Meet the District 156 Board of Education candidates

Candidates for the three open seats reflect on their visions for the district ahead of the McHenry County elections on April 4


Kennedy Tetour

The Warrior Room at the Upper Campus sits empty waiting for the next school board meeting. Five local candidates are running to fill the three seats open during this year’s April election.

Vanessa Moreno, News Editor

Three seats in District 156’s School Board will be up for grabs in the local elections this April 4. Five candidates, including three incumbents and a former member, are on the ballot. 

The seven-member board approves school policies, a district budget and meets regularly in board meetings open to the public. Candidates will serve a four-year term if elected.

This year, the McHenry Messenger reached out to all five candidates to learn more about their platforms and vision for the district, but only four agreed to an interview. Former school board president Steve Bellmore, who is also running for a seat on the District 156 School Board, did not respond to our requests for interview.

Tim Hying

Tim Hying is a current member of District 156’s Board of Education and is running to keep his seat in the April Election.

Why did you decide to join the board?

I’ve been a school board member for 12 years. The main reason I decided to join is that I had kids going through the school and wanted to ensure that they received a quality education. I wanted to ensure that I had a say, or the ability to get a deeper understanding of what the school was offering and try to improve in any way I can.

The other reason is, I was actually educated as a teacher, but I ended up never going into education. Or, I went into education for a very short amount of time. I always had a desire in education, and this opportunity allowed me to fulfill that.


What qualifications or experiences make you a good fit for the board?

Well, first of all, 12 years of experience on the board definitely helps. There’s always a learning curve whenever you start on something. And just like starting a new job or anything like that, starting on the board has a learning curve.

We have been through several situations, meaning the referendum, the building addition, a teacher strike, new career pathways, new AP course development. All those things require board approval, board input, board though for each situation. So, with the experience in all those areas over the last 12 years, I think I’m very qualified to continue to serve on the board.


What policies that you have supported or implemented are you most proud of?

Probably the curriculum. I’d have to say the dual credit courses. I’d have to say the courses that allow internships with some of the local businesses, new career pathways and the manufacturing courses.

I think we’ve done a lot on the board over the last 12 years, whether that be the new addition or hiring the new superintendent, but at the end of the day, in my mind, it all comes down to curriculum. If you’ve got a strong curriculum, then you’re going to be able to provide students what they need to succeed in the next step.


What do you think should be the priorities for the school board?

Couple things. One, I think, is to continue to focus on curriculum because the needs of the business world are constantly changing. A big part of it should absolutely always be ensuring that we are looking forward to designing a curriculum that meets the needs of students.

Second thing is to ensure that all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or whatever the case may be, are prepared to become productive members of society.


Budget-wise, what should the district focus on?

In my mind, it’s probably ensuring that our career pathways are in fact supported with the facilities as well as the education initiatives that are needed to ensure they are setting students up to continue on four-year colleges, two-year colleges, military service, or the workforce. So ensuring students are ready to do whatever they choose moving forward.


How would you work to address the different needs of students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, etc? 

I think what it is, is we have to ensure that all students are treated fairly. We have to ensure that all students have equal opportunity. We have to ensure that all of our educators are teaching and educating in a diverse, equitable manner.

As long as we ensure those things are in place, I think the unique needs of every student should, in fact, be met. But there’s no one easy silver bullet that comes along. Every student is different. Every student is unique. Every student is going to need something slightly different than the student before them. You need to be able to adjust and ensure that the needs of one student or group do not necessarily outshine the needs of another group of students. 


What ideas or plans do you have to increase student performance in the classroom and state testing?

One thing you probably saw, which I thought was great, is that we made the determination to pay for students to complete the SAT test, which we hadn’t done previously. I think what that does is motivate students to say, ‘Wow, well, okay. It removed that financial burden from my parents and family.” So, it allows them and hopefully motivates them to do better.

The other thing is that you have to continue to offer a very diverse group of coursework. Students are going to do better when they’re motivated or excited to go to the classes they go to. If you have a student that loves Medieval English but hates Calculus, you’re rarely going to get that student to want to do extremely well. That’s what their interests or desires are, so you have to be able to offer a wide variety of courses.


Some students wish they had more say in school policies. How would you ensure their voices are heard?

I know there are some school districts that allow a student advisor to be on the school board. We’ve never really talked about that as a potential. That might be something we may look at.

The other component is that school board meetings are open. Anybody can come into them. Anyone can speak at them. Anyone can bring it back to the board in relation to subjects. I guess I’d make sure that all students know that. If students want more input, then they need to step forward and say, “You know what? I’m going to go to the next school board meeting.”


If parents wanted to ban books or take away part of the curriculum, how would you handle that situation?

There’s not going to be one generic answer. First of all, I would want to hear why. I’d want to hear why the parent wants to ban it and understand what the concerns are. The other half I’d want to hear is, why is it in the curriculum in the first place? There may be very, very valid reasons for having it in the curriculum. 

At any point in time, you’re never going to satisfy the population. That’s just reality.So, the only thing you can do is hear both sides of it. Obviously, there was a reason why a book was put into curriculum and we have to give that credence because it probably formed from an educational standpoint. However, if there’s a very strong reason to not include it, you would need to listen to that as well then try and make the best decision. 


What long term goals do you have for the district?

A long term goal is to ensure that it is a financially sound district. You’re always dealing with influxes of population, so we need to ensure that we are able to accommodate the needs of the students that come in. 

The other thing is for the high school to truly become a destination district. I think we’re getting there. I think there will be a point where people say, “I want to move into McHenry because they have such a good school.” To me, that would be the true goal of any school district. 


Nicole Morrow

Nicole Morrow is a current member of District 156’s Board of Education and is running to keep her seat in the April Election.

Why did you decide to run for the board?

I’m in my fourth year, or my first term, as a school board member. I was an employee of the school district for 10 years. I worked in the Board of Education office with the Chief Financial Officer. It was time to move on, but I still really loved the district. I love the people that work there and the students. I had children as well. 

So, when I was no longer an employee, I felt that being a board member would be an excellent way for me to stay connected with the district to serve the community and ensure a successful future for all students.


What qualifications or experiences do you think make you a good fit for the board?

Prior employment in the district really gives me, I don’t want to say a leg up, but a good understanding of how the district runs from a financial standpoint. I didn’t work directly with the students while I was employed there, but I was in the campuses here and there throughout the years. Obviously, I wish I had worked in the campuses because there were always so many amazing things happening when I wasn’t there.

So prior experiences give me an inside knowledge as to how things work, how the budget works, how there’s different pieces, revenues, and expenditures. I think that’s what makes me a good fit, and my passion for the district as well.

My kids are no longer in the district, they all graduated last year. And, as silly as it sounds, I kind of feel like all the students are my kids. I want to make sure that they have the best opportunities afforded to them.


What are you most proud of from your time on the school board? 

I am amazingly proud to have been part of the school district while the campus addition was broken ground and built. Also the amazing biomedical science and other Project Lead the Way courses. 

I know it was a controversial topic to many, but I was very pleased when we moved to more of a one school setting. I know it’s not ideal to have freshmen at one campus and sophomores through seniors at another campus, but it allows the school to provide the same educational offerings to all students regardless of where they live. Students no longer have to take buses to and from campuses because of where courses were offered. It allows better educational opportunities, so there’s no disparity. 


What should be the top three priorities for the district?

So things to focus on is to continue or facility improvements, and there’s plans in the works to continue these, but there’s still more to be done. I want to continue that, and I want to see that come to fruition. I’m really excited about the culinary arts classroom that’s being upgraded.

Even though we have so many amaIng and awesome educational opportunities, curriculum, and coursework, I want to continue improving those. I would love for students to have a clear path that, if they want to take dual credit courses, they actually will graduate with an associate’s degree at the same time. It’s doable, if they want to because these aren’t forced opportunities either. I would also love to see some sort of military program. We have a number of students who enlist in a branch every year; you see them at graduation and hear about them. There are programs that we can bring that would give students a better understanding or taste of what the military would be like.

I think McHenry schools have a very good culture of support and making students feel heard, and I want it to stay that way. It’s all about education, but there’s so much more now that’s involved. For some students, school is their outlet and escape, and they need that. They don’t need to feel as though maybe their personal choices or life outside of school makes them less than others.


Going along with that, how would you ensure students feel safe and supported?

That is a difficult question. I do speak with the principal, and I know there have been issues in the school where there’s fighting. 

The first hurdle is making sure we’re aware. That requires asking questions and talking to students and parents when they approach us, as well as having a good healthy communication with all the administrators. 

I know that there are some controversies with curriculum and reading material. While I do agree and feel that parents have the right to review said curriculum, have conversations, and potentially withhold students from that, I think they might be doing more of a disservice to students. Some items in the curriculum are everyday life. These are situations and lifestyles that are life and are normal.

Shielding your own child from something you disagree with isn’t necessarily going to be the best option because, once they are adults, real life is out there.


Some students wish they had more say in school policies. How would you ensure their voices are heard?

I would highly encourage that students come to speak at school board meetings. Every board meeting we have a forum where anyone is free to come and fill out a card to speak. Then, there is a set 10 minutes, or longer if needed, set aside where they can come and speak.

We did actually have a group of students come and they approached us about wanting to change Columbus Day to call it Indigenous Peoples’ Day based on history and the facts of that time. It was actually really amazing to have a collective group of students come. I loved it. I wish more would become engaged and bring these things to us. Absolutely. You have every right to be involved in your educational experience. There’s nothing wrong with ever going to a board meeting.


What long term goals do you have for the district?

I don’t expect the district to ever stop looking for ways to expand curricular options. I don’t expect the district to ever stop looking for ways to expand what we have available to have the best top notch education for our students.

There’s always more out there to keep improving; times change. The benchmark is going to change, so striving to be better but being happy with where we’re at. 


Dawn Bremer

Dawn Bremer is a current member of District 156’s Board of Education and is running to keep her seat in the April Election.

Why did you decide to run for the board?

I ran on the platform that I wanted to help improve the curriculum and pathways for the school. We’ve done a phenomenal job, but I think we can explore even further on other programs, especially the arts. I’d like to continue working to see where we can go with those pathways and innovate the curriculum.


What qualifications or experience do you think make you a good fit for the board?

I would say, I’m a business owner, and I oversee millions of dollars of contracts a year. My community experience having a child in the district, as well as my services on the boards that I serve on. All of those together give me great experience to be on the school board.


What do you think should be the top three priorities for the district?

I would say, right now, one of the top priorities would be supporting the students and their social-emotional health coming off COVID. I think that is something we really need to focus on.

I also think that continuing pathways to post-secondary careers, whether that be college, the trades, or going right into the workforce. I think we need to work more on supporting that.

My third thing to focus on would be teacher retention and administration, making sure that they have what they are looking for to support the school and the students.


Budget-wise, what do you think the district should prioritize? 

When we’ve actually done almost all of the capital improvements, I think that we can keep continuing to find space for arts and hopefully spend some more budget money on expanding that program. 


How would you make sure students feel supported regardless of race, gender, etc?

Well, I think that we have to have an open mind and communication. I think that we should have some sort of committee for inclusion. I think it’s important to continue to highlight the impact and honor the different groups, ethnicities, and cultures who contributed to our country.

I think that it’s important for us to make sure that we have a safe environment for all students to feel supported. So, working more with counselors and administrators to see how we can best support that.


How would you work to increase student performance in the classroom and state testing?

I think we’re really focused on that. One of the things we did this year was make it so that every student can take the SAT test for free. I think working on that and showing students where they can get support and learn to study for that. Maybe helping children with study groups, so that they can study together outside of the classroom.


Some students wish they had more say in school policies. How would you ensure their voices are heard?

Well, they should always write their suggestions and ideas to administration, so they get to the board. Coming to a board meeting and sharing their thoughts is important. I think it’s important that students attend the meetings and find out what’s going on. You always have a voice, there’s a section of the meeting where people talk about what their concerns are, and that’s a great place to start. 


If parents wanted to ban books or take away parts of the curriculum, how would you handle that?

Well, I think that parents have a right to express their concerns. The curriculum is something that we follow the state guidelines and Illinois School Board of Education guidelines for. That would be something they would express a concern for, and then administrators would take into consideration. 


What long term goals do you have for the district?

My goal is to continue the pathways and make it so that there is a post-secondary career for all students, no matter what they want to be in. So, being able to give them the ability and resources to attain those goals.


Colleen Galvicius

What is your work experience, since you haven’t been on the school board?

I am a police officer right now, and prior to that I’ve substituted long-term or short-term. I also did a lot of aid positions while I was there and study hall stuff. I did that for 10 years and was a police officer. 


How do you think those experiences prepare you for the school board?

I think it gives me that internal look into everything. I kind of know how things run from the inside. So, yeah, having experiences as a teacher and substitute gives me an internal view of the school. It gives me a bit of difference from the other school board members, since they haven’t had that. 


What do you think should be the top three priorities for the district?

I think we should keep focusing on the curriculum for our schools, our finances for the schools, and safety for the kids. 


What would you like to see with the curriculum?

I’d really like to delve into the English curriculum a bit more. I’ve read all the books my kids have come home with from their reading assignments, and some of them I don’t really approve of. I think we need to get back to the basics: teaching English, reading, writing and arithmetic. 


What plans or ideas do you have to increase student performance in the classroom and state testing?

I’d love for that to happen. I think we need to start teaching kids how to think instead of what to think.


Some students wish they had more say in school policies. How would you ensure their voices are heard?

You’re always welcome to come to school board meetings, even now. 


If parents wanted to ban books or take away parts of the curriculum, how would you handle that?

Obviously it depends on what they’re wanting to ban. If it’s something not appropriate for school-aged kids, then obviously that’s fine. It needs to be thought of, but there are also things that don’t belong in the school curriculum. 


What long term goals do you have for the district?

I want to make sure their finances are stable. Also, that the kids are happy and safe, and that includes their minds. I want them to enjoy school and learn things that are appropriate for them.


Editor’s Note: The Bremer Team and Keller Williams Success Realty, a business owned by Dawn Bremer, has advertised with the McHenry Messenger in the past.