by Danielle Golab and Alejandro Cortez
Voters in South Berwyn split their tickets in Tuesday’s elections, choosing school board members from both slates of candidates competing for four seats in District 100.
Lisa Clemente, Jennifer Mitchell and Mark Titzer had run on one slate; Elizabeth Jimenez had run on a competing slate.
District 100 was the only contested race for Berwyn election. Candidates for the Berwyn School Board, Morton School Board and North Berwyn Park board all ran unopposed.
Turnout was less than 9 percent, with only 1,402 of the city’s 16,709 registers voters casting a ballot, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
Clemente led the election with 748 votes, followed by Jimenez, who is the first Hispanic woman elected to the school board, with 747 votes. Third in line was Mitchell with 744 votes. The fourth place was taken by Titzer with 730 votes.
According to Jimenez, district 100 has a population of 81.6% Latinos. Jimenez says that this sends a message of how huge an impact it makes when most of the population is Latino as a support for her campaign.
“I am proud and at the same time humbled to have the opportunity to serve the Berwyn Community,” she said after the election.
Jimenez’s number one priority is to hire highly qualified teachers and retain more teachers. She says that this is so important because of so many teachers that left their teaching positions in the past year. She also hopes for teamwork on the new board.
“I hope that all seven members of the Board of Education can work together to find ways to balance the budget and continue to be fiscally responsible,” she said. “In addition I would like to review data and spend money only if it correlates with student achievement.”
Clemente, Mitchell, Titzer and Woywood were unable to be reached for comment.
Jimenez ran as part of a slate that included Darlene K. Yoder and Timothy M. McNeilly, neither of whom gained enough support from voters. McNeilly won 659 votes and Yoder received 674 votes. James Woywood- who ran with Clemente, Titzer and Mitchell- also fell short.
McNeilly said he was inspired to run because he believes that serving on a school board is one of the best ways to impact the community and help children. He was concerned with the financial situation of the district and was hoping to “improve district transparency and communication with the community.”
He attributed his loss to heavy spending by the opposing slate.
“I also think there is a high level of voter apathy and cynicism that was hard for me to overcome” he said.
He says that despite his loss he plans to remain active in advocating for positive change for Berwyn schools. He will consider running again in the future.
Darlene Yoder was also concerned with the financial situation of the school.
“I thought the request for over 55 million dollars in new tax money was way too much and it inspired me to ask questions about why the district needed this much money and what had they done so far to cut spending before seeking this windfall. I started attending board meetings and reading the district website and researching D100 history. The more I learned, the more I began to think that I could do a lot of good by joining the school board” she says.
Yoder does not plan to run for office again but she is going to continue to work with the district outside the boardroom.