Seven candidates are running for three seats on Hononegah Board of Education


Hononegah Community High School

Seven candidates are running for seats on the Hononegah Community High School Board of Education in the Consolidated Election on Apr. 4, 2023.

Incumbent candidates Dave Kurlinkus, Evan Schoepski, and Mary Lewis are running on a slate, asking voters to choose 1, 2, and 3 for Hononegah on the April 4 ballot.  Nadine Kelley, Jenny Maragia, and Joan Zimmerman are running on a different slate, asking voters to choose 4, 5, and 6 on the ballot. Brian Huff is #7 on the ballot, running independently.

Gayle Haab is also running for reelection to complete an unexpired two year term after being appointed to the school board in September 2022.

Gayle Haab

Haab is running because she would like to continue to serve on the board to help with decisions that would be most beneficial to our students, staff, and community that would keep the strong Hononegah legacy.

“Our two sons and I graduated from Hononegah Community High School, and we had a strong educational background that prepared us well for college.

“I would like to “give back” to the school, and along with my fellow board members, help to maintain its strong academic excellence, college and career prep, be fiscally responsible, and promote the outstanding extracurricular activities.”

“I filled a vacancy on the board in the fall of 2022 after a board member moved out of the district. I was sworn in during the September 2022 board meeting after going through the application, interview, and selection process.”

Haab is running for an additional two-year term.

“My vision would be to maintain and improve the learning environment while keeping Hononegah number one in our area and a top school in our nation. I want to prepare our students for the ever-changing the world and making them valuable members of our future workforce,” Haab said.

Haab has a strong volunteer background. She is president of the Winnebago County Retired Teachers Association, co-president of Alpha Delta Kappa, and volunteer assistant for Vets Roll, which transports veterans to Washington, D.C. by bus to see their memorials.

Haab is a committee member for the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and junior leader for the North Main Rustlers 4-H Club for the past 25 years.

“I attended Hononegah from 1970-1974 and our two sons, Christopher and Nicolas Haab, are both Hononegah graduates.

“My background as an educator for 35 years, coach, community member and volunteer has provided me with a strong foundation to serve on the school board.” On the HCHS board, Haab is the chair of the Education committee and a member of the Co-Curricular Committee.

Haab adds, “I would like to continue to serve on the board to help with decisions that would be most beneficial to our students, staff, and community that would continue the strong Hononegah legacy. I would also like to endorse the incumbent candidates and encourage our voters to vote 1,2,3 on the ballot.”

Nadine Kelley

Nadine Kelley has a strong background in education.

Nadine Kelley has taught locally for 20 years, mostly at Stephen Mack Middle School.

“While there, I was involved in the development and implementation of a program meant to meet the needs of children 'falling through the cracks.' At that time, Hononegah partnered with us to give those kids the best opportunity for success by implementing a similar program. We also attempted a creative way to handle out of school suspensions, which involved the Rockton community,” Kelley said.

Kelley is currently volunteering at Stephen Mack as a homework helper.

“I am a believer in subject matter being taught without subtle current ideologies or political agendas being promoted. I believe that parents are the primary source of their children’s education and as such need to be listened to and heard,” Kelley says.

“I would support and work toward a working cooperative relationship between parents, teachers, students, administrators , and board. We have great access to people in the community who could be a great resource to this school.”

“As a result of an impression that just wouldn’t leave, I am now running to become a member of the Hononegah school board.”

“My husband, Ken, and I moved to the Roscoe-Rockton over 44 years ago as a result of a job transfer. Together, we raised six successful children. Four graduated from Hononegah and two from a local private high school.

“I’ve had a vested interest in our community and feel qualified to serve in this position,” Kelley adds.

Dave Kurlinkus

David Kurlinkus has been a member of the Hononegah Community High School District 207 Board of Education for 28 years and president for 26 years. In February 2023 he was awarded with the Cyndy Fogarty Lifetime Achievement Award from the Stateline Chamber of Commerce.

“I want to continue serving on the Board because I believe in public education; I am a product of public education,” Kurlinkus said.

“I attended public schools in Rockford. I returned to the area after college and taught at Jefferson High School in Rockford for 15 years, one of which I served in administration. I married a public school teacher who is the daughter of two public school teachers. Public education has always been a part of my life.”

Kurlinkus adds, “During my time on the Board, I have learned the importance of collaboration in public education. The Board is only one part of our educational system. Operationally, the Board hires the superintendent who runs the school district. We hire top administrators and excellent teachers. We entrust our precious children to the teachers in our schools for the education that will prepare them for their future. 

“Shortly after moving here, I was asked to run for the Hononegah Board because of my background in education. I want to continue the tradition of excellence in education that we all have come to expect from Hononegah. We have a tremendous school, and I want to do everything I can to preserve the Hononegah culture and prepare it to adapt as we move into the future.

“I am proud of the school Hononegah has become, and I want to make sure that future students receive the same great education my children did. The Board is elected by parents and taxpayers to provide the best education possible for the community’s students.

“Hononegah is a community high school that is supported by its taxpayers because of the excellent education it has always provided for its students.

“We have the top high school in the Rockford area, are in the top 10% of high schools in Illinois and the top 10% of high schools nationally. Hononegah is a destination school. People move to the area so that they can send their children here. Our property values go up because there is a demand for housing in the Hononegah District. The Board is committed to maintaining academic standards that will keep Hononegah at the top. The Board is responsible for being a good steward of the public’s tax dollars.

“The District built a fabulous field house yet still has a lower tax rate than it had seven years ago. We have many challenges to face in the future—teacher shortages, maintaining academic rigor while increasing tech offerings, supporting fine arts classes and programs, and continuing to constantly improve school safety.

“Together, as a community, we will meet these challenges. I believe in continuing the Strategic Planning process where community members, school staff, board and students meet to set goals for the next five years for Hononegah. All decisions from curriculum and the physical plant must follow the Strategic Plan.

In the past Kurlinkus was on the board of Directors for Klehm Arboretum and for the Winnebago County Bar Association

“My wife, Ann, and I have four sons, Joe, Charley, Will and Ted, all Hononegah graduates. When they were young, as we looked to their educational future, we knew that we wanted them to attend Hononegah, the best high school in the area, so we moved into the district.”

“A diploma from Ho-No-Ne-Gah - the hyphens remain on the diploma after a hundred years - means something special. Anyone who sees that diploma knows what it represents—the student has graduated from a school that still values, in a community that still supports and expects, educational excellence —from Hononegah Community High School.”

“We have a unique and wonderful high school that we must do everything in our power to preserve. On April 4, vote to maintain educational excellence. Please vote 1,2,3 for Hononegah.”

Mary Lewis

Mary Lewis says, “ As a graduate of HCHS (along with my husband, kids, brothers, and grandmother), I want to continue to build on Hononegah’s foundation. We have all received a solid, well-rounded education focused on developing students who are thoughtful scholars, responsible citizen and effective leaders.”

Lewis has served four terms on the HCHS board.

“School boards are charged with two key roles: establishing the vision and goals for the District, and hiring a superintendent to help execute the vision/goals. The District’s Strategic Plan (built by community members, parents, students, board members, professors, administration, local agencies) is Hononegah’s road map.

“School boards do not get into the day-to-day particulars; but rather focus on the goal results and work with the administration to understand opportunities for continuous improvement which align with the strategic plan.”

Lewis has a long history of volunteerism in the community. She is the current president of RDM Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on veteran suicide, awareness and support, named after Ryan D. Masters, a former HCHS student. She is a Rockton American Legion Auxiliary member, former president of RRL/Jr. Indians Football Cheer organization for over 18 years, RVC Foundation board member, Stateline YMCA board member, Rockford Health Systems Ambassador, a liturgical director/guitarist, and CCD teacher.

“My family have been long-standing members of the Roscoe/Rockton area. My husband Rich (Lewie) and I have two children, Clayton “Coop” Lewis and Taylor Ann (Lewis) Jacobi. We all attended HCHS, as did my brothers and grandmother, Greneth Porter.

“I believe my strategic and financial planning background, along with my board/community experience and my work with higher education, fits well with the HCHS board and its members. In my opinion, an effective board member needs to be holistic when helping set the District’s vision and not only focus on the children they have in school at the time.”

“Hononegah is great and we need to continue to keep getting it better!” Lewis said. “Please vote 1-2-3 on April 4 so we can continue to build on our results.”

Jenny Maragia

“At the beginning of the pandemic, my youngest son became a freshman at Hononegah High School. He became my hero when he decided to stand up for his rights and what he believed in the most respectful way a young man can. I actually have a friend that took it upon herself to design t-shirts that said 'Jak Is My Hero' for all of us to wear. Students at school admired him. One even told him he’s an icon,” Maragia said.

“I spoke with the regional superintendent, Scott Bloomquist, later in the year and he told me the only way I could make a difference in that school was to be on the school board. If my son can stand up for what he believes in, so can I. His courage inspires me.”

If elected Maragia will be serving a 4-year term.

“I want to live in a community where people show up to school board meetings because they know what they have to say will be considered and valued. This community does not show up to board meetings. I know this because I’ve been going for two years now. I don’t blame them. I’ve spoken in front of the school board. I’ve emailed the school board. I’ve called members of the school board. It’s never made one bit of difference,” Maragia said.

“My vision for the school board is to do what it was created to do: be a voice for the community; and to see the community every month at school board meetings because they have things to say; and they know that what they say will have a positive impact on our students’ education and a resounding positive impact on our District for generations. I can’t wait to watch you all show up again because you want to,” Maragia said.

Asked about her volunteer background, Maragia says, “I’m a musician and the volunteer work I’m most proud of is the work I’ve done in the community through my music.

“I’ve worked at many nursing homes in the area playing and singing music for the residents. I planted at a church on the west side of Rockford with a missionary from a missions base in Hawaii and volunteered there for four years doing music ministry and other work.

“I’ve also volunteered at Swedish American to play piano for the patients in the Heart Hospital. I’ve volunteered at Rockford Rescue Mission to play music and sing over the holidays. I spent much time several years ago working to launch an after school music program at West Middle School in Rockford. The principal was replaced about one month into our project and the new principal canned the program, but not before I’d held a kickoff rally with live music and prizes. We had so many students sign up and so many parents excited about what we were doing.”

Currently, Maragia volunteers through her church and the People of Praise ministry. “I really enjoy using my music to help both children and adults, “she said.

Maragia has a son who graduated from Hononegah in 2020, another son who will graduate in 2023 and a son who is currently a sophomore at Hononegah High School.

“Both of my sons are straight A students in all honors and AP classes,” Maragia said.

“I believe that parents should raise their own children according to their own beliefs and values.. The members of this community pay some of the highest property taxes there are and those kind of taxes should, at a minimum, entitle us to have a say in the quality and content of our children’s education inside that school.”

“We should have a say in who exactly is teaching our children as well. The textbook list the school board approves every year should be available to parents. The new after school clubs, the new elective classes and new athletics should not be approved by the school board without first presenting them to the community. The community should have adequate time to give response and the board should acknowledge that response and consider it before making a decision that is in everyone’s best interest.”

“I still don’t understand why our school 'needs' pickleball courts. We don’t even have a pickleball team! That’s just one recent example of school board overreach,” Maragia said.

“In this day and age, technology allows our District to very easily give parents and community members insight and feedback into these school board decisions. Furthermore, the whole purpose of a school board is to involve the community. Our school board hasn’t done that for quite some time!”

Maragia shares, “My sons attended Hononegah High School because of their dad’s address, but I sold my home in South Beloit and moved here just over one year ago solely for the purpose of running for school board.

“In addition to homeschooling my four children for fourteen years, most of them as a single mom, I have been an educator of children and adults of all ages since I was fourteen years old.  I have a history of public music performance and church music ministry throughout Winnebago County and also in the Delavan area. I’m comfortable in the public eye and those who know me know that I am consistently working to bring people together.

“If you elect me to the school board, I promise to be the conscience of that school board. I promise to vote according to what the community wants, not what the school wants. I will always be available to all of you. I will make sure you know that I hear you. I know what it’s like to feel that your parental rights have been stolen from you. I know that better than most people for more than one reason. I don’t want anyone to ever feel that way because of me.”

Evan Schoepski

Evan Schoepski wants to continue to serve on the Board of Education for the same reasons that brought him the opportunity to serve on the board.

“First, I believe that by getting involved early in my children’s education and their institutions, I can positively affect change and effectively govern as a school board member. Second, one of my children, Sagan, is on the autism spectrum and I believe that parents of children with special education needs can bring a unique perspective. Lastly, I come from a family of teachers, administrators, and coaches. I want to be able to give back to the public education system and create a lasting impact.”

Schoepski has been on the HCSD School Board for 10 months after being appointed in May 2022.

“I believe our school board is tasked with staffing the highest caliber school administration, who in turn can hire the best teachers. We meet with various stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, and administration to gather their questions, comments, and concerns,” Schoepski said.

“We address those issues amongst individuals of the board and act as a unit because it takes true collaboration to effectively govern our school. The board should develop a strategic plan that heads our district in the right direction. That strategic plan should be readdressed every five years to ensure we stay ahead of the issues affecting our students and staff.”

“I hope to continue building on the success the school has attained! Pushing to increase literacy in our children, working with my fellow board members to address the looming teacher shortages, technology changes, and the investments needed to support our students. Also addressing the ongoing facilities and grounds keeping needs to provide a truly amazing campus that kids are proud to call their High School.”

Schoepski's vision for the community would be one of increased involvement. “We as board members have a public email for anyone to reach out and ask questions, request information, or just vent about an unsolved problem. I want to ensure everyone in the community feels comfortable reaching out and can know they’re being heard by the school’s leadership.”

Schoepski has volunteered time and efforts during the Chemtool disaster in Rockton to help support the workers displaced by the emergency. “I worked to hold Chemtool accountable for the damage they caused the Stateline in addition to providing updates and data to interested citizens following the disaster.”

“I was the NIU Lacrosse Club Treasurer where each year we volunteered in setting up the Colossal Clean Sweep at the NIU Convocation Center.”

Schoepski is scheduled to provide IT courses with other professionals in the community to prioritize mostly senior safety on the internet. He will also provide mobile device workshops at the new Roscoe Township Community Center starting in May 2023.

Schoepski has two young children: Poppy, who is about to turn nine and in 3rd grade at Whitman Post Elementary, and Sagan, who is five and is in Early Childhood at Rockton Grade School.

“My fiance and I moved to Rockton specifically for the Hononegah High School District which they will both be attending.”

“I truly believe that we have an incredible team of board members here at Hononegah that have put in the time and effort to become effective and knowledgeable in their positions. We all truly care about every student that comes through our doors, and I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to play a role in my children’s education,” Schoepski said.

“I also want to encourage everyone to continue to get involved in all municipal elections so that we can continue to elect the most capable and knowledgeable candidates to lead us forward.”

Joan Zimmerman

Joan Zimmerman is running for the school board after being asked, based on a feeling that she has been led to run.

“I believe that children should have the best education possible. I am willing to help in any way I can,” Zimmerman said.

“I would like to see our community come together and to work on any issues that might arise in a peaceful manner. As the community works together, things will get better.”

Zimmerman coached girls basketball for several years. She has served on her church board as recording secretary, and ran a food pantry for eight years. Zimmerman also served on a union committee for nine years.

Zimmerman is full time nanny for her granddaughter who has started school in the HCHS district.

Zimmerman shares her views about various issues and related subjects; especially wearing masks. “There are many studies that prove that masks don't work.”

“I believe that if you want to attend a certain school, you must move into that district. It never made sense to me, at least financially, to bus children across town to another school.”

“I believe that teachers should only teach their subject, not to give their opinion about anything else. It is up to a child's parent to teach their ideology, not the teacher, the school district, or the government for that matter.”

If elected Joan Zimmerman will serve in her first four year term.

Brian Huff

Brian Richard Huff was born in Rockford, IL and grew up in Rockton. He graduated from Hononegah High School in 2001 and went on to study history and literature at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), the University of Central Arkansas, Parkland College, and Arkansas State University (Heber Springs) for about seven years. During this time he was president of Sigma Tau Delta Honors Society (for English) and an officer in his fraternity Sigma Nu. He was also acting General Secretary (Vice President) of the British-Israel World Federation- USA

Brian Huff is a card carrying Republican, a member of the Presidential Advisory Board, and has volunteered for the party. He was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Air Force ROTC. Brian has been a member of two Methodist choirs, but was confirmed an Anglican Catholic. He has travelled to all parts of the United States and owned two small businesses. Brian has been writing for over a decade and his hobbies are playing guitar, chess, and tennis. He has read his entire personal library consisting of hundreds of antique and modern titles, but does not watch television. He is a Creationist and has volunteered for a local historical society.

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