Six-way race for three seats on Riverside-Brookfield High School board

District 95 board president, financial analyst join the fray


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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

This spring's Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 board election got a lot more interesting on the afternoon of Dec. 26 when two more candidates filed nominating petitions shortly before the deadline.

Six candidates, two of whom possess Ivy League degrees, will be competing for three seats on the seven member board.

Three candidates will be running as a team: current school board President Matt Sinde, incumbent Mike Welch and newcomer Ed Jepson.

Those three, and veteran Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary District 95 school board member Chuck Snyder, announced their intention to run in the April 9 election nearly two months ago and filed nominating petitions on the first day of filing, Dec. 17.

But on the afternoon of Dec. 26, the last day to submit petitions, two other candidates entered the race.

First Joe Wanner, the owner of a Riverside-based real estate development company and an associated small general contracting firm, came in with his petitions and then about two hours later, just 15 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, Jim Landahl, the current District 95 school board president, walked into the high school to file his papers.

Landahl is the father of three sons: an RBHS graduate, a senior, and an eighth-grader who will be a freshman next year. Landahl has served on the District 95 school board for 12 years, the last six years as its president.

In 2011 he was a leader of the group Citizens United for RB (CURB), which worked to pass a tax referendum that was badly defeated at the polls. Landahl, a Brookfield resident, is self employed as a logistics consultant for supply chain management.

Landahl said he wants to end the fighting that has been pronounced at times at RBHS during the past few years.

"We've had too much conflict," Landahl said. "We need to deal with what we have to deal with and do it in a collaborative manner."

Landahl and Wanner both served on the high school's graduation requirements study committee formed last spring, but said that they have had no discussions with each other or with Snyder about running as a team.

"No, not at this time," Landahl said. "But, you know, I've had a great, solid working relationship and we've done fantastic things in District 95 working with Chuck Snyder and myself, really ground-breaking trends."

District 95's last teachers' contract, which eliminated step increases for teachers and tied raises to the consumer price index, will likely will be a model for the type of the contract the school board will try to negotiate with the RBHS teachers' union in 2013.

Wanner, 46, the son of the longtime track and cross country coach and teacher at Prospect High School, graduated from Columbia University with a degree in economics.

He went on to earn a master's degree in management from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Wanner worked for 12 years at Harris Bank, where he worked on strategic planning and acquisitions and rose to the rank of vice-president. He has three children: a daughter who is sophomore at RBHS, a daughter who is a sixth-grader at Hauser Junior High and a son who is a first-grader at Central School.

"My background is in strategic planning," said Wanner, who also is certified financial analyst. "I know numbers."

Wanner said that he is not interested in old battles and says that he will not be negative.

"I'm not running to make a statement about how things have been done with the current board or the board before that or the board before that with all the editorials and mudslinging that has gone on," Wanner said. "I believe that high schools should be a source to unify the community.

"In the olden days that's how it was. The community rallied around the school."

Welch welcomed the new candidates to the race.

"I welcome everyone to run," Welch said.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: January 15th, 2013 2:39 PM

Again, I can't believe all the negativity from people who post anonymously. Imagine, if you're afraid to post hateful comments with your name - imagine what it's like for our VOLUNTARY public figures. I'm not saying that our current officials make the right decision every time...but I thank them for stepping up and doing the work I won't do - all while listening to abusive comments from non-participants.

To: question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 10:40 AM

Second, if you don't know who said what when, and you don't know when the current law firm was hired, then you can't claim you know how the last negotiation went either. You obviously weren't at the table. Ask those who were. It was a real negotiation despite what Chris Robling would like you to think.

To: question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 10:35 AM

First of all, the "bully" law firm was hired last year by the current 208 board. Looking at comments from their supporters in this paper who have called for this contract to "step on the necks of the union members" is it any wonder they would hire reputed bullies?

question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 10:12 AM

I was talking about what happened in 2008. Didn't the same firm represent the board in those negotiations as well? I don't know who said what when, but I do know the 2008 contract was essentially not negotiated--we accepted whatever the teacher's union wanted.

To: question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 9:58 AM

When did the firm tell the board not to negotiate? If you look at the school website, the board been having 3 1/2 hour closed meetings on a regular basis with them to prep for the upcoming negotiations.

question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 9:42 AM

I'm not a fan of the firm for D208 either. Weren't they the ones who essentially told the 2008 board not to negotiate? I don't think we should be doing business with this firm at all.

To: question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 9:38 AM

Not a big fan of this "bully" law firm, but you seem to be a big fan of the current 208 board who hired the same firm to help negotiate the new contract. How do you feel about that? Did you let Matt Sinde know you don't approve of these "bullies" working in our districts?

question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 9:19 AM

And, as for your "respected" school attorneys, they are widely known in the legal community as being bullies. From what I can see, they try to squelch communication at all turns. Their "advice" on the FOIA-ability of the police report will be shown to be wrong, and soon. Google the main attorneys' names (Scariano and Petrarca) and see what kind of "advice" they've given other schools. It's all squelch, squelch, squelch.

question and answer  

Posted: January 15th, 2013 9:16 AM

Martha, are you sure your name isn't Mary Ellen, or Lisa, or Jennifer? The District 96 board has done a terrible disservice to this community by not properly addressing the issues with Colleen Lieggi. If you read the police report, you'd know it's more than just bad judgment. This issue is about to blow wide open and the board, and Lamberson, will be shown as fools.


Posted: January 15th, 2013 8:48 AM

D96 has/had one of the most respected education attorneys around - you have to trust that you don't know the full story and the right/legal thing was done. I think you're taking the "lack of communication" out of context. I have a sister who is a teacher - I wouldn't want her school board to speak publicly about her! There are certain things that CAN'T be spoken about publicly.


Posted: January 15th, 2013 8:45 AM

Wow! I'm glad I see the glass as half-full. Maybe before you continue to criticize volunteers, you should step up to the plate and try to do a better job. I'm sure you wouldn't because you don't want to be subjected to "haters" such as yourself. I don't know about the D208 Board, but the D96 Board has a lot to be proud of. And maybe, just maybe it isn't LEGAL to fire an employee for what YOU PERCEIVE to be bad judgement.

question and answer  

Posted: January 14th, 2013 4:18 PM

Gee, Martha, are you praising the D96 board? The board that has consistently told the community they will not communicate? The board that has left a principal with extremely dubious judgment on the job? The board that has made our do-nothing, talk in circles superintendent one of the highest paid in the state? Gee, I wouldn't praise the D96 board if I were you. I'll take the D208 board over them any day of the week.


Posted: January 14th, 2013 3:09 PM

Chris - all of your concerns with D208 (e.g. construction budgets, timeliness, teacher contracts) are attributes that the D96 Board has excelled in. I feel like you are a bully. Shouldn't we THANK people who volunteer their time and who care about our district - even if we don't agree? Instead, you bully and harass them.

John LaBarbera from Brookfield  

Posted: January 14th, 2013 2:32 PM

Mr. Robling- where does Jim stand on the issues you set forth? while on the D95 BOE he helped pass four separate contracts with administrators and union members capping the district's expenditures with its revenues. He is part of a BOE that has consistently increased student performance each year he has been on the Board. He has worked collaboratively with parents, teachers, administrators and fellow Board members. It is a tough road. Jim's been on it for 12 years.


Posted: January 11th, 2013 10:31 PM

Jim you stated that RB does not need accountability for the $67 million spent on the buildings because there is "no state's attorney action". Do you really believe it's OK to not report back on $67 million and then try to raise taxes by another $100 million? Is all OK because none of us sued the school we care about?

What Debate?  

Posted: January 11th, 2013 12:36 AM

The Komarek Parent University was supposed to be an informational meeting, and the speakers were lined up and ready to go before anyone was told you'd be there. Jim was simply one of the people involved in the presentation. It was never intended to be a debate between the two of you.

Christopher FitzHenry Robling from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 10:06 PM

Jim, this would carry weight had you ever acknowledged publicly the very serious problems RB has had to work through. By acting like nothing was wrong, you aligned yourself with the status quo. The reform effort is well underway. Where are you? Do we deserve a report on what happened to our $66.75 million over-budget project? Why did the 'field house' leak? Why hasn't the air system in the pool worked? Why don't we have what we were promised? What should we do now? Was the community well represented in either of the last two contracts? Do you think the community can -- or should -- sustain annual average raises of between 5% and 8%? How much in raises would you approve, and how much will that cost us? Forty-four cents per $100, or more? The teachers say they proposed swapping pay for extension. The Board said no. The teachers must have wanted to make permanent the current work rules that prevent our superintendent from running our school. Are those work rules OK with you? What about the property audit that showed scores and scores of missing items -- was that kind of administration OK w you? When you and I were supposed to debate at Komarek, you brought six friends to share the duty. Will you do that again? Jim, it is a tough road. The school needs community support. It is great that you respect officeholders, but where are you on the issues? You ran a referendum campaign that lost almost 4 to 1. What did you learn? Let's mix it up and get to answers. Best, c

Jim Landahl from Brookfield  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 2:25 PM

I was misquoted;I respect, honor and encourage our democratic process of open debate, deliberation with compromise as an outcome. Debates can get heated as ideas are floated; its not an easy process to achieve compromise.I have always conducted myself with respect toward our elected Board members.Our elected representatives are charged with the task of making difficult decsions that are magnafied during periods of financial constrains.That responsibility should always be respected

To John LaB  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 11:53 AM

"We've had too much conflict," Landahl said. "We need to deal with what we have to deal with and do it in a collaborative manner." That is an easy statement to make when unopposed in every election and on most board issues. It's a cheap shot at all of the present board members who have open debate. They listened to the good folks who stepped up to save clubs and sports in difficult times. The board listened and worked with the parents. Remember the math club? Remember sports?


Posted: January 1st, 2013 11:48 AM

Mr. LaBarbera says "I cannot recall exactly how many times I have been opposed in an election." OK, I can recall, unopposed in 2009 and unopposed in 2005, that's both times you won. When opposed you lost in 2003 finishing 4th of 4. The same is true for the candidates you are supporting. While I applaud all for serving, your associate criticizes the healthy debates which have benefited students. He failed to pass the referendum and I believe the current board serves us well with the resulting

To: Oh, Chris  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 11:37 AM

Any group of residents is appropriate to host discussions about an election. Election laws prohibit tax exempt organizations from endorsing candidates. Hosting forums is not the same as endorsing candidates. Your initial comment was not limited to wondering about hosting forums.

@To: Oh, Chris  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 9:47 AM

I'm not a candidate. I'm not here to bash Catholic Schools. I just wonder why Chris feels the Parish Council is an appropriate group to host discussion about an election.

To: Oh, Chris ...  

Posted: January 1st, 2013 1:44 AM

I was going to post about anti Catholic school sentiment that I heard from one of the candidates during the CURB presentations. I held back, not thinking it would be fair to post now, but here it shows up again.

Oh, Chris....  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 7:42 PM

Will your guys actually show up this time (unlike when Keen and Gryczyn blew off the RBTV/League of Women Voters Q&A? Will they answer REAL questions with something other than, "We don't have to answer that because we're politicians"? What's for the call out to Parish Councils? This is not a run for a Catholic School Board. I thought churches were supposed to stay out of elections, although that seems to be where you've been busy recruiting of late for both RB and the 96 board.

John LaBarbera from Brookfield  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 7:19 PM

Dear Parent: I cannot recall exactly how many times I have been opposed in an election. While I was not elected in 2003, I was elected thereafter. I stand by my record as to my service on D 95. I think we have served our community well. But the D208 election is not about me. It's about the qualifications of those running. Snyder and Landahl are both highly qualified for the office. If you have a specific topic or issue you want to discuss, I am willing to do so.

Hey Chris  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 5:40 PM

I thought RBTV worked for JoAnne Kosey ;-) Keep up the great work.

Christopher FitzHenry Robling from Riverside, Illinois  

Posted: December 31st, 2012 5:17 PM

Now that the campaign is on, one hopes that every civic group in District 208 will schedule the candidates for question-and-answer forums so their members can meet the candidates, hear their views and probe with questions and conversation. Lions Clubs, Rotaries, PTOs, parish councils, and more should schedule now. RBTV, which works for us, not the board and not the administration, should recruit a trusted news person to moderate a series of televised conversations about the board and RB's future. Much is at stake, congratulations to each candidate for taking the plunge, now let's hear what they have to say and let them listen to us, our questions and concerns.


Posted: December 30th, 2012 7:56 PM

Mr. LaBarbera thanks for disclosing your affiliation when asked. Your post about their service, on an elected board, implies that they had been the choice of the people. Is it true that you all have served, for multiple terms, and that the all three of you were unopposed? In fact the single time there was opposition was in 2003 when you ran for one three seats (4 candidates) and the voters rejected you?

John LaBarbera from Brookfield  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 4:01 PM

By using my name I think I have disclosed the basis for my views. It is true I have served on the D95 BOE for some time. My views are Those of an involved community member and are based on what I have observed over the last decade while serving on that Board. My comments here are directed at criticism of two people that have volunteered their time and talent to our community. While criticism should be aired, my point was that there should be some substance to the criticism.


Posted: December 29th, 2012 6:44 PM

Mr. LaBarbera you know of their qualifications and years of service because you live in the community and are an impartial observer or because you serve on the same board with them? Thank you for service but please ramp it up on full disclosure.

John LaBarbera from Brookfield  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 4:00 PM

I am amazed at the negative comments concerning Chuck Snyder and Jim Landahl. They have both served for 12 years on the D 95 Board and have served well. They have more experience than anyone running for the D208 Board. They have negotiated more teacher contracts and navigated difficulties with the support of the teachers, community and fellow Board members. If you're going to comment, it would help if you had anything at all to actually add to the discussion.

RB student   

Posted: December 29th, 2012 11:57 AM

I'm not sure what a silver spoon has to do with it but isn't the point for the school to generate students that have a chance to get into Ivy League schools? Lets focus on education

sugar bear from riverside  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 5:51 PM

Joe Wanner was hardly born with a silver spoon. Do your research and stop being moronic....

Nobody that nobody sent  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 4:31 PM

I'm not impressed with Ivy League educations. Most have silver spoons. The son of a teacher? Yeah. He's got a silver spoon.

RB Parent from Brookfield   

Posted: December 28th, 2012 12:11 PM

Finally! Some good, quality candidates with knowledge and know how to get things done for the betterment of the RBHS students and not for other reasons.

RB Parent  

Posted: December 28th, 2012 11:21 AM

No surprise that Jim Landahl was almost late. Check out the CURB filings when he ran the referendum to raise our taxes. He and Chuck Snyder didn't even file when they ran for D95. They both ran as write-ins after no one else filed. Will we hear next about their advanced planning capabilities? Come on Brookfield both Sinde and Powers were stronger candidates who picked these guys? Couldn't we do better?

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