Power shifted on the Lyons School District 103 Board of Education last week as the four winners of the April 2 election were sworn in.
The four candidates of the Parents for Student Excellence slate — incumbent Jorge Torres and newcomers Vito Campanile, Oliva Quintero, and Winifred Rodriguez — were backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty.
They took their seats on the school board on April 30 and promptly elected Torres as the new school board president, replacing Marge Hubacek, who was elected two years ago. Hubacek remains on the school board.
Torres, who is beginning his second term on the school board, works as a building inspector for the village of Lyons. Sitting in the audience watching the change in power was former Lyons Village President Ken Getty, father of the current village president.
The vote to make Torres president was unanimous, with Hubacek, Sharon Anderson and Shannon Johnson voting for him as well.
“They have the majority,” Hubacek said. “Everything is not a fight. I’m going to try and make the best of it and get along.”
But it didn’t take long for first fight to break out. After Rodriguez was unanimously elected board vice president and Campanile elected board secretary there was a tussle over what day board meetings should be held.
The Getty-backed board members wanted to switch the twice monthly board meetings to Tuesday nights from Monday.
“Monday tends to be stressful; Mondays are the worst,” Torres said. “Tuesday seems to be a better day for us.”
Torres also pointed out that some federal holidays are celebrated on Mondays, requiring the board to reschedule some meetings.
Anderson, Hubacek and Johnson pointed out that District 103 board meetings have traditionally been held on Mondays, except from 2015 to 2017 when the a Getty-backed majority switched the meetings to Thursday evenings.
Johnson said other school events are typically not held on Mondays and that switching board meetings to Tuesday might cause conflicts for parents and teachers.
But Torres brushed off that criticism.
“We are not going to be in the way of any events,” Torres said.
The new majority exercised its power in what could be the first of many 4 to 3 votes, changing the meetings to Tuesdays. The next meeting will take place May 14.
At the start of the meeting, before the new board members were sworn in, teachers’ union President Toni Jackman, backed by approximately 50 union members standing behind her, made a public comment that could be interpreted as a warning and a show of strength to the new board.
Jackman vowed that the union would work with the new board, but implicitly warned them not to bring politics into the schools.
“We stand with the newly created board tonight and will continue to stand with you as long as you as you are committed to being a school board that makes decisions that represents best practices in education, a board that has the best interests of students always in the forefront, a board that has a respect for our educational perspective and expertise as well as for our collective bargaining agreement and a board that acts in fiscally responsible manner and a board that allows us all to do our jobs with continuity, consistency and pride,” Jackman said.
The meeting was the final one for outgoing board members Joanne Schaeffer, Tom Weiner and Michael Bennett. Schaeffer, who had served on the board for 40 years, and Weiner were defeated by the Getty-backed candidates on April 2.
Weiner, who was appointed to the board in December after board member Coleen Shipbaugh was booted off the board for not attending meetings, made a brief final statement from the board table before the new members were sworn in.
“There were some tough decisions made and some that were not popular,” said an emotional Weiner. “As I look back, I know I did what I felt was best for the students and staff of the district.”
At the start of the meeting Weiner cast the only vote against certifying the results of the April 2 election in a symbolic protest that was an indication of the bitterness of the campaign.
And Weiner made a plea to the new majority.
“Please keep the pay-to-play politics out of the district’s business,” Weiner said.