New Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education members (from left) Jill Grech, Jill Beda Daniels, Julie Swinehart, Dawn Aubert and Michael Thomas take their oaths of office on May 3 in LaGrange. (Provided by LTHS)
Kari Dillon

Kari Dillon was elected the new school board president in Lyons Township High School District 204 on May 3 after four new board members and one incumbent were sworn in on a historic night at the LTHS North Campus. 

For the first time ever, the LTHS school board has no white men on it — the new board consists of six women and a Black man. As recently as 2014, the LTHS school board consisted of six white men and one white woman.

“I think it’s different, it’s a little unique to LT’s history and I think it will be really exciting to see what just comes up out of the dynamic,” said Dillon in a telephone interview with the Landmark after being selected as the new school board president. “I’m looking forward to it.”

There are four new members of the school board, including former District 102 school board member Dawn Aubert, Jill Beda Daniels, Jill Grech, and Julie Swinehart. They, as well as incumbent Michael Thomas, who was appointed to the District 204 school board last year, were elected in the April 6 election.

Departing the board are longtime board members George Dougherty Tom Cushing, Molly Bruton, and Jessica McLean. They all decided not to run for reelection. Dougherty served on the school board for 12 years. Cushing has been on the school board for nine years and served as president for the last six. Bruton and McLean both served on the board for six years.

The new board will not have that kind of experience. Dillon and Alison Kelly have the served on the board the longest, having been elected just two years ago. Thomas was appointed to the school board last year after serving on the District 102 board.

Dillon, 48, lives in Indian Head Park and is the mother to two LTHS students, a junior and a freshman. She works in marketing for company called Synergy Creative that specializes in higher education marketing.

She is the first female school board president since Heather Alderman served as president from 2013 to 2015. 

Dillon’s election as board president is perhaps indicative of the new atmosphere on the board. Kelly, like Cushing, is a graduate of LTHS and when she ran in 2019 she was aligned with incumbent candidates Barbara Rosinsky and Phil Palmer, while Dillon was more of an outsider who ran an independent campaign.

“There’s an appetite for there to be different perspectives and people coming from different backgrounds right now, and I think that’s what the election results showed us,” Dillon said.

Equity has emerged as a major issue at LTHS and will be a priority for the school board, Dillon said. 

“Equity is a primary focus of ours and I just hope to continue that work,” Dillon said. “I’m also looking to partner with the board and superintendent on our strategic plan for LT.”

Dillon is not especially concerned about the relative inexperience of the new school board. She said she thinks the new board will bring a fresh set of eyes and ears to the board table.

“I think it will be very healthy for the community, because it probably means that information that people maybe take for granted — that everyone knows because it’s just been that way for so long — will be bought back up again,” Dillon said. “People will be asking questions, and so the community will get to hear firsthand from the administration and from the board how the decisions are made and how we come to where we’re at.”

The four new board members and the new board president come during a time of transition for LTHS. Superintendent Tim Kilrea is retiring on July 1 and will be replaced by Principal Brian Waterman. A new principal, Jennifer Tyrrell, also starts at LTHS this summer.