The three newcomers running for the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board for months said their entire slate would have to win in order for significant change to take place.
It appears they got their wish.
In a huge upset, challengers Scott Herr, Gerard Iannuzzelli and Manjula Sriram -- all making their first run at elected office -- defeated incumbents Gerald Chapman, James Ekeberg and recent appointee Dave Seiffert for the three seats at stake in Tuesday's election.
"The three of us walked door to door and talked with hundreds, if not thousands of people, and the message was clear that people want board members who take a lot of time to connect with the community," Herr said from a victory party at Durty Nellie's in Palatine.
With 86 of 88 precincts reporting, Herr, an IT consultant, was the top vote-getter with 5,670 votes, unofficial totals showed. Iannuzzelli, a director of technology, and Sriram, a program director in information services, finished second and third with 5,217 votes and 5,109 votes, respectively.
Seiffert, a sales manager, finished fourth with 3,816 votes. However, he will remain on the board to finish the two years left in former member Mark Bloom's term.
Slightly behind him were Ekeberg, a physician, with 3,787 votes, and Chapman, the current board president and former Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 superintendent, with 3,573 votes.
Besides improving education results and making transparent decisions, Herr, Iannuzzelli and Sriram said their top priority is to eliminate deficit spending, which is projected to deplete reserves from $55.5 million today to $5.2 million in 2015-16.
The challengers painted the incumbents as fiscally irresponsible, quick to stifle debate and beholden to the teachers union. They also said Chapman and Ekeberg were out of touch with the community, citing voters' overwhelming rejection of a $27 million bond issue last November.
The incumbents said their opponents lacked the necessary experience and professionalism to negotiate union contracts and work as a united board.
The trio said they put their students' interests before all else, and pointed to factors outside their control -- such as delayed state payments -- that contributed to the budget gap.
With the challengers sweeping the election, they're poised to take the board majority along with member Tim Millar. But Herr emphasized they'd try to constructively work with the rest of the board.
Though disappointed with the results, Seiffert said his plan is to work with the new members and eliminate the division that has saddled the current board.
"We need to listen to each other and continue to try to be transparent," Seiffert said.
Neither Chapman nor Ekeberg could be reached for comment Tuesday night.