By Bob Skolnik
Joanne Schaeffer, the longtime member of the Lyons-Brookfield District 103 school board, says not only will she remain on the board, but she may run again for re-election in two years, after what she said was a ploy last week to get her to resign.
With the election of three candidates -- incumbent Sharon Anderson and newcomers Shannon Johnson and Margaret Hubacek -- on April 4, the board majority is about to flip from one under the heavy influence of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty to a bloc of political independents.
And with new board members set to be sworn in on April 27, it appears a final bid was made to keep the majority under village hall control by attempting to embarrass Schaeffer by disseminating provocative photos of a relative in an advertisement offering massage services posted on the website Backpage.com.
On the afternoon of April 13, just hours before a specially called school board meeting, District 103 Superintendent Carol Baker asked Schaeffer to come to her office for a private meeting.
At the meeting, according to Schaeffer, Baker showed her an advertisement featuring photos of Schaeffer's 26-year-old granddaughter, dressed in black lingerie and posing provocatively.
The Landmark obtained a link to the ad from someone other than Schaeffer or Baker. Schaeffer confirmed the photos were authentic but said her granddaughter didn't post the ad. The photos, Schaeffer said, were posted to Facebook by her granddaughter.
"Young girls, they do stuff," the 77-year-old Schaeffer said.
At the school board meeting that evening, Baker reportedly offered the copies of the ad and photos to board members. All the board members took the photos except for Sharon Anderson.
"Dr. Baker asked me if I wanted them as I was leaving and I told her no," Anderson said.
Schaeffer said that she believes Baker showed off the ad in an attempt to induce her to resign from the school board, although Baker never said anything about resigning to her. If Schaeffer were to resign from the board before the new members are seated on April 27, the current Getty-aligned majority could choose a replacement and retain a 4-3 board majority for the next two years.
Schaeffer said she was outraged by Baker presenting the ad and the photos to the board and said she has no intention of quitting.
"I'm not quitting, I'm not going anywhere," Schaeffer said. "The fact of it is I'm going to run again, that's just the way it is. That's how mad they have me.
"I take it as a threat and I take it as a political ploy. This is politics at its worst. This is politics, this is payback."
Baker wasn't saying much about the situation, but she did confirm calling in Schaeffer for a private meeting last week.
"I shared some information with her," Baker said. "The situation was discussed in closed session and it could pertain to a legal matter, so unfortunately I cannot comment further about this at this time."
Baker later emailed a statement to the Landmark, saying it was unfortunate that a matter discussed in closed session by the school board was made public.
"I don't bring every rumor to the board," Baker stated. "Only concerns that, after investigating, I believe could result in a safety, fiscal, or legal issue. It is my job to investigate and work in concert with our lawyers and staff to make the determination if an issue needs to be brought to the board. These investigations are kept as confidential as possible and when shared with the board, it is done in closed session.
"It is unfortunate that the board member connected to this situation chose to make a statement in public," Baker added. "It was my desire to keep this as confidential as possible so that the board and its attorneys can best determine how to move forward in protecting the students and staff and upholding the integrity of the entire district."
After meeting with Baker on April 13, Schaeffer said she immediately contacted a lawyer.
Anderson said the matter was only discussed in general terms in closed session.
"We didn't go into a lot of depth," Anderson said. "From what I understand it has nothing to do with Joanne, it has nothing to do with the school district, it has nothing to do with the school board. It's just them playing dirty pool and it's a shame. It's a shame and to me it just shows how desperately they're trying to hold on to something."
Schaeffer, who was emotional and almost trembling when she made a public statement at the end of the April 13 school board meeting, says she plans to run for another term on the school board when her term expires in two years.
"It made me more determined," Schaeffer said. "I actually was thinking about not running in two years. I'm old, but let me tell you it gave me adrenaline. I'm running. You bet I will."