Avoca School Board race goes to four members of Avoca Coalition
(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 12:30 Monday, April 19, with comments from Avoca 37 School Board member Gil Gibori)
A complicated race for the Avoca District 37 School Board finally has clarity.
With write-in votes counted, the impromptu Avoca Coalition slate — incumbent Gil Gibori, Ami Das, Dan Seals and Sara Balassa — swept the contest.
On the outside were write-in candidates James Rohner (70 votes) and Cecelia Dunn (69) votes.
Seals (301 votes) and Balassa (265) were also write-in candidates who joined forces with Gibori (469) and Das (540) in February.
“I believe the three other candidates in our coalition — Ami, Sarah and Dan — are a dream team of intellectual, committed, public servants,” Gibori said via email. “It is my sense that Avoca voters chose our priorities and positions on the issues over simple competition. We campaigned on our values and our vision, and the Avoca community responded.”
Initial voting numbers from Election Day did not include write-in tallies, but the county clerk’s site updated the numbers on Friday, April 16.
Though four board seats were open, in December 2020, only Gibori, Das and Dunn filled out the appropriate paperwork for ballot representation, meaning all three were running unopposed and the board would need to appoint a seventh member later this year.
Gibori then successfully challenged Dunn’s application, which the county electoral board agreed did not have properly numbered pages or enough notarized pages.
According to Gibori, he and Das then recruited Seals and Balassa to run as write-in candidates, against Dunn.
Rohner is an Avoca D37 volunteer who ran “because I love Avoca,” it reads on his candidate page on Facebook.
In a previous interview with The Record, Gibori said he did not believe Dunn’s “temperament” to be appropriate for the board.
“I, along with other serious individuals involved in the process, found her behavior, language, and temperament to be (caustic) and counter to what we believe a board member should be,” he wrote in an email in March.
Dunn, who has two Avoca D37 children, said in March that she believed Gibori moved to strike her from the ballot because he disagreed with her views on in-person leaning, which she presented to the Avoca board in the summer of 2020.
Gibori said that was not the case and he is a supporter of an exchange of ideas.
“Difference of opinion, opposing views, and finding common ground have been a hallmark of both boards I have served on,” he wrote to The Record. “I believe this is a primary reason we have been effective.”
Reflecting on the results, Dunn said she was “disappointed” and thanks everyone who helped her with her campaign.
“I still believe it’s important to know what’s going on in our schools and I’ll continue to be active in our school community,” she said via text message. “The last couple of months have been a learning experience. I underestimated how volunteering for an open seat of the school board could be so politicized. I believe it is now time to move forward with the district’s best intentions at heart.”
Gibrori was elected to his second term on the board, while it is the first term for the rest of the slate. They will join Louise Dechovitz, Dr. Sumit Dhar and Dr. Gretchen Witte Glader.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319