Courtesy Mary Rose Mangia

Change came quickly to the Riverside Elementary District 96 Board of Education Tuesday night.

Moments after she was sworn in as a new school board member, Mary Rose Mangia was elected school board president over board member David Kodama in a 4-3 vote.

Voting for Mangia were herself, new board members Randy Brockway and Rachel Marrello and board member Art Perry, who cast the dramatic seventh vote in the roll call to elect Mangia.

Voting against Mangia were Kodama and board members Lisa Gaynor and Michael O’Brien.

Mangia’s selection came as surprise to many, who had expected that Kodama would be selected president.

“The election showed that people wanted some change,” said Perry after the meeting. “I think that it’s reasonable to have leadership change at the top as well, and I have every confidence Mary Rose will be successful.”

In the April 9 election, Mangia was the third leading vote-getter behind Marrello and Gaynor. Former board President Mary Ellen Meindl was not re-elected; finishing last in the five-person field, and incumbent Jennifer Leimberer was also defeated, finishing 73 votes behind Brockway for the fourth and final slot.

It is unusual for someone just elected to a school board to be named president.

“I’d call it daunting,” said Mangia, who said that going into the meeting she didn’t know if she had the votes to be elected.

Upon being sworn in as a board member, and before the election of a president, Mangia read a statement that showed that she and her fellow new board members plan to make their presence felt.

“I have taken my oath of office with two other first-time board members,” Mangia said. “We ran on a platform of transparency, public participation and fiscal discipline. I have spoken with each returning board member. Each has assured that they understand that we replaced the incumbent board members because of the appearance that the board represented insiders instead of the community. The voters’ decision and their support will guide me in working with the incumbents.”

The newcomers didn’t waste any time in shaking things up.

In his first act as a board member, Brockway nominated Mangia for president and Marrello seconded the nomination. Kodama was then nominated for board president by O’Brien, with a second coming from Gaynor.

Without any discussion, the board quickly moved to a vote on Mangia’s nomination. After six board members voted the count stood at 3-3. That left Perry — who, as the holdover board vice president was temporarily presiding over the meeting — to cast the deciding vote.

And even though Perry appeared on joint campaign signs with Kodama when they ran for the school board two years ago, he decided to go with the newcomer. Perry declined to comment when asked why he didn’t support Kodama.

After the meeting Kodama declined to comment on whether he was disappointed he was not elected.

“I’m looking forward to working with the new board members,” Kodama said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to work together.”

Perry said on Wednesday that he was not interested in being school board president himself.

“I didn’t feel like I could devote the time to it,” Perry said. 

Gaynor, too, apparently was not interested in being board president.

Marrello was elected board vice president, giving the newcomers a clean sweep. Kodama and Marrello nominated each other to be vice president. Kodama’s motion was voted upon first, and Marrello received five votes, with only Mangia and Gaynor voting no.

Perry was vice president under Meindl. The vice president of the board typically has no special duties other than presiding over a board meeting in the absence of the president.

The main duties of a school board president are to preside over meeting and develop the meeting agenda. Typically the school board president works closely with the superintendent.

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