Residents deserve answers from school officials, not a snub

Residents deserve answers from school officials, not a snub

Residents deserve answers from school officials, not a snub

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan criticized the Lyons School District 103 board and its chairman Marge Hubacek for violating the Open Meetings Act when she denied parents the ability to speak at a meeting on October 22, 2019. Hubacek, seeking to silence criticism of the hiring of a teacher who faces felony attempted murder charges, limited the public participation on the topic to only five speaks. McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski was one of the people denied the chance to address the board

By Jeffrey Tobolski

Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski

Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski

Like many parents in Lyons School District 103, I was shocked to learn that the school board majority had hired as a 6th grade teacher a man who is facing felony attempted murder charges.

The teacher, Andres Rodriguez, had been hired by District 103 School Board Chairman Marge Hubacek and her board last August. When parents learned that Mr. Rodriguez stands accused of shooting another man seven times during an incident in suburban Tinley Park, more than one year before, they went to the school board meeting to seek answers.

I also wanted to know what happened so I went to the Oct. 22, 2018 District 103 board meeting. More than 200 parents and other officials including State Senator Martin Sandoval and Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty were at the meeting, too, all hoping to get answers to their concerns.

But instead of answering those concerns, Chairman Hubacek and her board allies rebuffed the parents and even at times ridiculed their concerns. I was incredulous that Chairman Hubacek seemed to not care about the hiring of a suspect accused of shooting another man seven times while he was lying on the ground, but seemed more concerned with preventing the parents from expressing their concerns at the meeting.

Hubacek’s board did everything to discourage the parents including re-arranging the meeting to hold a closed-door executive session that last more than 40 minutes prior to the meeting. When Hubacek emerged from their closed door meeting, she announced that only five parents would be permitted to address the board for only 3 minutes each.

Had I not attended the meeting myself, I would not have believed that public officials whose salaries are paid by the parents and taxpayers who gathered at the meeting at Washington Elementary School in Lyons that evening could do what Chairman Hubacek and her board majority did that night.

McCook where I serve as mayor is one of the communities whose families send their children to School District 103 to learn, not to be exposed to individuals engaged in alleged acts of violence. So during the meeting, I patiently stood in line waiting for the opportunity to address the board, as the elected chief executive of that community. Instead, Chairman Hubacek refused to allow me to speak.

Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski writes column criticizing District 103 Board Majority after the Illinois Attorney General ruled they violated the Open Meetings Act. Published in the Des Plaines Valley News

Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski writes column criticizing District 103 Board Majority after the Illinois Attorney General ruled they violated the Open Meetings Act. Published in the Des Plaines Valley News

After Chairman Hubacek rushed through the public participation period of the meeting, and rammed through her agenda, attorney Martin Stack announced that he would file a complaint against the board arguing that the board had violated the Open Meetings Act by denying the parents of the school district’s children an opportunity to speak.

For her part Chairman Hubacek ridiculed the claim that she violated the state’s Open Meetings Act law, and her allies joined in laughing and mocking the parents and Mr. Stack.

But, on January 9th, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a rebuke of School District 103 Board Chairman Marge Hubecek and her board majority. In fact, the State’s attorney noted that Chairman Hubacek even refused to respond to the initial formal letter she had sent demanding a response to the charge.

Maybe Chairman Hubacek felt that Attorney Stack’s complaint could be ignored the same way she ignored the parents of District 103’s parents or the concerns of the safety of the children?

In her decision, the Illinois Attorney general stated that during a school board meeting on October 22, 2018, the board (led by Hubacek) “violated the open meetings act by enforcing an un-established and unrecorded rule limiting the public comment portion of the meeting to 15 minutes.”

As someone elected to serve the residents of the 16th District and the Village of McCook (which lies within the District 103 boundaries), I was insulted by Chairman Hubacek’s blatant disregard for the law through her actions on the night of the 22nd.

I applaud attorney Martin Stack for alerting the Illinois Attorney General’s office of this egregious violation of the Open Meetings Act. I also applaud District 103 board member Jorge Torres who attended the meeting and also protested against Chairman Hubacek’s actions. Jorge Torres withstood bullying from other board members who ridiculed his concerns and waived off his protests as if his presence on the District 103 board meant nothing.

I am again demanding that on behalf of all of the parents and all of the school children in District 103, whose safety seemed to not be of any concern to the board majority, that Chairman Hubacek immediately resign from her position on the school board.

Chairman Hubacek, and her board majority, have come to represent a failure of leadership. She has demonstrated a complete brazenness for the laws of this state and the safety needs of our children through her mishandling of the Ramirez hiring and the subsequent investigation. Her illegal quashing of public discourse during the October 22nd board meeting is an event that will hang over the District 103 school board until Chairman Hubacek and her bullying allies step down or are held to account for their failed leadership.

(Jeffrey Tobolski is the mayor of the Village of McCook and he is the Cook County Commissioner representing the 16th District which includes School District 103.)

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