2022 school board candidates discuss district’s future


Board candidate Lindsay Cotter is running for the 2-year, special election seat on the Board of Education. Not pictured: Shannon Pickering (Photos courtesy of HVS-TV).

Alexis Cornett, Editor in Chief

The Board of Education is intrinsic to the daily function of our schools. A seven-member elected board, it is at the helm of some of the largest decisions affecting the school district. The Board of Education is responsible for decisions including employing the superintendent, budget allocation and curriculum approval.

There are three, 6-year positions on the Board of Education up for election on Nov. 8. The 10 candidates, in alphabetical order, running for these three positions are Jacob Dimick, Ryan Dolley, Ben Duby, Denise Forrest, Amy Grzymkowski, Debbie Lennis, Carol Nagy, Joseph Pilchowski, Michelle Ryan and Becky Zimmerman.

Additionally, there is one, 2-year term position available in a special election. The two candidates running for this position are Lindsay Cotter and Shannon Pickering.

“Board members are elected to serve the interests of the School District and the entire school community. These interests may not be subordinated to any partisan principle, group or interest,” according to HVS Board Policy. When considering who to elect to the Board of Education it is imperative to remember that these positions are designed to be nonpartisan: not biased toward any political party. The success of our current board is due in large part to its collaboration, compromise and teamwork. Political interests would hinder the unity needed to support the schools, staff and students.

The Board of Education members are further divided into subcommittees that examine and discuss board policy, budget items and school developments before they are brought before the entire Board of Education.

It is important to consider both the background of the candidate as well as their goals for the school district’s future.

On Oct. 10 and 11, four forums were held to give voters a chance to hear responses from each of the candidates. Ryan and Pickering were unable to attend. These forums were separate from the one hosted on Sept. 21 by The Spinal Column.

Board of Education President Sean Carlson has served for 14 years on the Huron Valley Board of Education and moderated the candidate forums alongside Bonnie Brown, a former school board member and lifelong Huron Valley resident.

For the first time in the school district’s history, students themselves played an active role in the governance and election process of the school board. Moderating duties at each of the candidate forums were shared by Milford Student Council President Alexis Cornett, IA West Senior Class President Maya Azzato and Lakeland Senior Class President Everet Ross.

Each of these students, alongside Harbor Senior Class President Haley Greenshields, serves as the representative of their respective high schools at Board of Education meetings throughout the school year. Together, the student leaders composed and presented five of their own questions to each of the candidates.

These questions included – what do you believe the goal/mission of the school board is, how do you plan to have productive communications with students and consider the perspectives of students from a wide range of demographics, do you think one should have the ability to ban books in our schools, how do you see equity working in our schools and how can we ensure we are keeping and supporting Huron Valley’s best teachers.

14 questions were asked of the candidates and the questions were not distributed to the candidates before the forum. Two-minute response times were allotted for the opening and closing statements and all other questions were given a 45-60 second response time.

The complete forums can be viewed on the HVS-TV channel or the HVS Video YouTube channel. Below are the candidate responses in alphabetical order to one of the student questions posed.


What do you believe the goal/mission of the school board is?

Board candidates Jacob Dimick, Ryan Dolley and Ben Duby are running for one of the three, 6-year positions on the Board of Education.
Board candidates Denise Forrest, Amy Grzymkowski and Debbie Lennis are running for one of the three, 6-year positions on the Board of Education.
Board candidates Carol Nagy, Joseph Pilchowski and Becky Zimmerman are running for one of the three, 6-year positions on the Board of Education. Not pictured: Michelle Ryan.

Cotter – The goal or the mission of our school board, is to hire a superintendent to oversee the district. Our goal and our mission is also to keep a balanced budget for all students here in the district. And we would also be responsible for setting policy that would affect all those working here in Huron Valley. Basically, the school board would then look over what we do for kids in our district.


Dimick – I believe that the goal and mission of the school board should be, and it is, to ensure that the district is meeting and exceeding the educational standards. And to that end, I think we should be working with our students, our parents and our teachers and ensure that all of our goals are actually aligned and that we have the proper resources put in place to do well in all aspects.


Dolley – There’s a question of what the mission is and there’s a question of what it does. As far as what the mission of the school board is, I think the mission of the school board is to ensure that all of the children in our district get the best possible education. And to me that means, yes, preparing them academically. It’s very important, right? Kids need to come out of Huron Valley Schools, knowing how to read, how to write, how to do math, but it also means preparing them for life. When you get out in the world, you don’t know where it’s going to take you; you don’t know who you’re going to meet. You’re going to meet all sorts of different kinds of people and you’re going to need to have the skills to have empathy for them and work with them to accomplish your goals in life. And so I think overall, that’s the mission of the school board. How do we go about doing it? Well, we work with the superintendent, we set policy and we ensure that policy is effectively carried out.


Duby – So the school board sets the framework for how they want to go about through school years and in the future. They hire a superintendent, they work with the superintendent to push out their policy, they establish a budget and submit that to the state. But that’s the nuts and bolts of what the school board needs to do. In reality, we also have to have the voice of the teachers, voice of the students, voice of the community always in the back of our minds and hopefully coming to meetings to talk to us and tell us what we need to do and what they want so that we can reflect the will of the community because we need kids, students, children, everybody. We need everyone on the same page that things have to get better and things can get better. I’m a big proponent of small, incremental changes over time that pay off big dividends. I think that as long as we push our kids to be welcoming, kind, inclusive and confident, then they’ll be life long learners and they’ll be successful in life.


Forrest – Our mission is to be the good stewards of our children – to educate them. That’s our mission: what is best for students. “Inspiring and building futures one student at a time” is Huron Valley’s mission, and I take that to heart. We are a governing body. We’re an elected governing body. And, you know, our one hire is our superintendent and we work very closely with the superintendent to work through our policies, We are policy makers, and we entrust our superintendent to hire the right people to lead and work through these policies. Much of what we do is also governed by state government and federal government. So we adhere to the laws that go into it, but mostly we were here to take care of the kids.


Grzymkowski – The goal of the school board is to be the vision and the governance of the district. It is our responsibility to set the expectations for our district and it’s our responsibility to be accountable. We are accountable through the budget, and we are also accountable through how our students perform. This is a very important aspect of our board. We cannot overstate this. We are utilizing public funds, and therefore, we must be responsible to our community. We are not micromanagers; however, we are not involved in the minutia of the day to day. Our job is a macro overview, and I think that’s really important that we are setting that charge.


Lennis – I believe that the number one mission of any school board, but specifically the Huron Valley School Board, is the children [and] their education. Making sure that the funding that is received goes to the right places at the right times, that our children are being served that our teachers are being cared for and educated along the way – the teachers, the professionals all of that. So that’s where I stand on where we belong, as a district.


Nagy – The purpose of the board is actually to hire the superintendent and conduct those interviews to work with the staff, teachers, parents and students to maintain a good school district and add value to it. Our responsibility is also to balance the budget. We have a working budget every year from July… because it’s a state requirement. That is my role as a school board member.


Pilchowski – The goal of the board is to represent the community. And that representation means valuing what the community wants to see it in school district and employing that as deliverable results. One of those major responsibilities is hiring a superintendent and holding them accountable for the delivery of what the community expects. Then, of course, handling budget, which is one primary requirement; the budget has to be balanced by law. So you make it your job to balance that budget. So the mission of the board is to directly speak for the community as a whole, engage in the day-to-day operations of the schools to ensure that the expectations of the community are met and that the expectations of the board are met.


Zimmerman – The purpose of the board is to ensure the operations of the school district: working with the superintendent, as well as getting input from the teachers, staff and administration to ensure all things are being met with budget, with school standards, state standards, etc. So, being on the board, it would be important to make sure that you’re working together to make sure all of those things are happening.


Board of Education President Sean Carlson, Milford Student Council President Alexis Cornett, and former Board of Education Representative Bonnie Brown moderated the candidate forums.

Voters can find the Huron Valley School Board candidates on the non-partisan section of the ballot on Election Day Nov. 8.