Despite saying that he doesn’t know anything about the right-wing advocacy organization Awake Illinois, Tim Vlcek, a candidate for Lyons Township High School District 204 school board, attended one of Awake Illinois’ candidate training workshops in January.
Awake Illinois is a Naperville based organization that got its start opposing mask mandates in schools and describes itself as a “parental rights” group. It is a vocal critic of newer approaches of teaching about gender, sexuality and race and other hot-button issues in schools. It stands for traditional values and its critics describe it as anti-LGTBQ+.
Joining Vlcek at the Awake Illinois training workshop on Jan. 14 was Molly McShane, an active supporter of Vlcek, Frank Evans and Dave Herndon who are all running for the school board and are loosely allied with each other.
McShane, who has been sending emails and text in support of Vlcek, Evans and Herndon, described herself a “precious volunteer” when asked what her role in the campaign was.
Vlcek said he didn’t recall how he learned of the Awake Illinois workshop. He said that he went to learn about how to run for the school board.
“We attended an event for training for an election,” Vlcek told the Landmark when shown a photo of him and McShane at the Awake Illinois event.
The workshop, which was held at a hotel in the western suburbs, went over the nuts and bolts of how to run a school board race.
“The workshop provided information on how to create a successful campaign for school board elections,” Vlcek told the Landmark in an email.
Even after attending the workshop, Vlcek told the Landmark that he doesn’t know anything about Awake Illinois or what their philosophy is.
Vlcek, Evans and Herndon have said that they are not accepting the support of Awake Illinois or any other outside group, a point made at the end of emails sent out by McShane to voters encouraging them to vote for the three candidates.
“We are completely independent,” McShane said.
McShane said the candidates are self-funding their campaigns and don’t need outside support.
The three candidates have separate campaign signs and are not running as a formal slate. Vlcek’s slogan is “Kids 1st.”
Vlcek, a 62-year-old lifelong resident of LaGrange Park, graduated from LTHS and works as a plant manager for Weinstein Wholesale Meats. He has drawn the most attention for his views.
Indivisible LaGrange/LaGrange Park, a left-leaning pro-Democratic Party group, criticized Vlcek and Awake Illinois in an email sent to the Landmark. The statement acknowledged that there is no evidence that Awake Illinois is explicitly endorsing Vlcek, Evans and Herndon but noted that local Awake Illinois leaders are backing them.
“Candidate Tim Vlcek’s anti-teacher and anti-LGBTQIA social media posts reflect Awake’s values, and Indivisible vehemently and absolutely disavows these positions,” the statement said in part. “Any candidate that espouses these positions — and/or any candidate that allows themselves to be aligned with candidates that spout these positions — is not fit to be on any school board.”
Vlcek denies that he is anti-teacher, noting that his wife teaches at a Catholic school and that he has other relatives who are teachers.
Vlcek recently made his Facebook settings private, but before he did, the Landmark saw that he had posted an image of a man splitting logs with a boy watching.
“Teach your boys to be men before their teachers teach them to be women,” read the message on the image.
“I just thought it was funny and I shared it,” Vlcek said.
Vlcek said that he made his Facebook page private because someone — he didn’t have a name but said he believes that person works at LTHS — was bashing him on Facebook and trying to defame him. He said that he was victim of cyberbullying.
“I regret even being on Facebook,” Vlcek said. “It’s toxic. I’m really upset about it.”
Vlcek said that while he is conservative in his thoughts, he considers himself a pragmatist and a problem-solver. He said that he is not a polarizing person.
“People that do know me know how I am,” Vlcek said.
Vlcek notes that school board races are supposed to be non-partisan and says he just wants to give back to the school he and his four children attended. He volunteers as a mentor in the business incubator program at LTHS.
“I really am a caring person, and I don’t want be political, I don’t want it to be a political thing,” Vlcek said.