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School Dist. 128 race stays edgy to the end

The contentious race for the Dist. 128 Board of Education had drama aplenty, right down to the wire.

“Take a look at this,” said a supporter of some of the losing candidates as they watched election results unfold on their smartphones at Joe Daniel’s bar in downtown Palos Heights. “This isn’t even a real organization.”

A wrinkled flyer was displayed bearing the name of the “Parent Student Association, Dist. #128” asking for support of candidates Kristin Restivo. Bill Grady, Joe Haberkorn and Richard Facko. The flyer was reportedly being distributed on Election Day, near the polls. All the named candidates except Joe Haberkorn were victorious.

The winner of the fourth seat was Amy C. Lyons, one of four candidates who generally disagreed sharply with those named on the flyer.

The mystery handout was only the latest source of friction among eight candidates vying for four seats on an otherwise mostly below-the-radar governing body.

Dist. 128 is comprised of four schools, all in Palos Heights: Indian Hill Early Learning Center, kindergarten and pre-K; Chippewa Elementary School, first though third grades; Navajo Heights School, fourth and fifth grades and Independence Junior High School, sixth through eighth grades.

Combined enrollment at the schools is 694 students. There are 58 full-time teachers plus a half-time teacher, and an annual budget of $8 million to $9 million.

The role of the Dist. 128 Board of Education was debated vigorously during the campaign. Functions cited include the hiring of the superintendent, overseeing policy, managing the budget and having input on curriculum, depending on which candidate was offering his or her opinion.

But perhaps the biggest disagreement and source of acrimony stemmed from an endorsement given to four candidates that became known as the “Final Four” due to the positions of their names on the ballot.

Lyons, Deanne Callahan, Roberta Hermanas and Ann O’Brien received support from the Palos Heights Education Association, a group of Dist. 128 teachers. The Final Four marketed themselves together on signage around town and on a Facebook page.

Some of their opponents objected to the endorsement because contract negotiations with the teachers’ union and Dist. 128 are overdue. With three of the Final Four having teaching backgrounds, their opponents argued that a four-person majority (if elected) on a seven-person board could result in possible favoritism toward teachers and a loss of checks-and-balances.

Each of the Final Four argued strenuously against the accusations, stressing their objectivity and their dedication to the children of the district and local taxpayers.

Lyons, the sole winner from the Final Four, reflected on a hard campaign as she shared a bittersweet time with her running mates at Joe Daniel’s.

“I’m grateful for all the support from the community, parents, teachers and neighbors,” she said. “I’m disappointed that my running mates weren’t also elected but I’m looking forward to having a positive and productive relationship with my fellow board members.”

Reached by phone, winning candidate Bill Grady said “It’s been a long campaign and a long day. I’m really happy it ended up this way.”

Regarding the mystery flyer that promoted his name and the names of two other victorious candidates, he said “I saw it today. I don’t know anything about it.”

Kristin Restivo texted a statement.

“It’s been long day,” it read. “I was at the Rec Center (polling location) from 5:59 a.m. to 7 p.m. I talked with many taxpayers, parents and teachers today and throughout this election season. I’m looking forward to using all of that feedback and unifying District 128!”

The unofficial totals for the candidates available from the Cook County Clerk’s office are:

Kristin Restivo: 827 votes, 15.13 percent of the total ballots cast

William Grady: 756, 13.83 percent

Richard Facko: 751, 13.74 percent

Amy Lyons, 722: 13.21 percent

Ann O’Brien, 665, 12.17 percent

Joseph Haberkorn: 659, 12.06 percent

Deanne Callahan: 573, 10.48 percent

Roberta Hermanas, 513, 9.39 percent

The winning candidates will join current board members Dr. Michael Lynch, Kathy Lachowicz and ________. Kristin Restivo already had an appointed seat on the board and has now won her first full term.

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