New Huntley D158 school board members who ran as slate voted into leadership positions

Huntley Unit District 158's school board will have a new look in not only its makeup but its leadership after it voted for three new members to lead the elected body at a special meeting last week.

Just minutes after being sworn in on May 2, board members Andy Bittman, Laura Murray and Gina Galligar were nominated and voted in as the board's president, vice president and secretary, respectively.

The votes among the seven board members were split, with Bittman, Murray, Galligar and board member Michael Thompson - all four of whom ran as a slate in this year's election - forming a majority and voting for each other.

The vote means Tony Quagliano, who had been the board's president since 2020, and former secretary Paul Troy, will not serve in a leadership role on the board moving forward.

Quagliano and Troy were nominated for leadership positions at the meeting but didn't receive enough votes.

Quagliano at the meeting offered to stay in the position of president until the end of 2023 to allow Bittman a chance to get familiar with the job before taking over a meeting.

Bittman responded he'd like Quagliano to help mentor him to "keep the meetings running smoothly."

"I haven't done this before, and there's going to be some choppiness," Bittman said.

The board's former vice president, Kevin Gentry, served on the board for more than a decade but lost his seat in the April election. Other incumbents unseated included Jonathan Dailey, William Geheren and Melissa Maiorino-Scheiblein.

Bittman on Tuesday said despite what at times was a contentious campaign, which included many criticisms of the current board and its direction, he and the new members have to respect the time and effort the other members have put into the role.

"I think, at least in the first couple of meetings, we want to build trust," he said. "Everyone in the district has been very open with us. That's what it's all about."

Attempts to reach Quagliano on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The newcomers ran on a platform calling for fiscal responsibility, lowering the property tax rate, removing what some called "pornographic materials" from the classroom, and improving test scores. The group emphasized the idea that District 158 had strayed away from educating children in favor of other priorities.

The group was also assisted by a political action committee, but the candidates said they thought it was their grass-roots work and organization that propelled them to victory. Some incumbents who lost said they thought the outcome was tied to how well-funded the group was.

Looking ahead, Bittman said he hopes as president to increase dialogue among board members, including by providing them the opportunity to bring up items they'd like to see on future agendas. This is something found on other governing body agendas but has not been on District 158's, he said.

The board also could soon have a new committee focused on special education, which would go up for a vote at a later date, Bittman said. Beyond that, the priorities remain the same: Focus on fiscal responsibility and providing a strong educational environment for the students.

The board also will be tasked with finding a new superintendent. Current Superintendent Scott Rowe announced in April he was leaving the district to head Arlington Heights-based Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

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