Two, perhaps three, of the four incumbents up for re-election to the Riverside Elementary School District 96 school board are calling it quits after one term. But it looks like there will still be a competitive race next spring for four seats up for election.
Board members Mary Rose Mangia and Randy Brockway told the Landmark that they will not be running for re-election in the April 2017 election. Rachel Marrello, who ran on a slate with Mangia and Brockway four years ago, told the Landmark last week that she hadn’t yet decided whether to run for another term on the board.
School board President Jeff Miller, who was elected two years ago to fill out the term of Lisa Gaynor, will seek a full four-year term in April.
Miller said that a desire to maintain some continuity on the school board is a major reason for his decision to run again.
“I think what it comes down to is, in part, that there’s been a lot of turnover over the last four or five years both in the administration and on the board,” Miller said. “I think there’s a tradeoff between having people with some experience and having new people with new ideas and new energy, and given that we have a new administration and that the board as a whole has been relatively new, on balance it maybe makes sense to have a little more continuity.”
Mangia and Brockway said family concerns played a role in their decisions not to seek a second term.
“I’m a retiree and, at this point, I just want to focus on family concerns and other pursuits in retirement,” Mangia said.
Brockway, a landscape architect, said that he has projects in other states and may be travelling more.
“I don’t want to miss meetings and I just want to focus on my career for the next several years here,” Brockway said.
Brockway, Mangia, and Marrello were elected to the school board in 2013, defeating two incumbents and riding a wave of discontent after six months of controversy surrounding a former Ames School principal who announced her resignation shortly before the school board election.
Their time on the school board has been eventful and, especially in their first two years, was marked by controversy and change. They have served on the board through the administrations of four superintendents – Jonathan Lamberson, Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, the interim team of Patrick Patt and Griff Powell and, presently, Martha Ryan-Toye.
In the past 18 months tensions eased. The hiring of Powell and Patt as co-interim superintendents in 2015 and the hiring of Ryan-Toye have brought some stability.
Both Mangia and Brockway say that they are proud of their accomplishments in their time on the school board, and both say that they are leaving the school board with the district in better shape than it was in when they joined.
“I feel I’ve had an impact and I think I’ve established a precedent for oversight, and that the board has become a true oversight body,” Mangia said.
Brockway said that he is especially proud of his work in helping to upgrade the district’s Response-to-Intervention program, which provides extra academic help to students who need it.
Brockway said the district’s administrative team is much stronger now than it was when he was elected, and he gave Sharma-Lewis credit for removing some administrators.
“There were some changes that had to be made and they were,” Brockway said. “Bhavna helped us get there and unfortunately there was just a lot of change going on.”
It appears that there will be at least five candidates for the four school board seats up in April.
Other candidates emerge
In addition to Miller, David Barsotti, Dan Hunt, Nick Lambros, and Joel Marhoul have told the Landmark they intend to run.
Barsotti, a resident of the Hollywood neighborhood, serves as a member of the district’s technology steering committee and is an IT project manager at the Ann and Richard H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
Hunt, also an IT and technology project manager, ran for a seat on the board two years ago and finished last in a five-person race for three seats.
“I had a great time running last time around, meeting with people and speaking with them,” said Hunt.
Marhoul, a civil engineer, grew up in Riverside. He is a member of the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission and also serves as the president of the Riverside Swim Club.
Lambros, who owns a property management company based in Oak Park, lives on the same block as Miller, who he said encouraged him to run. He has run for public office once before, losing a race for the Forest Park Village Council in 1995.
The filing period for school board nominating petitions begins on Dec. 12 and ends on Dec. 19. School board candidates must submit at least 50 valid signatures of registered voters in the school district to get a spot on the ballot.