Lyons School District 103 tosses failed board for new leaders
Olivia Quintero, Jorge Torres, Vito Campanile, and Winifred Rodriguez ran under the banner of Parents for Student Excellence slate decisively defeated the controversy-plagued slate lead by Lyons School District 103 board member Joanne Schaeffer, newly appointed trustee Thomas Weiner, former trustee Connie Esparza, and Jacqueline Magsaysay.
By Ray Hanania
Joanne Schaeffer, one of the most criticized members of the Lyons School District 103 board and three of her running mates were thrown out of office Tuesday in a landslide loss to a slate of reform candidates who pledged to restore safety and education to the district’s 2,400 children.
Trustee Jorge Torres, who had suffered through bullying and personal attacks from the board majority led by Schaeffer and Board Chairman Marge Hubacek, and three of his runnings mates easily won election on April 2, 2019 and will be sworn in to take four seats on the seven-person board.
Resoundingly defeated in the election were Schaeffer, newly appointed trustee Tom Weiner, former school board member Connie Esparza who had been criticized for poor leadership in the past, and candidate Jacqueline Magsaysay, lost decisively to Jorge Torres and his three running mates Oliva Quintero, Vito Campanile, and Winifred Rodriguez.
The Landmark Newspaper, which helped run the campaign of the Schaeffer-slate through biased, one-sided news reporting, tried to put the best spin on the loss quoting the four losing candidates as blaming and mocking parents and voters basically saying the district deserves what it gets. The Landmark played up the fact that one of the winning trustees was related to a Village of Lyons employee, but remained silence on the fact that two of the incumbents were related and had backed a third family member for a board seat two years ago, too. Click here to read the Landmark’s most recent biased, one-sided story.
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Voters were angry with the hypocrisy and arrogance of the School District officials who continued to stumble through controversy after controversy, raising concerns about the safety of the school children, and the wasteful spending for cronies and friends to take top school positions.
Olivia Quintero received 1,750 votes, Jorge Torres received 1,673 votes, Vito Campanile received 1,566 votes and Winifred Rodriguez received 1,542 votes.
In contrast, Schaeffer received only 1,092 votes, Esparza received only 1,093 votes, Magsaysay received only 974 votes, and Weiner received only 1,092 votes.
What made it clear that voters wanted a change was that the slates were not listed in sequence but were mixed on the ballot so voters actually had to know the names of the candidates they supported rather than just voting by sequential ballot position.
The landslide difference of nearly 650 votes reflected the anger of parents in the school district who were disrespected by the Schaeffer and Hubacek-led board majority.
The problems started when the board, under Schaeffer and Hubacek, hired Andres Rodriguez to be a 6th grade teacher. Neither bothered to check his background fully. Andres Rodriguez was charged with Felony attempted murder charges in a Tinley Park case in which he attacked a stranger and shot him seven times. The story had been widely publicizied int he mainstream news media but no one at the Schaeffer or Hubacelk board bothered to ask, showing they obviously were uninformed.
Worse, when more than 200 parents in District 103 attended a board meeting in October to demand answers, Schaeffer and Hubacek brushed their concerns aside and even scolded some who attended. Hubacek and Schaeffer closed public comments to prevent the parents from questioning their actions, limiting speakers to only five.
Refusing to allow the parents to speak became the focus of a complaint filed with the Illinois Attorney Generals’ office who ruled that Hubacek had violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act in denying parents the right to speak during the “Public Participation Period” of the board meeting.
Hubacek and Schaeffer also hired two part-time superintendents to run the schools, both of whom failed to discover the past legal charges against Andres Rodriguez even though the accused’s name had been published in many major news media stories.
The board majority that was thrown out had also taken a $2.5 million surplus in cash and dragged the school district into a deficit of nearly $3.5 million, raising fears that the board majority would raise taxes after the election.
The Landmark made much hay out of the fact that popular Village of Lyons President Christopher Getty had endorsed Olivia Quintero, Jorge Torres, Vito Campanile, and Winifred Rodriguez who ran under the banner of Parents for Student Excellence. But the truth was that the PSE slate also had the backing of many elected leaders in the school district including State Senator Martin Sandoval and Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski. All of the elected officials backing the Torres-led slate enjoy widespread public support and have the confidence of the voters. Tobolski was denied the right to speak at the October meeting and when he penned an Opinion Commentary criticizing Hubacek, he was attacked by the board majority.
But the real success came from the fact that Olivia Quintero, Jorge Torres, Vito Campanile, and Winifred Rodriguez actually went door-to-door to speak with parents and voters, while the slate led by Schaeffer relied on lies and exaggerated coverage from the Landmark newspaper.
“Every story that the landmark wrote was one-sided and designed to make the Parents for Student Excellence slate look bad,” one voter said on election night. “It was clear that Quinterro, Torres, Campanile and Rodriguez had worked hard while the other candidates took it for granted and didn’t care about what the parents felt.”
The voter noted that she had attended several board meetings and saw how the board majority that was ousted Tuesday had brought in outside union workers to campaign for them.
“They’re not even from the district but because they are unions who received lots of money from the board, they were out there all the time. And Schaeffer complains about the fact that elected officials who enjoyed the support of the school district’s voters showed concern for the well-being of school children. That shows our arrogant and stupid Schaeffer and her slate really are,” she said.
Another issue that concerned voters and parents was the large turnover in school principals. The Hubacek-Schaeffer board had fired five principals in the past year, including two who were bullied from office by false accusations and innuendo.
Worse was the cronyism of the board which many critics called “a family affair.”
“Two of the board members are related and they tried very hard two years ago to elect the husband of one of the trustees to the board to make it one of the worst cases of nepotism the district has ever seen,” another voter complained.