Rachel Marrello has decided that four years on the school board is enough.
Marrello did not file nominating papers to run for another term on the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education.
“I decided not to run again as five excellent candidates stepped up to the plate,” Marrello said. “I will continue to stay engaged with the board and the district in different capacities.”
School board President Jeff Miller is the only incumbent running for re-election in April. The other four candidates are David Barsotti, Dan Hunt, Nick Lambros and Joel Marhoul.
Miller that he was disappointed that Marrello decided not to run for a second term.
“It’s unfortunate because she had all this experience, but I understand,” Miller said. “I would have been very, very happy if she had decided to run.”
Marrello was not afraid to ruffle feathers, asking tough questions and speaking her mind. She was a leading critic of former Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, who was forced out by the school board after two drama-filled years as superintendent.
She made waves, and changes, in her first year on the board. Marrello criticized the amount of money the district spent on an end-of-year employee recognition dinner and questioned the spending on food for teachers at a welcome back institute day at the start of the school year. Practices were changed to reduce costs after her criticism.
“She’s an out of the box thinker,” said Mary Rose Mangia, who was elected alongside Marrello in 2013. “She understands public corruption. She understands what her role is versus the administration’s role.”
Marrello, who works for the Cook County Inspector General’s office, was aggressive in pursuing former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson for what appeared to be questionable expenses. She brought the matter to the attention of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which opened an investigation but didn’t file any charges.
In 2013, Marrello ran for the school board on a slate along with Randy Brockway and Mangia. The three were elected, with Marrello as the leading vote getter, defeating two incumbent board members, at a time when the district was roiled by a controversy involving the principal of Ames School. In 2015, two candidates backed by the three were defeated, possibly backlash resulting from the controversy over Sharma-Lewis.
Brockway and Mangia announced before this year’s filing period that they would not run again.
Activist Chris Robling, who along with some others, played a key role in recruiting Marrello, Brockway, and Mangia to run four years ago, said that the district was better off because of their time on the school board.
“Not one of those people we spoke to four years ago were intending to run,” Robling said. “They were all alarmed by Lamberson and what had happened in District 96. … I believe without them [District] 96 would be facing far more vexing challenges than it is facing today.”