Retiring James Hart teacher put Homewood on the storytelling map

Thanking District 153 outgoing board member Tom Brabec
(third from left) for his service are (from left) past member
Jerry Morin, board president Shelly Marks and past
member Tom Dockweiler.
(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/
Hf Chronicle)

Supporters gave Homewood District 153 board member Tom Brabec numerous well wishes, rounds of applause and thanks as he ended 18 years of service at Monday’s board meeting.

Brabec said he moved to Homewood because the excellent school system was what he wanted for his daughters, Sara and Maureen.  

After 18 years of service to
District 153, board member
Tom Brabec, center, stepped
down on Monday. He was
thanked for his service by
Beth White, head of
technology (left) and Mary
Ann Savage, principal of Willow
(Photo by Marilyn
Thomas/HF Chronicle)

“The education (they) received here is just so obviously wonderful, I had to say thank you” by serving on the board, he told audience members. 

Brabec is known for never turning down a request for help. To recognize his commitments to the community and schools, the District 153 board approved a resolution calling for the Tom Brabec Day of Community Service. On that day, all students and staff at the district’s four schools will be working in service to the community.

Board President Shelly Marks said the first community service day will be held in the fall. It will become an annual event.

Former board member Tom Dockweiler said one of the reasons the district has been so successful is because Brabec understood the three constituent groups — students, faculty/staff and taxpayers — and how board work is a balancing act to serve each of the three.  

“You always got it,” Dockweiler said. “You developed the faith and trust of the constituents. That’s why you did such a good job.”

Many in the audience thanked Brabec for his work for the children, his interest in improvements to the curriculum and technology, and his support of District 153 Foundation initiatives.

Several board members recalled Brabec’s work on elections — not just of board members but the referendums for converting the district schools to grade centers and the increase in the tax base. He knows every precinct in Homewood and usually knew most of the voters, too. His walking precincts, talking to voters about the needs of the district’s students, is what helped win the hard-fought elections, said Marks.

After meetings with representatives from various school districts, Brabec said he always felt blessed to be in District 153.

“I remain convinced that what we are doing here, and in particular, what you are doing for our students, our staff and our community, works far better than what I hear about or see from other places,” he told his fellow board members. “One need only think back to the 2011 referendum and the overwhelming support shown for (the district) as evidence of the approval of your vision for our district.”

He thanked teachers for their devotion to students that “extends beyond the school day. I have been aware of this for many years and appreciate it so very much,” he said.

“On a daily basis, our community entrusts its children — young and impressionable — to our schools,” and that means everyone in the schools from the janitor to the principal serves as “our ambassadors for our district,” Brabec told the audience. “Thank you for all you do for the students, the district and the community. We could not do this without you.”

Although he is stepping away from the meetings and decisions that the board will make, it was no secret that he will be called upon — and accept — other voluntary positions within the district.

Recognizing him as a wonderful mentor, Superintendent Dale Mitchell told Brabec he should expect to hear from him soon because “in 153 you never retire. I know there are so many opportunities to keep you (involved) here.”

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