Ames matter an issue in District 96 board race

3 candidates from the school's area to face 3 incumbents


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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

The recent controversy around Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi and the removal of a teacher from the school in 2011 will apparently play a role in Riverside Elementary School District 96's school board election in April.

The field of candidates is set as the filing period came to a close on Dec. 26 when three newcomers all filed their candidate petitions. Three of the four incumbents up for re-election had submitted their nominating petitions earlier in the filing period. There are four four-year terms up for election on April 9.

The newcomers are Randy Brockway, Mary Rose Mangia and Rachel Marrello. They all live in the Ames School attendance area, and two — Brockway and Marrello — have children attending Ames.

Three incumbents, including school board President Mary Ellen Meindl and Jennifer Leimberer and Lisa Gaynor are running to retain their seats. Gaynor was appointed to her seat in 2011 to fill out the term of Mary Stimming, who resigned when she moved out of the area. Meindl and Leimberer were elected to the board in 2009.

Nancy Jensen, who has served on the board for 12 years, has decided to call it.

Marrello, 38, works as an investigator for the Cook County Office of the Independent Inspector General where she investigates public corruption. She has a degree from Chicago Kent College of Law and is married to Riverside police officer Daniel Marrello.

"I think I have a lot to offer as far as my experience and background," Marrello said. "I have three children attending school and next year will have four in the district."

Marrello said that she is not a one-issue candidate, but is very concerned about the events at Ames in 2011 and how they have been handled by the current school board and administration.

"There's a lot of things that I see that have been going awry that I'm concerned about and I have to say that this particular [thing], seeing what's happening, is kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," Marrello said.

On Dec. 17 Marrello, along with two others, met with Meindl and District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson about the Ames situation and how it was handled. Marrello said she was not reassured by what she heard at the meeting.

Marrello said she is not ready to decide if she thinks Lieggi should stay on at Ames after her contract expires on June 30, but she left little doubt as to the way she is leaning right now.

"We need more information," said Marrello, who said she has read only one page of the police report that is at the heart of the controversy. "I don't think she's a good fit for the school."

Brockway, 58, is self-employed landscape architect and urban farmer. He is married to Pearl Gaskins, who sharply criticized the school board at its Dec. 18 meeting for its handling of the situation at Ames.

"My wife and I have been troubled by the recent action, or lack of action, lack of transparency," Brockway said. "It just kind of brought to a head some of the, I think, some of the failures of our school district board and the administration and that is the communication and lack of transparency."

Brockway has been active working on pedestrian safety issues and has proposed building a pedestrian bridge over First Avenue at Forest Avenue. He also serves on a committee that has been exploring possibly building a bike path, walking trail or sidewalk along First Avenue so that Riverside-Brookfield High School students who live in North Riverside can have a safe way to walk or bike to school.

Mangia, 61, has lived in Riverside with her husband, a retired soldier, for 12 years. She is retired but worked for many years in the insurance industry. She teaches catechism classes at St. Mary's Catholic Church and holds two masters degrees from Benedictine University, including an MBA.

Mangia also spoke at the Dec. 18 school board meeting, the second school board meeting she ever attended and criticized the school board for a lack of transparency.

"I know that they're limited by what they can talk about, but there is a way to acknowledge the concerns of the community without violating the trust that they have with their own employees," Mangia said. "I just feel like they could acknowledge the situation a little bit more and reach out to the community."

Meindl said that she is running for a second term because the board needs experience with a new superintendent taking over on July 1 and a new principal needing to be hired for Central School.

"We have tremendous transitions taking place in our school district, and I believe it's important to have consistency," Meindl said. "I have learned much in my last four years serving on the board, and I'm committed to helping the district have a smooth transition into the new leadership and the leadership at Central School."

Leimberer said that she, too, had more that she wants to accomplish on the board.

"I'm not done here," Leimberer. We have more to do."

Jensen said that 12 years on the school is enough.

"I've served three terms; it's been interesting and rewarding," said Jensen who served as board president from 2009 to 2011. "[It's] time for new perspectives and someone else to take a turn. While I would like to be part of the transition with the new superintendent, I have a lot of confidence in the current board and believe they will work well with Dr. Bhavna [Sharma-Lewis] and continue District 96's path of excellence."

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Interesting from Riverisde  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 7:07 PM

Simply being a taxpayer doesn't mean you are qualified to make decisions affecting our children. As a taxpayer you're obviously eligible to run and serve, but it's certainly no qualification. It will be interesting to see what this board decides about rehiring Colleen.

question and answer  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 10:49 AM

Yes, her contract should not be renewed, but the board should have investigated this issue in the first place, and they didn't. I'm not even sure they are properly investigating it now. Who knows what this board will do.

To: That's Dumb  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 1:29 AM

What candidate is quoted as saying they are running to "make sure the schools run smoothly"? Don't confuse the comments here with the candidates thoughts. It's good to here that things are running well despite the Ames principals recent mistakes. However, she is in a leadership position and unchecked mistakes will eventually multiply themselves in more destructive ways. It's good to know when contracts expire. Reminding the public of that is one way the BOE could address the public

Just a thought  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 5:38 PM

Anyone ever bother to think that this might not be a Lieggi issue? a Battersby issue? a Kosey issue or a Robling issue? This is about a Board that refused to follow its own policy. Board policy is non-negotiable and any such refusal to follow such policy is grounds for removal at a minimum.

That's dumb  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 5:14 PM

Don't be stupid. No one supports what she did. But when people say they want to be on the D96 board to "make sure the schools run smoothly," it kinda makes you wonder uhh what exactly do you think needs smoothing? One person made several mistakes. Her contract is up mid-2013. It won't be renewed. Lamberson's retiring. WHAT NEXT? Is it asking too much to have something meaningful in mind when you talk to us about runnning for the board? None of you clowns get my vote.

To: wow the hostility  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 4:46 PM

Wow, did you read your own post? Your title is pretty accurate. It never fails to astound me that there are Ames parents who can support what Lieggi did. I wouldn't want her anywhere near my child.

Wow the hostility here is crazy  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 4:34 PM

While the Principal's behavior has been disappointing, Ames School still runs as smoothly as it ever did. I'd love for one of you reactionaries to lay out a plan for "increasing transparency" when it comes to personnel issues. This should be good. And nice sour grapes over not getting the clerk job, Marello. Say, where are the folks ripping the Koseys? Guess it would've been wrong for the Marellos to take up two village jobs, huh? Feeding from the public trough, they'd be, right?

Franklin J.  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 11:30 AM

Mary Rose Mangia is easily the most intelligent and educated among these candidates, and has the ability to evaluate issues fairly and objectively. Coupled with guidance from her husband, a man who has truly sacrificed for this country, I can't imagine a better representative.

Ames Mom  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 11:17 AM

I feel badly for Colleen's children---their mother turned them into victims. I also feel badly for the other victims---her ex-husband, the Corrigan Family, and Susan Battersby. Colleen--not so much. She should be working in a warehouse somewhere--at an hourly rate, like Susan. She is not fit to be near children, especially mine.


Posted: December 31st, 2012 11:12 AM

By outsider, you must mean anyone outside of the education cabal. How dare you consider ANYONE who lives within the District 96 tax base an outsider. They have every right to run for any office they choose. I will work very hard to make sure they succeed in their quest to turn our schools into how they should be--run smoothly with thought for all concerned--the children and the taxpayers.

The other real issue  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 11:07 AM

is that the past couple of school boards have totally rolled over and let the not-so-good Dr. Jonny have his way with them and with us. There is no way that the 3 new candidates will roll over--for anyone.

9th Commandment from Oak Park  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 8:33 AM

The BOE is attempting to divert attention away from the real issue. Their reference to the separation agreement of a wrongfully accused teacher is a distraction tactic. The real issue is the reckless conduct of Mrs. Lieggi.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 10:39 PM

Come on susan take a stand for yourself because the admin and boe have been so honest and supportive! Why didn't you want to stay at ames where you were treated so well? We dont feel at all sorry for you for being healthy enough to get out and protecting yourself. So there

K. M. from Riverside  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 10:11 PM

If you don't like an agreement, don't sign it! Take a stand for yourself. I don't feel sorry for Susan.

To: Martha  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 7:37 PM

Exactly what do you think your citation proves? Rachel is a strong advocate for the truth. That's why we need her on the board. If the current board had properly handled this Ames mess in the first place, there wouldn't be a story.

calm down from north riverside  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 4:41 PM

Yes calm down people from this persons stupid comments. Susan battersby needs to be accountiable for what!? Well maybe she should of stayed working for a wcko woman after being cleared of everything. How crazy is susan taking a agreement and not staying in this district with you "riversiders"


Posted: December 30th, 2012 4:13 PM

I don't understand. What was so unfortunate about signing the agreement?


Posted: December 30th, 2012 4:12 PM

I'm not sure rachel marrello is someone who can make unemotional decisions. Please see this Landmark article from a few years ago:

Calm down  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 4:01 PM

No one forced her to sign the agreement, but unfortunately, she did. hahaha wow, you guys are nuts. Good luck with the bitterness. Can't imagine that will work out for you all that well come election time, but we shall see.

Agreement? from Riverside  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 3:53 PM

What was wrong with signing the agreement? Fairly standard in today's employment world.

To: Riversider  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 3:34 PM

And another thing--how DARE you hold Susan Battersby "accountable". Accountable for what? Accountable for a madwoman, upset that her child didn't get into the gifted program, who then brutally and ruthlessly ruined a young teacher's life? You obviously don't have any empathy. I'm sorry to know that you are one of my neighbors.

To: Riversider  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 3:31 PM

No, of course we don't think Colleen Lieggi thought Battersby was a child molester. We think Colleen lied. That is the point, since it sounds like you don't get it. I do feel sorry for Colleen's kids. I do not feel sorry for Colleen. I think she is disturbed. You have children at Ames and you think someone who is disturbed enough to lie to ruin a young teacher's life is fit to remain as principal? Astounding. And as for that "small vocal group", just wait until April 9.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 2:57 PM

And yes, I do sympathize with Colleen. What some did to her children, spreading the police report all over town, was disgraceful. I can't imagine hating a person so much that i'd be willing to exploit her two young girls in an effort to get back at her. That was an inexcusable act that hurt the entire community. How about accountability from Susan battersby? She signed the agreement for heavens sakes!


Posted: December 30th, 2012 2:47 PM

Oh hey so which story are we going with today? That Colleen really thought Susan battersby was a child molestor and the board left Susan in a position to hurt other students for two weeks? Or is it that Colleen falsely accused Susan battersby for personal reasons and the board allowed her to remain in the classroom after that because they knew Susan wasn't a threat to children? It's pretty clear what happened. Electing a group of reactionaries isn't necessarily the answer, in my opinion.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 2:13 PM

You feel sorry for colleen because of what she did to her kids!? Huh? You feel ok about a teacher being in a classroom while under investigation for child abuse because your kids are thriving!? Ok?


Posted: December 30th, 2012 1:33 PM

My bad. Sorry Art. My feeling is that there are a small but vocal group of people who want to spend their time focusing on this one issue. I'm an Ames parent and while I am disappointed by what I've read about Colleen, my kids are thriving and happy and I'm confident they're safe. And while i do sympathize with Susan battersby, i also sympathize with Colleen. Her children have suffered as a result of her actions as well as the actions of others in our community.

To: Riversider  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 11:49 AM

Before you start talking about the board, at least get your names straight. It's Art Perry, not Art Turner. Meindl's actions in the Ames matter show her to be a fool. Nearly a year and a half after all this started, and it appears she hasn't done even the most basic of investigations. She just parrots whatever Dr. Lamberson says. I think we need a clean sweep on the board. Too bad we won't get it this time. The only saving grace is that Dr. Lamberson will be gone come June.

but think  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 11:42 AM

Think about the people who were harmed by this one issue. Saftey of our children is a big issue! It is the boards responsibty to keep accountability in our schools.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 11:31 AM

Colleen's actions are a distraction from the fact that Mary, Jennifer and Lisa are actually thoughtful and dynamic members of this board. What worries me is who will be president if Mary, Jennifer and Lisa are not re-elected? Kodama has the energy of a slug. Arthur Turner asks good questions, if nothing else. Michael O'Brien did an excellent job addressing community concerns re: Kindergarten Centers, despite the board's policy of hiding behind the president.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 11:23 AM

They say they aren't one-issue candidates, but no other issue is discussed here. Other issues to be addressed by the next board will include kindergarten enrollment, at least one principal hiring and the transitiion a new superintendent. Meindl and co. will have to be accountable for their decisions re: Colleen Lieggi, but in all honesty, it's a shame that they may go down because of it.

To: Mark H  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 9:07 AM

If you read the article at all, you would see that these are not one-issue candidates. But, right now, this is the biggest issue facing the district. A principal walked into the police station and made shocking charges against a teacher, then kept the teacher in the classroom. Why? Because she knew those charges were false when she made them. Yet, there have been no repercussions for her. Our current board is doing a great disservice to the community.

Mark H from Riverside  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 8:58 AM

If a candidates only reason for running is the "issue" at Ames, they are a poor candidate. There are 4 schools in the district, and more than 1 issue. Anyone who has been to a school board meeting, or a village board meeting, know they end with a close session to discuss personal matters. they discuss issues that can't be discussed in public, so I am not sure what kind of "transparency" you expect regarding personal issues.

to no thanks  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 12:24 AM

This is not about your issues with chris r. This is about a community wanting to put people in the BOE that will take action when action is needed to protect the children within our schools. This is our job to protect them by providing them with safe schools. Lieggi accused a teacher of doing disgusting things to kids. She reported her to the police while they investigated she allowed this teacher to continue teaching CHILDREN! The board has not taken action! People this is wrong!

To: no thanks  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 10:27 PM

I think there are many more people in District 96--teachers included--who are glad that the terrible story of Colleen Lieggi and what she has done is finally out in the open. I am an Ames parent too. I do not think she is fit to remain as principal.

Mary Rose Mangia from Riverside  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 9:41 PM

To No Thanks: Your recent comment is strange. Who do you perceive as outsiders? We are all residents and taxpayers. How do you know that any or all of the candidates were behind the email blast of the police report? What does that mean? We, who have decided to run, hopefully are and will be supported by a wide group of people. To suggest that we are in lock step with everyone and anyone who may have assisted us in filing is presumptuous and naive.

No thanks  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 8:46 PM

Nah I'm just another Ames parent who's grown tired of outsiders and community agitators like Chris Robling. We all know that he is behind these three candidates and that these three were involved with his exploitive email blast of the police report. He is a destructive, despicable, reckless person who obviously has no respect for our community or our children. I'm sure he was thrilled when the lieggi story broke. It gave him someone new to fixate on besides Joanne Kosey.

Joanne Rogers  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 7:47 PM

I agree. Rachel will make a great candidate--she is not afraid to stand up for the truth. We need people like her, Mary Rose and Randy on the board.

she is good on her own from north riverside  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 3:57 PM

Ok have you ever met Rachel she dosent need anyone speaking for her! I have met her at ames and found her to be a very bright person with her own ideas. Thanks rachel for running we need a fresh boe you have my vote!!

question and answer  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 3:50 PM

No thanks--who told YOU to say that? Mary Ellen Meindl? Or the person who pulls Mary Ellen's strings, Dr. Jonny?

No thanks   

Posted: December 29th, 2012 3:37 PM

Hey Rachel, did Robling tell you to say that? Worry about your own credentials.

Communication Could Be Better from Riverside  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 3:07 PM

The communications at Board Meetings don't provide much information. Isn't that part of what this election is about?

Rachel Marrello from riverside  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 2:06 PM

To "No thanks from Riverside:" I respectfully disagree with your statement that Mary Rose Mangia is a not a good candidate because she is a "childless taxpayer" who has only been to two meetings. The school district is a business that manages a budget three times the Village budget. Ms. Mangia has an MBA and is a former insurance professional. She has essential business skills this board desperately needs, the vested interest as a taxpayer and offers an objective perspective as a non-parent.

question and answer  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 11:43 PM

No one could be worse than the board we have now. They are completely clueless. Lieggi needs to go.

No thanks from Riverside  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 10:41 PM

A fresh take on what's best for elementary shool children from a childless taxpayer who has no trouble admiting she's only been to two board meetings in four years? I don't see that happening.

Thanks, but no thanks.  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 4:40 PM

Thanks, Jennifer. You've done enough.

A fresh start  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 4:36 PM

I like the idea that there is a candidate with no children in the school district. Mary Rose Mangia can offier a totally objective viewpoint and opinion without fear of retribution or the appearance of sucking up. I wouldn't vote for any of the incumbent board members if you paid me. Not in a million years and they were the only people running.

Actually, Nancy,  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 4:28 PM

your 12 years on the board was 8 years too long.

Taxpayer thanks- Rachel Marrello, Mary Rose Mangia and Randy Brockway  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 11:03 AM

Taxpayer thanks- Rachel Marrello, Mary Rose Mangia and Randy Brockway "We have tremendous transitions taking place in our school district, and I believe it's important to have consistency," Meindl said. But I read "consistency" as status quo. Rachel, Mary Rose and Randy are concerned with kids' safety and accountability to taxpayers. I'll support those who will challenge the status quo.

question and answer  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 11:02 AM

The last thing we need on this board is "consistency". Too bad we don't have four non-incumbents running. DO NOT VOTE FOR MARY ELLEN MEINDL. She does not have the necessary judgment for the job.


Posted: December 28th, 2012 10:54 AM

I'm surprised Meindl made a public comment. I thought it was against some type of agreement and that it would be a misdemeanor or felony or something like that. Maybe she just needs to let Jonny scrub it first? Change is needed.

Thank you, Rachel Marrello, Mary Rose Mangia and Randy Brockway  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 10:44 AM

Thank you, Rachel Marrello, Mary Rose Mangia and Randy Brockway "We have tremendous transitions taking place in our school district, and I believe it's important to have consistency," Meindl said. I'm concerned with kids' safety and accountability to taxpayers. I'll support those who will challenge the status quo.

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