By Bob Skolnik
The bitter divisions and personal animus that has been a hallmark of Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 school board meetings in recent years, flared into the open at the board's June 30 special meeting when Superintendent Kristopher Rivera read a three-page statement prepared by the board's vice president, Winifred Rodriguez, excoriating board colleagues Shannon Johnson and Marge Hubacek.
Rodriguez was angry because late at night on June 23, Gloria Medina, a vocal critic of the school board majority, wrote a comment referring to the death of Rodriguez's adult son in 2014 on a Facebook post critical of the school district.
Earl Johnson, the husband of Shannon Johnson, had posted a link to a Landmark story about the hiring of a new assistant principal at Lincoln School. With it he posted a campaign photo of the four-person board majority -- Rodriguez, Vito Campanile, Olivia Quintero and Jorge Torres -- commenting that the majority made a bad choice.
Then Medina make a comment saying "Earl Johnson, Yes these are the monsters who make decisions because they don't care about children. Winifred you had a son do something good in his memory!!!"
Rodriguez's son, Tito, was a 28-year-old Chicago police officer when he was struck and killed by a car while he was riding his motorcycle to work on the Dan Ryan Expressway on the afternoon of July 20, 2014.
Rodriguez said Johnson and Hubacek were responsible for the post and for the vitriol and venom on social media about the school board majority, because Johnson and Hubacek are listed as two of the five administrators of the "SD 103 Residents" Facebook page.
In her statement, Rodriguez said the Facebook page had become "a vicious soapbox of hate, libel, name calling and personal attack."
She held Hubacek and Johnson personally responsible for Medina's post.
"Hubacek and Johnson, who run the blog, decide which comments are published and which are removed," Rodriguez's statement said. "They decide whether the blog will focus on the needs of the school children, the concerns of the school district, or focus instead on their own selfish politics and name-calling.
'Even though the comments they approve which viciously and personally have been attacking me are made by others – I believe by individuals who they know and work with – they are personally responsible for the libel and false statements that are being made and that are so disrespectful you have to ask how people like that can even be associated with the needs of our school children."
Hubacek and Johnson reacted strongly to Rodriguez's statement, with Johnson and Rodriguez heatedly talking over each other for a time while board President Jorge Torres banged his gavel trying to calm things down.
Johnson told Rodriguez that she had not been even aware of Medina's post until after it had been taken down by another page administrator the morning after Medina wrote it. Johnson also noted that Rodriguez's daughter had reposted Medina's post and delivered a harsh attack on Medina on the much larger "Lyons Living" Facebook page.
"This was brought to my attention when it was posted by your daughter on Lyons Living after it was taken down from this page," Johnson said. "When your daughter reposted it, it brought it to everybody's attention."
Rodriguez had a sharp retort to Johnson and defended her daughter.
"She was trying to show what kind of people you are," Rodriguez said. "You're ignorant."
After the meeting Hubacek and Johnson said that Medina's post was inappropriate but that it had been quickly taken down and that they had nothing to do with it.
"I posted an apology," Johnson said. "I said it was wrong."
Former school board member Deanna Viti-Huxhold, who is one of the five administrators of the SD 103 Residents group, said that she made the sure Medina's post was removed once she became aware of it and the administrators sent Rodriguez an apology.
"We administrators did apologize that we did not see it right away," Viti-Huxhold told the Landmark.
The morning after Medina's post an angry Rodriguez sent an email to Rivera and to all the members of the school board complaining about the post and saying that the behavior of Hubacek and Johnson should be addressed.
Hubacek and Johnson then emailed their replies to Rodriguez in which they said that they had nothing to do with the post.
"You have every right to be hurt and angry, but you don't have the right to attack me or Shannon," Hubacek said in her email to Rodriguez.
After the June 30 meeting, Hubacek and Johnson said Rodriguez was using the post to score political points.
"This is coming from a woman who is politically connected to [Lyons Village President] Chris Getty, who had no problem distributing all that crap during the election," Hubacek said. "Now she is going to come up with this. It was a Facebook issue. She's turned this into a politically motivated thing."
Hubacek and Johnson also said they thought it was inappropriate for Rivera to read Rodriguez's statement aloud at the school board meeting and wondered why Rodriguez didn't read her own statement.
"It was highly inappropriate," Johnson said of Rivera reading the statement. "It was something she could have read and it was not the place to do that either. She had already sent an email and it had already been addressed."
During the meeting, Rivera said that he was reading Rodriguez's statement because Torres, asked him to do so.
"I think it was very inappropriate for the superintendent to read that, which only goes to prove, I think, our point is where he takes his direction from," Hubacek said. "For the superintendent to play into that, I thought, was inappropriate and disrespectful. It shows what a puppet he is."