The campaign appears finally to be over. Four people elected to serve on the Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District Board of Education were formally sworn in and seated Monday night.
The slate of candidates, known during the election as Parents for Student Excellence, sponsored by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, is now in full control of the District 103 school board.
Two of its members, Michael Bennett and Jorge Torres, were elected president and vice president, respectively, by identical vote totals of 4 to 3. They were voted into the positions by the four members of the slate, with incumbents Sharon Anderson, Mark Camasta and Joanne Schaeffer voting against.
Another member of the slate, Coleen Shipbaugh, was elected secretary of the board unanimously.
Meanwhile, it will take until later this week for the slate to start implementing its agenda. Bennett has called a special meeting of the school board for Thursday, May 7 at 8:30 p.m. at the administration building, 4100 Joliet Ave. in Lyons.
At that meeting, the board will vote to terminate the district law firm, Robbins Schwartz, and replace it with the firm Odelson and Sterk, which also serves as legal counsel for the village of Lyons.
In addition, Bennett announced the board will terminate the contracts of Patrick Patt and Griff Powell, who were hired to serve as co-interim superintendents after Superintendent Mary Jo Vladika announced her retirement. Patt and Powell started work on April 22 and billed the district for a total of five days, ending April 30.
However, Patt and Powell are already gone. Anderson read a statement from Patt on Monday night announcing he and Powell had exercised their right to terminate the agreement themselves, effective Tuesday.
The board will hire Kyle Hastings, a politically connected former school administrator as its new interim superintendent. Hastings has ties to attorney Burt Odelson, whose firm serves as legal counsel for Orland Hills, where Hastings is village president.
Odelson was present at Monday’s D103 meeting as the private attorney for the Parents for Student Excellence slate.
In addition, the school board voted unanimously to move their meetings to the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.
At least one district employee will stay on for at least another year. The school board voted unanimously to name Marge Hubacek as its recording secretary. Hubacek earlier this year had announced her retirement but relented after being asked by the outgoing school board to stay on during the transition period.
Hubacek on April 27 formally rescinded her retirement, postponing it until June 30, 2016.
Monday’s meeting followed a bizarre week in which the Parents for Student Excellence slate attempted to force their way onto the board early and immediately make the changes they announced Monday.
On April 28, Getty’s administrative assistant, Kyle Leonard, marched into the district office and demanded Patt post an agenda for a special meeting of the board on April 30. He also presented Patt with signed oaths of office, notarized by Odelson, from the four slate candidates, claiming they were valid.
When Patt declined to post the meeting agenda, Leonard himself taped it to the front entrance of the district’s administration building. But on April 30, Robbins Schwartz weighed in, calling the oath of office and the call for a meeting invalid.
District office employees left work early on April 30, locking the doors behind them. The effect was to postpone seating of the new board until Monday. In the meantime, someone supporting Parents for Student Excellence parked a car in the main office parking lot. Atop the car was a large rubber duck with the word “Lame” on it.
On Monday, about 150 people showed up for the seating of the new board. Prior to the adjournment of the old board, about 20 people made public comments — including Bennett and outgoing board member Deanna Huxhold.
Bennett criticized the outgoing board for “lax oversight” and hiring people “that went against the will of the voters.”
Huxhold announced she was handing out small, green rubber ducks to all of the incoming candidates to remind them that school grounds were a “no-bullying zone.”
Meanwhile, several parents, including a contingent from Lincoln School in Brookfield, admonished incoming board members to honor their promises to keep politics out of the school board and focus on educating children.
“I hope you were able to leave the politics at the village hall where they belong,” said parent Krystal Steiner.
Meanwhile, another Lincoln School parent said it would be up to the board to prove doubters wrong.
“It’s very difficult to believe the things I’ve seen,” she said. “You wanted the job. Take it and prove us wrong.”