Money and patronage was no match for grassroots support, determined organizing, and passion last week as the Putting Students First slate of Sharon Anderson, Shannon Johnson, and Marge Hubacek wrestled control of the Lyons School District 103 school board back from the grip of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty.
Anderson, Hubacek and Johnson handily defeated three Getty-backed candidates, including incumbents Katie Broderick and Kendra Pierce despite being outspent. They are expected to align with Joanne Schaeffer to take control of the seven-member school board.
“I think we won because we had the community behind us,” said Johnson, who is a native of Lyons and teaches second grade in Glencoe.
Anderson led the six-candidate field with 2,050 votes. Johnson finished second with 1,911 votes and Hubacek finished third with 1,879 votes in the battle for three seats on the school board. Broderick finished fourth with 1,434 votes
“I think it helps that I am teacher and I’m a home town girl,” said Johnson who lives in Lyons. “I grew up here. I’m a product of this district.”
Hubacek was a longtime school district employee, serving for years as the superintendent’s administrative assistant in the District 103 central office.
The Putting Students First slate won big in areas of the district outside of Lyons, and fared well enough inside Getty’s home turf to avoid defeat.
Brookfield resident Kristin Thomas said that she didn’t like some of the changes the Getty majority had made and noted that the Getty-backed candidates didn’t come to the only candidate forum during the campaign.
“My kids are in the school district and I do not like some of the decisions they’re making,” Thomas said after voting for the Anderson, Johnson, and Hubacek at the Brookfield Fire station on Shields Avenue.
Hubacek, a Forest View resident, worked hard in Stickney, sitting on a chair outside the Stickney-Forest View Public Library, an early voting location, for hours each day during the early voting period.
“I made a whole bunch of new friends sitting out on the corner,” Hubacek said.
The Putting Students First slate also raised about $4,000, enough to compete with the better-funded Getty backed candidates.
“We got contributions from five dollars all the way up to one person who contributed $500,” Hubacek said.
They purchased 500 small yard signs and 50 big signs which allowed them to have a visible presence on the street and give hope to their supporters even though the red signs of the Getty-backed team blanketed areas near polling places on Election Day.
On April 8, the political committee for the incumbents, Parents for Student Excellence, reported receiving a $30,000 donation from Citizens for Christopher Getty.
About 30 teachers and other District 103 staff members helped pass out campaign literature, Hubacek said.
The future of Superintendent Carol Baker and Assistant Superintendent Kyle Hastings is uncertain. Both were hired by current board majority, but Anderson, Johnson and Hubacek made clear during the campaign that they did not have confidence in either one of them. Hastings is the longtime village president of Orland Hills.
But both Baker and Hastings have multiyear contracts. Baker’s contract expires in 2019 while Hastings, who is paid $1,000 a day in a part-time role, has a contract that expires in 2020.
“There will have to be some changes,” Hubacek said. “We just have to wait and see what we can do and when we can do it.”
Hubacek said she wants to at least make sure that administrators are doing the jobs they were hired to do.
“You hold people accountable for their job and that may be all we can do,” Hubacek said. “I don’t know what the options are, but we’ll find out.”
Baker said she has no intention of quitting, even though she has been harshly criticized by some of parents supporting the Putting Students First slate.
“I’ve been in education now for 29 years and I’ve seen school boards come and go … and I hope the board will continue to support me in doing that,” Baker said. “I’m not planning to go anywhere. I plan to keep doing what’s best for kids.”
Johnson said she is worried that the current Getty-controlled school board might hand out contract extensions or pay raises in the coming weeks while they still have control of the school board. The new school board members probably won’t be seated until late April or early May after the Cook County Clerk certifies the election results.
“I’m afraid they’re going to try to extend these contracts that they’ve put into place and I’m afraid it’s going to end up costing the district a lot of money, which is going to pull more resources away from the kids,” Johnson said.