Joyce Fitch knew it would be an uphill battle to win a third term on the LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 school board after not receiving the backing of the powerful District 102 Delegate Assembly.
And on April 7, despite strong support in the Brookfield portion of the district, Fitch came up 130 votes short, finishing in fifth place in the race for four seats on the District 102 school board.
“I did not expect to win,” said Fitch, who was the incumbent vice president of the school board. “For myself I am not disappointed. I can do a lot of things. I thought I came real close, actually.”
The only other incumbent in the race, Matthew Scotty, led the field with 1,564 votes to win a second term on the board. Brian Anderson finished second, just one vote behind Scotty.
Amanda Jandris finished third with 1,511 votes, while Jason Kowalczyk won the final seat on the board with 1,496 votes. Fitch received 1,366 votes.
School board President Dave May did not run for a fourth term on the school board after failing to receive the endorsement of the Delegate Assembly, a self-selected group of involved citizens.
Nine people sought the Delegate Assembly’s endorsement and were interviewed by the group. Fitch was the only person not to receive the endorsement to run for the school board.
“I was not endorsed by the Delegate Assembly, so I decided not to run against their slate,” May said. “[Fitch] had volunteered to run, too, and they didn’t endorse her, and she tried running as an independent and didn’t quite get there.”
Incumbent Dawn Aubert chose not to run for another term months ago and did not go before the Delegate Assembly.
The Delegate Assembly wanted new blood on the school board and a greater emphasis on communication and community involvement.
Fitch said she knew going into the Delegate Assembly endorsement process that she didn’t have much of a chance of getting endorsed.
“There was a small group that had already decided that they did not want anyone with a lot of experience on the board, so Dave and I would not be endorsed,” Fitch said.
In late February, school newsletters were sent out electronically from all schools except Congress Park School, announcing that the Delegate Assembly had endorsed Scotty, Anderson, Jandris and Kowalczyk and urged people to vote for those four.
It is a violation of Illinois election law to use school resources to support or oppose specific candidates. Complaints, or at least phone calls, about the newsletters were apparently made to the Cook County Clerk’s office and the Illinois State Board of Elections. But spokesmen for both offices say that the matter is really one for the state’s attorney’s office and not their concern.
“We may have gotten calls about it, but I’m not aware of anybody filing a written complaint,” said Ken Menzel, the general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Menzel said the use of public resources to support specific candidates is a misdemeanor and would be a matter for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to look into. He said that the state Illinois Board of Elections cannot do anything about a possible violation of the law.
Fitch said she was proud of what she accomplished in her eight years on the school board.
“We put in full-day kindergarten, we’ve put in in school autistic programs,” Fitch said. “We’ve done a great deal, so I’m really pleased with what we’ve been able to do in the last eight years.”
Fitch said that she and May thought the board could use their experience with a new superintendent starting on July 1 and a possible referendum campaign in the offing.
But while she has concerns about the Delegate Assembly process and things done during the campaign, Fitch said she thinks the four winners last week are good, if mostly inexperienced, people.
“We have people who were elected who are very committed to education and want to do the right thing, so I have no qualms about that whatsoever,” Fitch said. “It will be a very young board.”