison School events and has worked with the Edison School PTA for about 10 years. She is also friendly with Edison School Principal Jan Bernard, whom she has known for about 30 years.

Hubacek said she did no campaigning at the Edison event, which was also attended by officials of the village of Stickney.

"I wasn't there as a candidate or anything; I was there for their sendoff," Hubacek said. "I didn't have any fliers with me. I didn't have anything with me. I talked to the teachers and people that I know and then I was on my merry way."

Anderson, Hubacek and Johnson had been invited to appear before the Home School PTA on March 9, but then were told they couldn't appear because of Baker's edict.

"We were not allowed to go to a meeting at Home School," Hubacek said.

Baker on March 2 sent an email to all district principals prohibiting candidate forums in the schools and said separately that she doesn't believe candidates should appear at PTA meetings.

"If you're holding a meeting like a PTA meeting where parents are coming together to talk about events for kids and then you invite a politician to come in and out, then you're forcing the parents to participate," Baker said. "That's really inappropriate."

In the past PTAs have hosted candidate meet and greets in District 103, said Olsowka.

"It's been something that PTAs have always taken part in," Olsowka said.

Baker said she has no problems with PTAs hosting candidate forums or meet-and-greet sessions so long as it is not done on school property.

"If a PTA wants to do that outside of the school that's completely within their rights," Baker said. "We have to be careful that if you're really doing something like that that you're being completely neutral and that's not the current climate."

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.

Reader Comments

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Joanne Schaeffer from Lyons  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 2:53 PM

If SD103 were to ban everyone in the district who is political, the Admin Building would be empty, all are political and don't tell me 'they' do not discuss the election within those walls. 103 has a director who is out putting up 'red' signs in his 103 jacket, while on the 103 clock. Ban them, not taxpayers. Why deny taxpayers the right to see the candidates, all of them? But then, let's remember, they didn't show up last election to the forum and would not/will not show up this year, thus denying the voters reasons why they should be elected. No Show, No Vote is my motto.

William Ruting  

Posted: March 15th, 2017 2:42 PM

It is interesting that Ms. Baker says she wants to keep the politics out of the schools, but cancelled a board meeting so she could attend a political fund raiser. As for keeping the politics out, there was never any politics in our schools until the current board members were elected. I would ask those of you who are uncertain to ask why any group would spend thousands of dollars on signs for these positions. And where is the money for those signs and all the literature coming from. Also, perhaps since the Getty backed board candidates seem to never have anything to say unless they are told, perhaps they don't want to appear at a forum. We will see who shows up for the forum.

Arthur Perry from Brookfield  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 9:51 PM

Let's run down the kind of citizenship Superintendent Baker is modeling for her students in District 103: - Free speech is not allowed in District 103 schools - PTA's are not supposed to advocate for students by discussing school issues with local community members This is not my definition of citizenship. I agree with the other commenters that the administration with influence from the Village of Lyons are the ones who have brought politics into District 103 for several years now.

Deanna M Viti Huxhold from Lyons  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 8:47 PM

I wonder if it is Carol Baker the one who is bringing political into the schools. When you go around telling staff not to get involved but let other staff get involved because that's the group who is running political and you prefer them to win. What is that saying about your double stardards?

Pamela Anderson from Lyons   

Posted: March 14th, 2017 7:43 PM

Wow! Here are 3 people looking out for our children and our future - and nothing more. How DARE anyone accuse them of being so low as to be associated with the political ignorance present in our area. Let's step back and appreciate the fact that they have the strength and courage to stand up for our future! So very proud of all of them!

Shannon Johnson  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 7:13 PM

As Marge stated the Putting Students First team are not politicians. We are a group of women trying to make a change for the better for our school district. Carol Baker needs to do her homework and quit acting like a puppet for Chris Getty. She is looking out for herself and not the students in D103!

Marge Kaczmarek Hubacek from Forest view  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 6:48 PM

Based on Superintendent Baker's statement I need to clarify that I am not a politician. I'm a concerned resident of Forest View and District 103 who is concerned about the district I'm concerned about the political connections in the district which includes Superintendent Baker. A concerned Superintendent would encourage voters to gather information and cast an informed vote. District 103 has a history of holding Candidate forums in our schools. I'm curious to know what her real opposition is. Perhaps Superintendent Baker needs a refresher Civics class.

Joanne Schaeffer from Lyons  

Posted: March 14th, 2017 5:55 PM

Back in 1977 when I first ran for the 103 school board, the Candidate Forum was held in Geo Washington auditorium. Ever since 1977, every school board election unless if it was uncontested, Candidate Forums have been held in 103 in the schools. All candidates are invited in order for voters to see and hear what the candidates stand for. 2017 is the first year that the forum has not been allowed into the schools, what a disappointment. The superintendent should have just asked what past practice was instead of refusing taxpayers the opportunity to see who and what the candidates are all about. Sad day for 103 taxpayers.

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