By Bob Skolnik
Four candidates backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty swept to a resounding victory on April 2, gaining control of the seven-member Lyons-Brookfield District 103 school board and ending the career of Joanne Schaeffer, who has served on the school board for 40 years.
"It is what it is," said Schaeffer. "The people made the choice, so they'll get what they voted for. There's nothing we can do about it. We'll go back to the way it was four years ago."
The 79-year-old Schaeffer, a resident of Lyons, has served on the District 103 school board since 1979, except for a brief period in 1999 when she last lost a school board race. Shortly after that defeat she was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy.
"Forty years is a good run," Schaeffer said. "I just feel bad for the district and the kids. That's all I feel bad for."
Elected to the school board and forming a new majority are the candidates of the Getty-backed Parents for Student Excellence (PSE) slate: incumbent Jorge Torres and newcomers, Oliva Quintero, Brookfield resident Vito Campanile, and Winifred Rodriguez.
The PSE slate lost in Brookfield and Stickney, but they piled up huge margins in Lyons and McCook to carry them to a convincing win.
Only 21.53 percent of registered voters turned out this year compared to 27.96 percent two years ago when three Getty-backed candidate were defeated and Getty lost control of the school board.
Getty made a major effort to win back control of the school board this year. On Election Day, Getty was handing out palm cards in front the Lincoln School polling place in Brookfield.
The PSE slate also was aided by a political action committee called Integrity PAC, which was formed in 2016 to support Getty-backed candidates, and targeted District 103 in particular.
Integrity PAC sent out multiple mailers harshly attacking the current board majority, district administration, and the Putting Students First slate. The mailers featured the mug shot of a teacher, Andres Rodriguez, who was unwittingly hired last summer while he was facing charges of attempted murder.
Although Rodriguez was placed on leave immediately after district officials found out about the charges against him and subsequently fired, the PSE slate and the mailers relentlessly attacked the school board for hiring Rodriguez and criticized the district for not doing an adequate background check.
Torres was the only member of the school board who voted against hiring Rodriguez. His hiring was part of a consent agenda; Torres routinely voted against adopting the consent agendas since the Getty-backed board members lost control of the school board two years ago.
The final Integrity PAC mailer called the Putting Students First slate of Schaeffer, Tom Weiner, former board member Connie Esparza and Jacquie Magsaysay unfit to serve and unqualified.
The mailer described the outspoken Schaeffer as "extremely combative" and said she was opposed to technology, lacked understanding of modern curriculum, was dismissive to students who need help and offensive to parents and teachers.
The mailer also included an unflattering photo of Magsaysay taken from a Facebook video that the Putting Students First slate recorded and falsely claimed Weiner was illegally sworn in when he became a board member last December.
Monday evening Magsaysay criticized those negative attacks.
"I like campaigning, not slam-paigning," said Magsaysay. "I'm sorry they had to stoop to that level."
The PSE slate also campaigned aggressively.
"We worked extremely hard," Campanile said. "I made 60 calls a day for three to four weeks."
Some of those phone calls paid off. Campanile called the Dorans of Brookfield and talked to Julie Doran, convincing her and her husband to vote for his slate.
"He called and spoke to my wife one night, and we really liked his message and what he had to say," said Thomas Doran after voting at the St. Barbara's Parish Center on Election Day. "With what's gone on the past year, the hiring fiasco and all that, it seemed like they need some fresh eyes."
Quintero, whose sister is the Lyons village clerk, led the PSE slate, racking up 1,774 votes. Torres finished second with 1,697 votes, Campanile was third with 1,585 and Winfred Rodriguez took the fourth seat up for grabs with 1,562.
Schaeffer led the Putting Students First slate with 1,099 votes, Esparza was just one vote behind with 1,098 votes, Weiner received 1,095 votes and Magsaysay got 978 votes. An unaligned candidate who didn't campaign, Shakana Kirksey-Miller, trailed the field with 239 votes.
Getty-backed candidates had won control of the school board in 2015 when Torres and three other Getty backed candidates were elected, but they lost control of the board majority two years later when three Getty-backed candidates, including two incumbents and Quintero, were defeated.
But they turned the tables last week and now will have a majority for the next four years.