March 30, 2023
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – The Brillion School Board will have one of its most contested races in recent years during next week’s spring election. Voters will see six names – three incumbents and three challengers – on their ballots on April 4.
Chris Hoyer (incumbent)
Occupation: Construction Expeditor
Social media or email for voters to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Thurow-Riahi (incumbent)
Occupation: Special Education Teacher
Social media or email for voters to contact: email@example.com
Rhonda Vande Hey (incumbent)
Occupation: Loan Specialist with United States Department of Agriculture
Social media or email for voters to contact: N/A
John Holzschuh (challenger)
Social media or email for voters to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Timothy Pope (challenger)
Social media or email for voters to contact: email@example.com
Karen Mueller (challenger)
Did not respond to the newspaper’s questionnaire
Why are you running for school board?
Hoyer: As a current member of the school board, I want to see that all students are represented well and given maximum opportunities. Also keeping the schools’ best interest in mind in spending for needs and not wants.
Vande Hey: I’ve been raised in a family who values giving back. Being a member on the school board gives me an opportunity to give back to my community in the form of education, opportunity and support.
Thurow-Riahi: Education is my passion and life’s work. I started as a paraprofessional, working as teacher while attending college to earn my degree. I love what I do, it is who I am. My work on the board reflects my dedication to the field of education. I enjoy being part of the Brillion School Board and hope you trust me with your vote to continue my service.
Holzschuh: I want to focus on allowing parents to be involved with their children's education, including what type of curriculum their children are being taught.
Pope: I am running for school board because I want to preserve the small-town atmosphere and sense of community that we have here in Brillion. I don't believe that following the lead of other larger school districts would be a good thing, necessarily.
What makes you the best candidate?
Hoyer: I currently have a child in high school and middle school as well as younger extended family that attend Brillion Elementary and care about their future.
Vande Hey: I believe I am the best candidate for several points. As an incumbent I have the knowledge. It takes time to learn the workings of the district. I have knowledge of policy, funding, personnel, etc. I am also a graduate of the Brillion Public School District and currently have children attending. I can make decisions. As a Board member we need to review data, discuss as a team and ultimately make a decision to best serve our School District. Along with making decisions, I strive to be open and objective. I want to hear the whole story and what the impact may be before making those decisions. Supportive of our students and staff. I have been a supporter of positions like the Math Interventionist, Stem Specialist, and At-Risk Interventionist. Positions like these are taking what we have and making it better for our student’s education.
Thurow-Riahi: There is much to understand in running a school district. I invested a lot of time and energy learning all I could to be an informed board member. I have attended state and national conferences, legislative updates, and trainings. I have served on the policy and resolution committee at the state level. I presently represent Brillion on the CESA 7 Board of Control. My votes as a board member show my unwavering support of the students through expanding extracurricular activities, addressing safety concerns, adding necessary staff, developing academic programs and maintaining our facilities. I have dedicated 20 years of serve to the community through my board work, it is a commitment I take pride in.
Holzschuh: There are a number of good candidates running. However I believe that my business acumen will serve the school board well.
Pope: I would not claim to be the best candidate. I can only tell the voters what my thoughts are, and if they agree with me, I would certainly be appreciative of their vote.
What do you believe are the top issues in the district that need to be addressed and how would you address them?
Hoyer: We are fortunate to have a great school district that has a dedicated and caring staff. We need to keep the budget in check without eliminating resources while retaining the staff.
Vande Hey: At this time, funding is a top priority. April 4th is not only an important day for me being on the ballot, but an important day for our entire district. Our Administrative Team and Board have worked hard to trim unnecessary expenses and be strategic in our spending. Mental Health is a growing priority. This growing need was identified and brought to the Board. We have used ESSER temporary funding to address this concern by adding more professional counseling hours, however this will be a long term need to address depending on the outcome of the referendum. This is a concern not only for students but for our staff as well. Our half day Wednesdays have offered time for teachers to receive much needed training, team coaching and skill building. I have received feedback from personnel at other school districts admiring Brillion’s support of their students and staff, these points are important as we look to draw and retain staff.
Thurow-Riahi: Budget. Increasing the state education budget and Brillion’s operational referendum are necessary to keep our schools’ services at the levels they are at. Without appropriate revenue, program and staffing cuts could happen. It is important to have board members that have been watching trends and having conversations regarding this issue to make informed decisions.
Holzschuh: Improving the academic level in high school. The school board needs to understand and work on the root cause of these problems. Then the school board would implement solutions.
Pope: I think we need to focus more on developing proficiency in reading and math, and less on promoting ideological agendas. It does not appear to a big issue here yet, but I do have firsthand knowledge that it has occurred. I would encourage parents to be aware of what their children are being taught. As a school board member, I would be able to address any issues that would come up or be brought to me.
What is one thing you believe needs to be changed about the Brillion School District?
Vande Hey: Again, depending on the outcome of the referendum we will need to address student and staff needs. Those needs will be how to continue to provide the opportunities at the current level, how to continue and improve academic needs and rigor, and how to attract and retain staff. As a Board we will need to work collaboratively to address future structural maintenance as our buildings age and to stay current with technology and curriculum advances.
Thurow-Riahi: We have an amazing district. I hear the praise often at board events. One item that is being addressed and I hope to see positive change is the state rating of our high school. As a district we exceed expectations, both the middle and elementary buildings significantly exceed expectations. I see the work going into making sure the high school improves its rating.
Holzschuh: Improve communication with public regarding school policies.
Pope: I think we need to have more transparency in regard to the curriculum. Parents should easily be able to see what is being taught to their children.
What is one thing you would like district parents to know about your school board aspirations?
Hoyer: I would like to retain the great education and extracurricular programs we have and continue to improve on them. Also, provide as many opportunities as possible for students to succeed after graduation.
Vande Hey: When I was approached to be on the School Board years ago, I thought, sure I can do great things for our students. I have learned, by supporting our staff this in return supports our students. I hope to continue serving the Brillion Public School District.
Thurow-Riahi: I am a parent just like you. My work is your work. I sit at the board table representing you as a taxpayer, wanting our district to be fiscal sound, as a community member wanting our school to reflex the best of who we are and as a parent wanting an education for my child that will lead to their success.
Holzschuh: I want to make a positive impact on students, today and in the future.
Pope: Brillion is an incredible place to live, and for our children to learn. We have a superlative athletic program, awesome STEM facilities, and are second to none in regards to music, theater, and art. I would like to be able to continue to support all of these, while also giving our children the best education possible in the core curriculum.