This upcoming Tuesday, February 9th, the Greenway Public School in Coleraine, MN will be holding an election for three seats on the School Board. These seats were vacated when the current board members’ terms recently ended. According to the school boards’ website, while part of the board, the elected members will strive to ensure “the vision and structure meet the needs of the children and families of the district,” maintain “accountability with the public, advocating for the district and its children,” and will assure “the district is managed ethically.”

Those who wish to vote can go to the Minnesota Secretary of State website and use the “Poll Finder” feature, which will locate a poll nearest you.

Furthermore, below are locations where voters who live in one of the precincts listed will vote at the combined polling place for the school district elections not held in conjunction with a general election.

Polling locations

Coleraine- Coleraine City Hall 302 Roosevelt St, Coleraine

Bovey- Coleraine City Hall 302 Roosevelt St, Coleraine

Grand Rapids P1 & P2- Coleraine City Hall 302 Roosevelt St, Coleraine

LaPrairie - Coleraine City Hall 302 Roosevelt St, Coleraine

Trout Lake Precinct- Coleraine City Hall 302 Roosevelt St, Coleraine

Lawrence- Greenway Town Hall 300 Alice Ave, Marble

Taconite P1 & P2- Greenway Town Hall 300 Alice Ave, Marble

Calumet- Greenway Town Hall 300 Alice Ave, Marble

Marble- Greenway Town Hall 300 Alice Ave, Marble

Greenway Township P1, P2, & P3- Greenway Town Hall 300 Alice Ave, Marble

Nashwauk- Cloverdale Hall 16470 Co Rd. 8, Nashwauk

Nashwauk Township- Cloverdale Hall 16470 Co Rd. 8, Nashwauk

School Board Election Candidate Profiles

Ryan Johns

Hometown - Duluth, MN; Currently living in Bovey, MN

Profession - Healthcare Management Professional

Q: Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

A: I am running for school board because it is a great way to help our community. I believe it is important to have good representation at the board level that includes parents of students currently in the district. My priority is what is best for the students, teachers, and community.  What we do for our students and teachers is an investment in the future of the community. It is of the utmost importance to understand the needs of all the students and how to best pair them with their education they receive. I have a vested interest in the school district given that I have one child currently enrolled in the district and another one starting in a year.

Q: What experience would you bring to the school board?

A: Throughout my career in management and serving on other association boards I have developed strong skills regarding effective listening and fairness. Every situation can have multiple sides and it is important to hear and understand all parties in order to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of those affected. I have successfully participated in contract negotiations with several labor unions in the past from the management side. We utilized a negotiating process called interest-based bargaining in which both the union and management met together throughout the bargaining process to come to a contract agreement. I believe in this process because it really allows both parties to come together and really explain the rationale for what is being asked. It includes everyone and allows for great dialogue back and forth. As a board member, I believe it is important to be involved in the process of collective bargaining as much as possible and to understand where each party is coming from regarding what they are bargaining for so that it can align with the overall plan for the district and the community served.  Understanding and compassion are critical. Tough situations require difficult decisions that cannot be taken lightly. It is important to have as much information as possible and to understand as much as possible the effects of decisions prior to making any final decisions.

Q: What do you feel is the most pressing issue Greenway faces right now and what would you do about it?

A: My impression is that certain pieces are being run ok but there is room for improvement, especially regarding communication from administration and supporting our teachers. Our teachers are an investment in not only our kids’ future but also our societies. It is the Board’s role to promote the mission of the school and to highlight the qualities of the district so that new teachers will want to come to the district.

Mary Kay Jacobson

Hometown - Born in Blackduck, MN - grew up in Fairmont, MN, and graduated from high school in Hibbing, MN; Proud to call Coleraine her hometown now.

Profession - Currently retired. Previous professions - A teacher at the elementary, secondary, and community college level; College administrator; Executive director of the Northern Minnesota Citizens League; A professional grant writer.

Q: Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

A: Providing first-class educational opportunities is a lifelong passion of mine. When I learned of vacancies on the Greenway School Board, I viewed it as an opportunity to give back to my community. I have the energy to take on the position as well as the full support of my husband, himself a retired educator. Greenway has a great tradition, but maintaining and expanding educational opportunities within budgetary constraints is truly the challenge of the day.

Q: What experience would you bring to the school board?

A: I was born into an education family. My father was a school superintendent, finishing his career at Hibbing Public Schools, where I graduated from high school. I then went on to UND where I received a BA in speech therapy and minors in education and social science. I have taught school at the elementary, secondary, and community college levels. Fifteen years of that time, I worked at a community college in Dallas, TX as an Associate Dean of Continuing Education. In 1996, I moved back to Minnesota and became the Executive Director of Northern Minnesota Citizens League. When the League lost its funding, I worked as a grant writer for ISD 318 and later for NHED (Northeast Higher Ed District) and its five-member community colleges. I have done a considerable amount of grant proposal writing for organizations in Itasca County and the surrounding area, mostly for educational institutions. These proposals resulted in over $12 million in awards over a 12-year period. One of these awards was for Vandyke Elementary in the Greenway School District ($300,000) for comprehensive school reform.

My background in education both as a teacher and an administrator has given me insight into various ways education can be managed and made stronger. Also, the experience of serving on several Itasca County Boards has helped me hone my skills as a team player. I’ve served on the Boards of MN Diversified Industries (MDI), Deer River Hired Hands (president), Itasca Community Television (ICTV) (president), and on the Itasca Community College (ICC) General Advisory Board (chairperson), among others.

Q: What do you feel is the most pressing issue Greenway faces right now and what would you do about it?

A: I don’t feel that there is any one pressing issue. I am interested in learning about and expanding the vocational opportunities already introduced by the Administration, as well as examining the total curriculum to see how we can continue to provide the best possible education/training for our Greenway students.

As Greenway moves forward, all options to improve future education for Greenway students should be on the table. If collaboration with nearby districts would achieve that, I believe that should be explored. As Chairman of Itasca Area School Collaborative (IASC), Supt. David Pace is in a good position to find opportunities for collaboration.  

In addition, budget will always be a major issue for any school board. From the information I have gleaned from the state of Minnesota and other sources, I feel that Greenway has been fiscally responsible over the last five years. Without a voter-approved referendum and knowing there is a structural imbalance between nominal increases in state aid and increases in educational expenditures, I think it is important to guard Greenway’s fund balance. Additionally, it does not look as if the current state budget situation lends itself to a healthy state aid increase in the next biennium. My other financial concern is the long-term debt that the district has taken on for building improvements and other needed expenses.

Dennis Barsness

Hometown - Trout Lake Township, MN 

Profession - PCA

Q: Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

A: I am running for the school board because as a greenway grad and lifelong resident of the district I would like to be a part of ensuring a quality school system for our children and faculty.

Q: What experience would you bring to the school board?

A: I am currently the Itasca soil and water board supervisor for district 4, board secretary, and on the personnel committee.

Q: What do you feel is the most pressing issue Greenway faces right now and what would you do about it?

A: One of the issues I've been made aware of is the district is having to compete with neighboring schools with competitive salaries and the financial burden this creates. Looking toward solutions in this area is just one thing of a list of issues to work through.


Gene Storlie

Hometown – Coleraine, MN

Profession - Welder at RMS in Hibbing


Q: Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

A I would be blessed to be a member of the Greenway School Board, because kids are my passion! I have discovered that it is important to me to interact with every child I can to make sure they have every avenue possible to become something amazing. Being on the school board would put me in a great position to make the years they spend in school as well rounded as possible. My goal is to provide them with every option possible to give them a quality education. One where the time they spend in school leads them to be ready to benefit our society with the knowledge they gain to change our world for the better.  The years they spend being educated by our teachers are especially important in determining who they become, and where they go in life. It is my heart to be involved in providing safety for them in our district, programs that will encourage them to grow and explore, lots of great memories, and an education that sends them out to do amazing things!

I believe, with my natural desire to stand up for what’s right, defend those who need defending, passion to work hard, and my ability to speak what needs to be spoken I would be a great person to have on the District 316 School Board. 


Q: What experience would you bring to the school board?

A: Throughout the years my children have attended Greenway I have been involved in coaching. Kids are my passion! I also helped organize Centershot (archery program) in a local church along with partnering with a friend to start an archery program for teenagers called Vitalshot. Vitalshot taught basics of archery and hunting skills based on a foundation of faith. At the end of the program myself and several volunteers gave the kids an opportunity to put their new skills to use by taking them out hunting! One of my favorite things is to speak into their lives by teaching them how to think for themselves, work as a team, and respect a leader by leading with integrity, respect, and love. I have enjoyed being a part of their lives where they are building confidence, love for a game or pastime, and having fun! It is important to me to give kids a place to become a stronger version of who they are.

I served 3 years in the US Army which will tell you I know about teamwork, respect, and hard work.

I currently work as a lead welder at RMS in Hibbing, and in the past, I have been a lead welder at Terex, L&M Radiator in Hibbing, and a manager at Domino's Pizza. All these jobs, along with coaching, will tell you I am familiar with being a leader, and working with those on my team.


Q: What is the most pressing issue Greenway faces right now and what would you do about it?

A: The main issue facing Greenway right now is the presence of a pervasive political agenda. An agenda that has stopped teaching our children the true history of our country. An agenda that is full of thinking that doesn’t have all people’s best interest at heart.  An agenda that doesn’t hold to the ideas of our founding fathers.  I would be persistent in restoring an environment that speaks to the truth of our country’s foundation. One that leaves politics out of our schools, where facts are taught without bias, and brings our community back together.

Carissa McIlwain-Nelson

Hometown - Lawrence Lake, currently Coleraine

Profession - Assessor/Appraiser at Itasca County


Q: Why are you running for a seat on the school board?

A: I would say my biggest reason for running is love this district, I want the district to continue be the best district! We have something special within our community. Many people have given their time and energy on this board, so that I could have the opportunity to be a Greenway alum, all while giving me a great education and extracurricular activities. It’s time for me to pay it forward.  I have thought about running for school board many times but didn’t feel I had the time to give 100%. Now, with my daughter graduated I will have nothing but time.


Q: What experience would you bring to the school board?

A: Having been an alum myself, and raising my daughter in the Greenway community, I know the importance of education. I also have been involved on many boards within the community. I was President and Vice President of the Greenway Joint Rec Board for 8+ years, I was President/Vice President for Greenway Emerald Ice Figure Skating Club for 10+ years, I was a founding board member on the Greenway Community Fund. Being involved in these organizations, I have fought not only for the kids, but the community.


Q: What do you feel is the most pressing issue Greenway faces right now and what would you do about it?

A: First and foremost, looking for the best interest of our students.  We need to get our test scores up and in line with the state, our kids deserve an education that sets them up for endless possibilities after graduation.  We also need to build a relationship and keep transparency with our educators and administration. We as a board need to focus on being fiscally responsible for the coming years. Looking out for our kids, community and taxpayers. This includes the collaboration of nearby district(s). We need to make sure we do not lose our hub.


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