Last week, Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 school board member Brian Conroy sent out an email to hundreds of Brook Park Elementary School parents endorsing Katie Mulcrone and Jacqueline Jordan in the District 95 school board race.
Conroy sent the email from his personal email, account but obtained the parents’ email addresses from a directory put out by the Brook Park Council, which is the parent organization of Brook Park School.
Some Brook Park parents have complained about the use of the directory for political purposes, and some of the other candidates in the race are criticizing Conroy for using the directory to send out the email.
There are six candidates in the race, including incumbent Joe Ivan, former board member Brian Pencak and Chris Crisanti, Meaghan McAteer.
Crisanti and McAteer, who are running as a team, issued a statement Monday criticizing Conroy’s use the parent directory.
“We are disappointed that a sitting school board member, who is also a village board candidate, violated the trust of District 95 families by using the school directory for political purposes to solicit votes for the school board race,” Crisanti and McAteer said in an email to the Landmark.
They also criticized Jordan and Mulcrone for not denouncing the email on their behalf, “especially considering one of those candidates is the sitting Brook Park Council President and the other is a DCFS employee.”
Mulcrone is the president of the Brook Park Council, known as the BPC. Mulcrone said that she was in Florida last week and didn’t know Conroy was going to use the parent directory to send out an email supporting her and Jordan.
She said that she wasn’t sure if it was an appropriate use of the directory, which is typically used by parents to contact other parents to arrange play dates, invite kids to birthday parties or to discuss BPC activities or school issues.
“I think it’s a fine line, to be honest with you,” Mulcrone said.
Mulcrone said that she did not give the list to Conroy, who is not a member of the BPC and no longer has kids at Brook Park School.
“We have 800 kids in our school, so there’s a lot of families who have it,” Mulcrone said.
Mulcrone said the BPC gets the contact information, typically addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, from the school to use in the directory. The directory itself is given, usually in PDF form, to dues-paying members of the BPC.
“It’s really used to connect parents,” Mulcrone said.
Conroy said that he got the list from a friend, whom he declined to name. He said he doesn’t think he did anything wrong in sending the email, noting that the list was not school property.
“It was a directory that’s distributed to parents at the beginning of the year,” Conroy said.
As a departing school member, Conroy has strong feelings about who are the best candidates in the school board race. Conroy also played a role in encouraging Mulcrone and Jordan to run for the school board and has made no secret of his support for them.
“When you volunteer and give six years of your time at a board level you don’t just walk away and leave it up for grabs,” Conroy said. “I feel pretty strong about who the most highly qualified candidates are in Katie and Jacquie, and those are the two I would want to see fill two of the three seats.”
Conroy believes his use of the directory was appropriate, noting that he sent his email from his personal email address.
“If they’re open to be contacted regarding a bake sale or a fundraiser, I would think they would be open regarding a school board race, especially given the perspective of a current board member who’s been so actively involved for the past six years,” Conroy said.
District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said that he didn’t think Conroy’s use of the directory violated district policy against school board members or employees using district resources for political activity.
“It’s not school generated; I believe it is generated by the BPC,” Kuzniewski said. “I know some of the concerns that I’ve gotten have been that it was the same type of system that we use to send out a school closing alert or something of that nature, and that is not the case. It wasn’t the district’s mass email system.”
Conroy noted that he did not use the list to promote his candidacy for the village board.
“I sent out a single email,” Conroy said. “I’m not going to be sending it out to anybody else or distributing the list or anything like that.”
Pencak said that while he is no longer a BPC member he didn’t use access to the directory in his two previous school board campaigns.
“I never used it for reaching out to anybody for my candidacy,” Pencak said.
When Tina Corradino, a Brook Park parent, got Conroy’s email last week she didn’t think too much about it.
“I just deleted it. I didn’t think anything of it,” Corradino said. “I wasn’t outraged or offended, but if you dig deeper for someone to use that for political gain it seemed kind of shady. It’s politics; they have to get their message out somehow.”
Some parents have complained on Brook Park Facebook pages about Conroy’s email.
Jordan and Ivan could not be immediately reached for comment.