Voters opted for change in a big way in the Riverside Elementary School District 96 on Tuesday.
Three challengers swept to victory and only one incumbent was elected in the six-candidate race for four seats on the school board. The two most experienced incumbents were defeated.
With all 16 precincts reporting, newcomer Rachel Marrello was the leading vote getter with 1,338 votes. In second place was incumbent Lisa Gaynor with 1,223 votes. Capturing the final two slots on the board were newcomers Mary Rose Mangia (1,205 votes) and Randy Brockway (1,053).
Losing out on their bids for re-election were incumbents Jennifer Leimberer, who finished fifth with 981 votes, and school board president Mary Ellen Meindl, who collected 876 votes.
“Now the real work begins,” Mangia said Tuesday night. “A lot of voters placed their trust in me, and I hope to exceed their expectations. I’ve said that all along. That’s my goal.”
Gaynor was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy in 2011 and kept a fairly low profile during the campaign, speaking mostly in generalities at campaign forums.
Meindl and Leimberer voted for the current contract for District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson and may have paid the price. No board member who voted for that contract has been re-elected.
The specter of the controversy over Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi hung over the election. Meindl appeared to pay the price for her comments about the issue, and Leimberer was also hurt by the issue. In January she said that she doubted the accuracy of the police report that was that basis of the controversy and that may have cost her with voters.
“I voted for change,” said Terry Heuel after voting late Tuesday at the Riverside Township Hall. “After the most recent scandal which resulted in us wasting $69,000 on getting rid of the current principal at Ames School, I felt that it was time for us to have people who are a little more financially responsible in charge.”
Heuel said that he has been frustrated with District 96 for some time.
“My appeals to the board both directly and through letter writing for fiscal conservatism seem to have fallen on deaf ears, and so I think it’s time for a change,” Heuel said. “We get that opportunity at the ballot box and I took it.”
Passing out palm cards helped the challengers.
Mary Turek voted for Marrello, Mangia and Brockway. Why did she vote for them?
“Because someone handed me this outside the polling place,” Turek said, pointing to a little sheet of paper with the names of Marrello, Mangia and Brockway on it.