The most interesting thing about last week’s Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 school board candidate forum was who didn’t show up. The five candidates backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty were all no shows. The only other candidate missing from the forum was longtime incumbent board member Joanne Schaeffer, who was ill.
The six candidates how did show up, however, noted the absent of the Getty-backed candidates.
“I think it shows volumes for the fact that they didn’t show up to attend this very important forum to give residents and the taxpayers and parents a choice in who’s running for these very important board positions,” said Earl Johnson, who is running for a two-year term on a slate backed by Schaeffer. “Please think about that when you go to vote on April 7. These candidates didn’t show up and we did.”
Johnson, a 35-year-old Transportation Security Administration worker at Midway Airport, said that he doesn’t have the money behind his campaign that the Getty-backed candidates do.
“I don’t have glossy fliers with my picture on it,” Johnson said. “I don’t have village employees handing out fliers for me, I don’t have half page ads in the newspaper for me. But what I do have is spunk. I got energy, I’m young. I want to give a fresh perspective and fresh set of eyes on things.”
Antonie “Toni” Parker who is also running on Schaeffer’s slate, made a similar point about the missing candidates.
“The five who aren’t here have catchy, good sounding bullet points on glossy fliers, but they’re not about telling us where they come from, what they stand for and where they’ll take District 103,” Parker said.
Incumbent board member Kristen Goodman, who along with fellow appointee to the board Consuelo “Connie” Esparza, is being backed by board president Sharon Anderson, expressed concern about what she suggested was an attempt by Getty to gain control of the school board.
“There are some candidates, a slate of five, that are put up by Getty, that are running for political purposes, and I think everybody should be cautious about that,” Goodman said.
Running on the Getty backed slate are Catherine “Katie” Broderick, Michael “Mike” Bennett, Jorge “Rene” Torres, Gregory Ramirez, and Colleen “Dawn” Shipbaugh.
Torres and Shipbaugh did not respond to calls asking them to be interviewed for this story.
The discussion among the candidates who did show up for the forum put on the League of Women Voters and held on March 10 at the George Washington Middle School had a civil but unexceptional tone.
Parker made an impression as an independent thinker.
“I guess I’m an all-around troublemaker,” Parker said.
Parker criticized the current board for allowing cost overruns on recent construction project at George Washington Middle School and at Edison School.
“The administration had authority to approve change orders,” Parker said. “The board should have never relinquished that.”
Parker pointed out that Lincoln School, the only District 103 school located in Brookfield, is one of the least successful schools in the district.
“We need to acknowledge the wide disparity between the schools in our district and schools in which the demographics are very similar,” Parker said. “I don’t believe demographics determine test scores. We didn’t acknowledge the disappointing 2013 test scores.”
Esparza emphasized her credentials as someone who works in higher education.
“Our board has set forth wonderful initiatives,” Esparza said. “We have very high achieving goals and we’ve started work towards them.”
Esparza said that she is not a yes woman.
“I challenge our board to discuss the issues,” Esparza said.
Goodman, a Stickney resident, said that she wants to focus on three areas: boosting student learning and achievement, being a wise steward of taxpayers’ money and creating a good, safe environment for children.
She said that she was appointed to the board after the cost overruns took place.
“The board took a very active approach to investigating those cost overruns, both at Edison and at [George Washington] and did an independent audit of those overruns to make sure we’re not going to have a situation similar to that,” Goodman said. “We have a new business manager in place, and that is a very positive step for our district. We also put new requisition procedures in place.”
Lori Schuler, running on the Schaeffer slate, said she was an involved parent.
“I think I can be a liaison between the parents, the staff and the administration,” Schuler said.
Jacqueline McDonnell, also running on the Schaeffer backed slate, emphasized the need for the district to keep its budget in check.
In addition to the southeast quarter of Brookfield, District 103 includes Lyons, Stickney, Forest View, and McCook.