The two candidates supported by the pro-Redskins faction in Lancaster were handed a major blow in Tuesday’s School Board election when two pro-administration candidates scored overwhelming victories.
Heading into the election, the feisty Redskins supporters were confident that they would prevail in their quest to grab majority control from the 5-2 board.
But in the end, they were soundly defeated and silently left the high school gym soon after results were announced Tuesday night. It meant the 5-2 dynamic on the board would remain as it was, with the pro-Redskins voices in the minority on the board.
“The overwhelming victory of the pro-administration candidates speaks volumes to what is important to this community, and it’s much more than a mascot,” Board President Patrick Uhteg said afterward. “Tonight, the community was heard, and I’m hoping that will bridge the avenue to compromise.”
In the last year, the School Board had grown increasingly dysfunctional and toxic as division intensified. The lingering bitterness over the decision last year to retire the Redskins mascot, a term that some consider offensive to Native Americans, mushroomed into the most contentious board race among local districts this year. The hostility had grown so intense in recent months that some Redskins supporters indicated they wanted to oust Superintendent Michael J. Vallely.
Voters catapulted newcomer Sue Metz to victory as the top vote-getter, giving her 2,617 votes, while incumbent Bill Gallagher received 2,502 votes, the second-highest.
Pro-Redskins candidates MaryJo DiGiulio-Schaefer, with 1,656 votes, and Brian Osika, with 1,655 votes, were soundly defeated.
Independent Kristi Perillo-Okeke, who was endorsed by the teachers’ union, received the lowest number of votes, 1,042, in the race which had five candidates vying for two seats.
With a large crowd of voters and administrators huddled in the high school gym awaiting election results, tension was palpable. Soon after results were announced, the pro-administration and faculty group broke into a chant: “Let’s Go, Legends. Let’s Go,” referring to the new school mascot.
Metz, whose eldest son, a Lancaster student, died in a small plane collision 20 months ago, was touched by her victory. “I’m so happy the community saw the good,” she said. “This community wants so badly to come back together and move forward.”
Vallely was pleased with the results. “It’s a beautiful night. We’re going to focus on the kids and learning,” he said.