Voters upset with recent events at Riverside-Brookfield High School have tossed out the two incumbents running for re-election to the District 208 Board of Education.
With all precincts reporting, newcomers Gina Sierra, Ramona Towner and William “Wes” Smithing have been elected to four-year terms on the school board.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity to represent the RB community and for North Riverside to have representation on the board,” said Sierra, a current member of the Komarek District 94 school board and a principal at a K-8 school in Norridge. “That was a big reason why I had decided to run so I’m really excited about that.”
Sierra led the field by almost 600 votes, piling up 3,244 votes with all 25 precincts reporting. She credited her sister, Maria Kaplan of Brookfield, for being a big help to her in the campaign.
“I definitely wouldn’t have won without her help, Sierra said. “She did a lot just to help me out and I really appreciate it.”
Towner, a teacher and instructional coach in Berwyn, was running second with 2,645 votes.
“I’m happy to become a member of the team,” Towner said. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m up for the challenge.”
Smithing unofficially finished third, with a slim 69 vote lead over incumbent Edward Jepson for the final spot on the board.
Board Vice President Matt Sinde, who served for four years as board president and was seeking his third term on the school board, was in last place, badly trailing the field with 2,047 votes.
The recent decision of the school board not to rehire social studies teacher Jill Musil appears to have been a major factor in the poor showing of Sinde and Jepson.
Brookfield resident Danielle Sanchez, a 2012 graduate of RBHS, said that not rehiring Musil was a big reason why she did not vote for Jepson and Sinde.
“I don’t think they are good leaders on the school board, and they failed to listen to the community, to students, to parents, to others, to other staff at the school,” said Sanchez, after voting at SE Gross School on Tuesday. “It’s really sad that people who are supposed to be leaders of the school aren’t listening to what the community wants. … They don’t listen; they get voted out.”
Eleanor Byrne of Brookfield also voted against Jepson and Sinde largely because of the decision not to rehire Musil.
“I think what they did to that teacher was very bad,” Byrne said. “I figured they needed a different board, had a little better common sense or something.”
The decision of the school board to sue the village of Brookfield over the village’s initial refusal to allow the school to build a parking lot on school owned land just north of Hollywood School also hurt the incumbents.
“I chose not to vote for the candidates who wanted to sue my village,” said Patrick Boyle after voting for Sierra, Towner, and Smithing at Hollywood School.
Jepson said that he was not upset about apparently not winning another term on the school board.
“I’m honored to have served the community for the last four years,” Jepson said. “I wish those who were elected, I wish them well and I’m happy to help or assist anyone, any place, any time, in connection with RB community.”
Jepson said that people who voted on the Musil or lawsuit issue voted knowing only 10 or 20 percent of the facts.
“I am very happy to remove myself from the public purview, and the voters always get what they deserve,” Jepson said.
Sinde could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.