Negassi Tesfamichael: A second candidate has announced that she will run for a seat on the Madison School Board this spring. Ananda Mirilli, who first ran for School Board in 2013, filed paperwork with the city clerk’s office Wednesday announcing she will run for Seat 5, which is currently held by TJ Mertz. Mirilli finished third in … Continue reading Ananda Mirilli is running for Madison School Board (2019)
Madison School Board Seat 5 Candidate TJ Mertz Sued Twice for Unpaid Utility Bills by WKOW TV.
Missed Campaign Finance Filings: Paging Sarah Manski: You can’t leave for California just yet by David Blaska.
Sarah Manski keeps Nan Brien out of court; reports lots of Green by David Blaska:
She blew through Monday’s campaign finance reporting deadline as blithely as she ran – and then quit – her race for Madison School Board. (“Paging Sarah Manski: You can’t leave for California just yet.”) But Sarah Manski has finally made an honest woman of her treasurer and protector of the union-dominated old guard, Nan Brien.
(The former school board member, nemesis of public schools chartered to address the racial achievement gap, told WKOW TV-27 that her role as treasurer was only as a figurehead. Like Sgt. Schultz, so many in Madison are saying about the Manski campaign: “I knew nothing!”)
The Manski fundraising report filed Friday – four days late – reveals quite the haul in just a few weeks for a local race: $7,733 since Feb. 5 for a race that she ended two days after the Feb. 19 primary election. That makes a total of $11,136 since entering the race in December. That’s a lot of Green! As in very Green green.
Now, if Sarah had been a conservative instead of a professional Walker stalker (see: Wisconsin Wave), The Capital Times would have staged one of its pretend ethics meltdowns about the evils of out-of-state money. An example of their situational ethics is “Pat Roggensack’s out-of-state cash”:
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack makes little secret of her ideological and partisan alliances. And most of [her] money is coming from outside Wisconsin.
You want “outside Wisconsin”? How about St. Louis, Mo.; Lansdale, Pa.; N. Hollywood, Calif.; Edina, Minn.; Mishakawa, Ind.; Vancouver, Wash.; Kensington, Md.; Palo Alto, Calif.; New York, N.Y.; Port Orford, Ore.; Flossmoor, Ill.; Sheffield, Mass.; Orange, Calif.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Chevy Chase, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Corvallis, Ore.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Redlands, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; Boulder, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Detroit, Mich.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Seattle, Wash.; Carmel, Calif.; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.
That is only a partial list of postmarks for “Manski for Wisconsin,” as her Madison School Board campaign was grandiosely named. Yes, when it comes to “outside cash,” John Nichols’ protégés get a pass. Manski collected 107 contributions in the latest reporting period, of which only 32 bore a Madison address, including: MTI boss John Matthews, $50; Mayor Soglin aide Sarah Miley’s husband, $100; and of course, Marj “Somebody Good” Passman, $50.
Blaska’s Bring It! finds that Mertz’s spouse, Karin Schmidt, is employed by the Madison Metropolitan School District as a special education assistant at Madison West High School. That necessitates that Mertz recuse himself on such important votes as teacher and staff salary, benefits, working conditions, length of school day and year.
The odd thing is that nowhere on his campaign website does Mertz refer to his wife. He mentions two sons but no spouse. Why is she The Woman Who Must Not Be Named?
“No particular reason why she is not listed there,” Mertz told me today. Seriously? And what about the obvious conflict of interest?
“If elected, I will recuse myself as advised by district legal staff,” Mertz told this blog. I asked what would trigger a recusal. He responded, “As to recusals, I don’t know. I will take the legal advice of the district counsel. You could ask her; I have not yet, as it is not appropriate for her to be giving advice to a candidate.”
Really? You’re running for school board but you don’t know when and on what you can vote?
I have posed the conflict-of-interest issue to MMSD legal staff as well as to the Wisconsin School Board Assn. This being the Easter weekend holiday, answers may not be forthcoming before the election. However, Mertz supporter Bill Keys, the former school board president who banned the Pledge of Allegiance at Madison schools, a year ago declared that school board candidate Nichelle Nichols “will be unable to work fully with her colleagues,” because she was a Madison Urban League employee:
When I served on the board, our attorney instructed me to avoid Madison Teachers Inc. negotiations and not even be in the room during discussions. As a retired teacher, I benefited only from the life insurance policy provided by the district. Even so, discussions or votes on MTI benefits would violate state law.
It was a blistering blog last week by conservative David Blaska about the Madison School Board race that also-ran Ananda Mirilli says prompted her to protest that her campaign was a victim of political shenanigans long before Sarah Manski’s jaw-dropping withdrawal from the race.
Blaska called Seat 5 primary winner Manski’s pullout from the School Board race 48 hours after the primary as “so cheap and tawdry it defies explanation” and skewered the local liberal “Tammany Hall” that endorsed her.
Negative reaction to Manski’s move isn’t just coming from the right: “Has Madison politics ever seen such high-handed, self-absorbed behavior as that of leading vote-getter Sarah Manski?” asks former Isthmus editor Marc Eisen in a column.
In the aftermath of Manski’s withdrawal, people have questions. Some are speculating whether there was a conspiracy to recruit Manksi to run, knowing she might drop out, and then replace her on the School Board with a union-friendly pick. “Now we might have a conspiracy of liberals putting a person of color down … what about other conspiracies that people were pegged in to?” asks Mirilli, whose third-place primary finish keeps her off the April 2 ballot.
Mirilli said she doesn’t know what to make of the timing of Manski’s withdrawal: “It’s a coincidence — who knows who is telling the truth? But without a doubt, there was a conspiracy to say that I was pro-voucher,” Mirilli told me Wednesday. “But no one is investigating that.”
Mirilli shared an old email exchange Wednesday, before announcing that she would not pursue a write-in campaign, as many observers had been urging.
David Blaska: Blaska parried: “Your friend Ananda Mirilli … accused me of creating the system she is trying to undo. … [But] the system we have is so great that people are trying to get in illegally … because they know you can succeed in America if you work. I’m afraid we’re telling kids … it’s … Continue reading An interview with Madison School Board Member Ali Muldrow
Seat 3: Caire vs. Carusi Logan Wroge: “There’s no one in the history of Madison schools that has my professional record,” he said. Carusi has reviewed budgets and policies during 12 years of attending School Board meetings and has actively served in parent leadership roles, which puts her in a “unique position of someone who’s … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board election Commentary
Chris Rickert: Endorsements in this month’s School Board primary from the influential Madison teachers union include one for a candidate who sends her two children to the kind of charter school strongly opposed by the union. Madison Teachers Inc. this week endorsed Ali Muldrow over David Blaska, Laila Borokhim and Albert Bryan for Seat 4; … Continue reading K-12 Governance Diversity: the 2019 Madison School Board Election, Parental Choice and our long term, disastrous reading results
Questions and Answers from Board Of Education Candidates Because the School Board candidates Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, and Ananda Mirilli are on the primary ballots for Seat 5 on February 19, 2013, the above link is a version of the candidate forum held on February 18, 2013 edited to include only the above candidates for … Continue reading School Board Candidate Forum, 18 February 2013
Scott Girard: The Madison School Board seat left open by incumbent Kate Toews choosing not to run for re-election has a candidate. Maia Pearson, a Madison native who has three children in Madison schools, will run for Seat 6. She filed her declaration of candidacy and campaign registration statement with the city clerk Monday and … Continue reading Maia Pearson becomes first newcomer to announce 2020 Madison School Board campaign
Christina Gomez Schmidt, via a kind email: In March 2019 after the primary election, we asked each candidate six questions about education issues and Advanced Learning topics. We hope the answers will help voters to better understand candidate viewpoints and how they see Advanced Learning fitting into district priorities. Below are links to their … Continue reading Madison Partnership for Advanced Learning 2019 School Board Candidate Q & A
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results. Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans: Yet the statutory FoRT requirement is now deemed satisfied by “attempts” … Continue reading Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers
I’ve added the following audio recordings to the 2019 Madison School Board Candidate page. WORT FM Candidate discussion 2.5.2019 Cris Carusi and Kaleem Caire [mp3 audio] Mr. Caire: “If we don’t reach our benchmarks in five years, they can shut us down”. There is no public school in Madison that has closed because only 7 … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Events; Kaleem Caire on Accountability
Avi Wolfman-Arent: The small parent rebellion forming in one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest school districts began at a Starbucks in suburban Chester County. Over coffee, three moms — Kate Mayer, Jamie Lynch, and Wendy Brooks — swapped stories about how their kids struggled to read as they moved through the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district, located about 30 … Continue reading Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading
Negassi Tesfamichael: MTI cited Carusi’s opposition to voucher and independent charter schools in its endorsement. “Carusi is opposed to vouchers and independent charter schools and strongly believes that we need to continuously work to improve our public schools, rather than support alternatives,” MTI’s endorsement said. Caire’s One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early … Continue reading Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance
Erin Hinrichs: “Minnesota has a state of emergency regarding literacy. I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now with the persistent reading success gap between white students and students of color,” he said Wednesday. “We are not making adequate progress, and the future of tens of thousands of our students is seriously at risk … Continue reading Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction
Chris Rickert: According to emails released to the State Journal under the state’s open records law, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham on Sept. 10 asked her chief of staff, Ricardo Jara, and other front-office officials whether Arbor was “worth trying to stop? Or change somehow? If so, how?” Cheatham expressed the district’s opposition to the school in … Continue reading UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school
Christopher Osher: But districts are free to use their READ Act per-pupil funds on whatever curriculum they want, even on interventions researchers have found ineffective. “Typically, as with any education policy, we’re only given so much authority on what we can tell districts to do and what we monitor for,” Colsman said in an interview … Continue reading “One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”
Negassi Tesfamichael: With the Madison School Board primary election less than a month away, a crowded field of nine candidates will make their case to voters in the coming weeks, starting with a forum on Feb. 5. Here’s a closer look at how candidates are making their case to voters. Seat 3 Kaleem Caire, an … Continue reading Commentary on the 2019 Madison School Board candidates
Negassi Tesfamichael: Nearly all current candidates for the Madison School Board have started to make their case to voters and potential endorsers as the primary election heats up. That included answering questions from Madison Teachers Inc., the city’s teachers’ union. Nine candidates are running for three seats on the seven-person School Board. MTI executive director … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions
Laurie Frost and Heff Henriques: Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare. Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and … Continue reading deja vu: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results
Negassi Tesfamichael m: Why are all of the Madison School Board seats at-large? The answer lies in state law. Tucked into a section of state statutes about how school boards and districts are organized is a requirement that applies directly to MMSD. The requirement says that unified school districts — such as MMSD — “that … Continue reading 2019 Election: Why are all of the Madison School Board seats at-large? (Curious statute words limiting legislation to Madison)
Chris Rickert: The questionnaire also includes several questions about teachers’ ability to have a say in their compensation and working conditions, and asks whether the candidates “support the reinstatement of collective bargaining rights for all public employees (currently prohibited by Act 10)?” Act 10 is the controversial 2011 law passed by Republicans that stripped most … Continue reading Madison Teachers Union and the 2019 school board election: Commentary, Spending and Academic Results
Chris Rickert: In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.” Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School … Continue reading Routing Around Madison’s Non-Diverse K-12 Governance Model
Negassi Tesfamichael: Madison School Board candidate Skylar Croy said in an interview with the Cap Times Friday that he would suspend his campaign and withdraw from the Seat 3 race, citing personal reasons. Because Croy turned in his verified nomination signatures on Wednesday to the city clerk’s office, the third-year University of Wisconsin law student’s … Continue reading Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot
Seat 3 Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison Seat 4 David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison Seat 5 TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Candidates; Competitive Races!
Alan Borsuk: 20 percent. That is roughly the percentage of Milwaukee students, both in public and private schools, who were rated proficient or advanced in reading in tests in spring 2018 — and it’s about the same figure as every year for many years. Folks, we have a huge reading crisis. There may be more … Continue reading “Folks, we have a huge reading crisis”
Negassi Tesfamichael: The Madison School Board’s general election is still nearly five months away, but candidates have been jumping into the race the past few weeks at a rapid pace. Three seats on the seven-person School Board will be on the ballot this spring, and each seat will be contested. Here’s what you need to … Continue reading Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019
Negassi Tesfamichael: Mertz said he will look to highlight his record during the campaign, and also talk about building trust and accountability in the Madison Metropolitan School District. “In order for us to provide our students the education they deserve, we need to work to repair the breakdowns of trust we see manifested in the … Continue reading TJ Mertz to run for re-election to Madison School Board (2019)
Now that the Madison School Board election is over, the board should take a serious look at reforming how elections are organized. The system of electing members on a districtwide basis from numbered seats worked reasonably well until this year. But the challenges that arose in the District 5 race after one of two primary winners quit the contest identified vulnerabilities in the process.
T.J. Mertz and Sarah Manski won a primary that also included Ananda Mirilli. Manski then quit, leaving Mertz in a noncompetitive “contest.” We urged Mirilli to mount a write-in campaign and she seriously considered doing so. But she and her supporters determined that mounting a citywide run would be expensive and difficult. That was a credible conclusion. And it raises a question: Might there be a way to avoid such circumstances?
For instance, what if School Board members were elected from districts? With a smaller pool of voters in relatively tight-knit neighborhoods, it would be easier for all candidates, not just write-in contenders, to mount grass-roots campaigns. That could reduce the cost of campaigns and get candidates back on the doorsteps.
Another fix might be to have all candidates run in one citywide race, rather than for numbered seats. If six candidates were contending for three seats, one candidate could exit the contest and the competition would remain.
Some communities have employed instant runoff voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference rather than simply selecting a single candidate. Votes cast for the weakest candidates are transferred to stronger contenders, creating the purest reflection of voter preferences.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
The results of the Seat 3 match-up between Loumos and Strong won’t be known until next week. Loumos held a 279-vote margin with all wards reporting early Wednesday, but Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told the Wisconsin State Journal that there were potentially hundreds of absentee ballots yet to be counted.
The shocking withdrawal just after the Seat 5 primary of Sarah Manski, the candidate of the local progressive establishment, pushed third place finisher, Latina Ananda Mirilli, off the ballot and set up a disturbing tension between the local progressive community and communities of color. Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison and architect of the controversial Madison Preparatory Academy, used the occasion to resurrect some of the divisive stands around the proposed charter school for African-American students that was rejected in 2011 by the School Board.
Loumos, in addition to backing from unions like Madison Teachers Inc, AFSCME and South Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, also boasted an array of the progressive endorsements that usually win races in Madison: Progressive Dane, Four Lakes Green Party, Fair Wisconsin PAC.
But he insisted Tuesday that that tension between progressives and communities of color wasn’t a factor in his race, in part because he doesn’t have the profile for it.
Loumos has worked for decades with people struggling at the edges of society, many of them black and Latino. Currently executive director of a nonprofit agency that provides housing for homeless people, he used to teach in Madison School District programs for kids who were faltering.
But the race between Dean Loumos, executive director of Housing Initiatives Inc., and retired Madison Police lieutenant Wayne Strong remained too close to call.
Loumos held a 279-vote margin with all wards reporting, but Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said there were potentially hundreds of absentee ballots yet to be counted. Those won’t all be counted by the canvassing board until next Tuesday, due to a recent change in state law, McDonell said.
Strong said he would wait to make a decision about whether to seek a recount. Loumos said he respected Strong’s position and he didn’t declare victory.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.
Reaction was swift and angry.
“Enough is enough of this. Hypocrisy is alive and thriving in Madison!” read a Facebook post from United Migrant Opportunity Services board chair Juan Jose Lopez.
“It was all part of a plan to silence Ananda Mirilli,” wrote radio host and former Urban League board member Derrell Connor in a blog post entitled “Madison liberals hurting communities of color.”
“To the communities of color in Madison, I say this: Don’t forget what has happened here. If there was ever a time to become organized and engaged, it is now.”
And perhaps most scathing of all, an editorial from The Madison Times:
“The MMSD School Board race that came crashing down pretty much typifies the status of race relations we see every day and the tremendous racial divide we have in Madison right now. White elite liberals dictating to, condescending to and manipulating Madison’s communities of color. This is when they are kind enough to not completely ignore them, which, unfortunately, is most of the time.”
This outcry was the result of a Madison school board primary in February. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first: Only 18,452 voters bothered to cast ballots.
“The interest was certainly greater after the election than it was before,” says TJ Mertz with a laugh. “There’s no question about that!”
Mertz, who finished second in the primary, is now the only candidate actively campaigning to win Seat 5 on April 2. First-place finisher Sarah Manski stunned voters when she dropped out of the race the day after the primary, citing her husband’s acceptance to a graduate school in California. Election rules say her name must remain on the ballot, though, and that leaves off the third-place finisher, Ananda Mirilli, who is Latina. Mirilli has decided not to pursue a write-in campaign.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
Madison School Board candidate Wayne Strong said Friday he mistakenly told Madison Teachers Inc.’s political action committee in a January questionnaire that he supported private school vouchers.
The issue of voucher support has loomed large in this spring’s election. Ananda Mirilli, a former candidate for a separate seat, was falsely accused of supporting vouchers in an email from the husband of her opponent, Sarah Manski, who dropped out of the race after winning the primary. Mirilli finished third and will not be on the April 2 ballot.
The South Central Federation of Labor sent out a campaign flier this week supporting Strong’s opponent Dean Loumos. The flier says Strong “has retracted an earlier statement that he supports the use of public funds for private and religious schools.”
“I didn’t retract it, I corrected it,” Strong said. “It’s always been my position that I did not support use of public money (for private voucher schools).”
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
That led minority leaders to complain about the perceived control white Madison liberals — including teachers union leaders — exert on elections and on efforts meant to raise minority student achievement. Some local leaders have undertaken soul-searching while others say more minorities need to seek elective office.
“You could not have constructed a scenario to cause more alienation and more mistrust than what Sarah Manski did,” longtime local political observer Stuart Levitan said, referring to the primary winner for seat 5. “It exposed an underlying lack of connection between some of the progressive white community and the progressive African-American community that is very worrisome in the long run.”
In the last few weeks:
- Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire in a lengthy email described the failed negotiations involving him, district officials and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews over Caire’s proposed Madison Preparatory Academy geared toward low-income minority students.
- Ananda Mirilli, who placed third behind Manski for seat 5, released emails in which Sarah Manski’s husband, Ben Manski, accused Caire of recruiting Mirilli to run for School Board and linking Caire to a conservative foundation. Caire confirmed the email exchange, but said he didn’t recruit Mirilli. The Manskis did not respond to requests for comment.
- Two School Board members, Mary Burke and Ed Hughes, vigorously backed former police lieutenant Wayne Strong, who is black, to counter the influence of political groups supporting his opponent. In the seat 3 race, Strong faces Dean Loumos, a low-income housing provider supported by MTI, the Dane County Democratic Party, Progressive Dane and the local Green Party.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.
Madison Prep was the mouse that roared. How can you explain the fear and loathing Madison’s power elite directed at the Madison Urban League’s proposed charter school?
The Urban League’s Madison Prep charter school would have been just one school amid 50 Madison public schools. It would have taught 800 kids out of 27,000 enrolled in the district. The school board would have retained the ultimate authority to shut it down. So why the sturm und drang over this niche school? Two reasons:
• Because it would have been non-union.
• Because it might have succeeded. The Democratic Party cannot allow one small chink in the solid teachers union barricades.
How else does one explain Sarah Manski’s endorsement from the leader of the State Assembly Democrats, Peter Barca of Kenosha? How else does one explain an endorsement from the leader of the State Senate Democrats, Chris Larson of Milwaukee?
The purpose of the Manski campaign was all about staving off any threat to the teachers union hegemony. The power structure encouraged her to run after Ananda Mirilli, an immigrant Latina who supports the charter school (a public school, by the way), entered the race.
Husband Ben Manski said as much in his notorious December email blast.
It’s a painful irony for Ananda Mirilli that the School Board run she tried to use to call the community to come together to do better for Madison kids ended up embroiled in such controversy.
“I’m seeing an even bigger divide in the community, and I’m sad that we are in that place,” Mirilli told me Wednesday. “But I’m hoping to continue to work to find healing in our community. We really need to have a conversation about the achievement gap.”
Mirilli, a Latina who lost her bid for Seat 5 on the Madison School Board in the Feb. 18 primary, decided against a write-in campaign when primary winner Sarah Manski dropped out of the race just two days later. But Mirilli hasn’t given up hope that the election — despite Manski’s surprise withdrawal and the allegations of dirty politics and hypocrisy it incited — can yet be made an occasion to bring together people now sometimes working at odds to improve education in Madison schools.
And as the Restorative Justice Program manager at YWCA Madison, Mirilli is wondering if restorative justice principles might be the way to do it.
“I’m wondering if we could hold a circle — not to find out the truth, but to see how we can move forward on this,” Mirilli told me.
Mirilli says she was wrongly depicted by Manski as pro-voucher because of a supposed association with Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison. Caire on Wednesday resurrected allegations of double-dealing by leaders of Madison Teachers Inc. in negotiating his Madison Preparatory Academy charter proposal that was rejected by the School Board two years ago.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
I appreciate Schneider’s ability to add links to her articles. This continues to be a rare event in Madison’s traditional media circles.
As The Capital Times prepares to make endorsements in Madison School Board races that will be decided April 2, our editorial board will ponder issues ranging from the reactions of candidates to Gov. Walker’s voucher plan, the achievement gap and the challenge of maintaining quality schools in a time of funding cuts and shortfalls.
Our editorial board will make endorsements in two contested races, for Seat 3 between former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, and for Seat 4 between incumbent James Howard and challenger Greg Packnett, a legislative aide. The candidates all have strengths, and present voters with distinct options.
In the third race, there isn’t really a race. Candidates TJ Mertz and Sarah Manski won the primary Feb. 19. Then Manski surprised the community by dropping out of the contest several days later — announcing that her husband has been admitted to graduate school in California and that she would not be able to finish a term. We didn’t editorialize about the primary race. But after Manski dropped out, we said she had done the right thing because it would have been entirely inappropriate to maintain a campaign for a term she could not complete. But, as a board, we were disappointed by the loss of competition and urged the candidate who finished third in the primary, Ananda Mirilli, to make a bid as a write-in contender.
Mirilli made a great impression during the primary race and, had she waged a write-in campaign, she would have done so as an innovative thinker about how best to make great public schools work for all students. As the parent of an elementary-school student and a big proponent of public education, I’m familiar with a number of the people who organized Mirilli’s primary campaign, and who would have supported a write-in run. They form an old-fashioned grass-roots group that recalls the sort of organizations that traditionally backed School Board candidates in Madison. They could have mounted a fine campaign. But I also respect Mirilli’s decision not to run. The race would have been expensive and difficult. We’ve spoken several times, before the primary and since, and I’m convinced Mirilli’s voice will remain a vital one in local and state education debates. There’s a good chance she will eventually join the School Board, just as current board member Marj Passman was elected a year after she lost a close race to another current School Board member, Maya Cole.
Unfortunately, with Mirilli out of the running, the Seat 5 race is an uncontested one. That’s focused a good deal of attention on Manski, who I’ve known since she was writing for the Daily Cardinal on the University of Wisconsin campus. Among the several boards I have served on over the years, including those of the media reform group Free Press and Women in Media and News, I’ve been on the board of the reform group Liberty Tree, for which Manski has done fundraising work. Manski’s husband, Ben, worked for Liberty Tree before he left to manage Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s presidential run.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Elections, here.
Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is speaking out against the campaign of deception waged against people of color and others who support doing something now about Madison’s yawning achievement gap instead of blaming Gov. Scott Walker.
In a statement issued this week, Caire writes, “As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. … We are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring ….”
Walker had not even been sworn in as governor when the Urban League proposed establishing a charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, to address an achievement gap in which barely half of black and Hispanic children graduate from high school in the Madison public schools.
Caire mentioned as the two worst offenders in this campaign of dishonesty T.J. Mertz, candidate for School Board seat #5, and Green Party activist Ben Manski.
Manski’s wife, Sarah, jumped into the seat #5 race hoping to squeeze out an already announced candidate, Latina immigrant Ananda Mirilli. Sarah Manski’s candidacy was apparently encouraged by both Mayor Paul Soglin, who gave her a glowing campaign testimonial, and teachers union boss John Matthews, to whom Soglin referred Sarah Manski. On Dec. 30, Ben Manski blasted an email containing this outright distortion of minority candidate Ananda Mirilli’s position:
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.
Sarah Manski did a lot of damage to Madison on her way out of town.
When she won the school board primary, sucking up endorsements from prominent local officials — apparently knowing all the while that she might not be hanging around to sit on the board — she did a major disservice to our community. As Madison Times editor A. David Dahmer observed, her highhanded use of the school board seat as a “backup plan” smacks of contempt for the people who care deeply about what is happening in our schools. Those people happen to include both of Manski’s opponents: school-policy blogger and educator TJ Mertz and Ananda Mirilli, a longtime advocate for Madison youth who’s on the board of the Spanish immersion charter school Nuestro Mundo.
Since Manski withdrew after she won the primary, her name — and not third-place finisher Mirilli’s — will appear on the ballot. That has convinced a lot of people of color that white liberals, including school board member Marj Passman, deliberately colluded to keep a woman of color off the board.
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Election, here.
When Sarah Manski pulled out of the school board race because her husband was accepted to graduate school in California, many asked, myself included, why would she wait until after the primary to do so?
Now we know: It was all part of a plan to silence Ananda Mirilli, restorative justice manager at the YWCA in Madison, and also a person of color. Mirilli was unfairly and falsely targeted by Sarah Manski and her husband Ben as someone who was part of a movement to privatize public schools.
When I heard about this, I immediately assumed several members of Madison’s white elite progressive community was behind this. I believe that there is a movement in this community to silence anyone that doesn’t walk in lockstep with the status quo. They will trample over voices of color in order to preserve it.
I was accused by some of rushing to judgment. Yet I have not heard any of these people call for an investigation into who else knew about Manski’s plan and when.
In my last column, I wrote that Madison’s communities of color needed to become involved and engaged. They need to get off the sidelines and get in the game.
What I failed to add to that was it’s also hard to become a part of the game when it’s rigged against you.
If these had been two Republicans placing first and second in this primary with a Democrat finishing third under the same circumstances, progressives would be storming the Capitol right now. There would be hard-hitting editorials in progressive newspapers accusing conservatives of rigging elections, not the fluff pieces that we’ve been reading.
Madison’s communities of color are constantly told by white progressives that people like Governor Scott Walker, radio talk show host Vicki McKenna and blogger Dave Blaska are the enemy. While some may agree, they haven’t been the ones silencing, patronizing and marginalizing folks of color in Madison. That distinction belongs to the liberal establishment in this community.
You have consistently done the most harm to us, and it stinks. We’re tired of it.
As a former Urban League board member and chair, I am also disgusted by the way this organization has been treated by some of Madison’s political establishment. The Urban League has been at the forefront of many issues concerning the disenfranchised and people of color in this community, in particular, education. Yet over the past couple of years they have been treated like garbage.
Ever since CEO Kaleem Caire shined a bright light on an achievement gap and low graduation rates for students of color that has plagued the Madison Metropolitan School District for decades — even offering an idea to help to address it — Caire has been painted as a right-wing operative with the intent to privatize and destroy public schools. Almost anyone else who supported Madison Prep has been labeled the enemy because communities of color are asking for a better future for their children.
The smear campaign began with Nichele Nichols failed run for school board last year, and now Mirilli this year.
While I’m angry about what happened to Mirilli, I’m also happy she decided not to run as a write-in candidate. She had no chance of winning and running would have made white progressives in this city feel better about themselves.
They’d say, “At least she had a chance.”
Make no mistake about it: She had no chance. Everyone knows it.
I understand that it’s not fair to paint all white liberal progressives in Madison with a broad brush. Many are just as outraged by what’s been happening to folks of color in this community as we are.
If you sit by and watch while it happens and fail to stand up for what’s right, you become just as complicit as the ones who are doing it.
To the communities of color in Madison, I say this: Don’t forget what happened here. If there was ever a time to organize and become engaged, it is now.
The Madison Machine has put the fix in to elect a school board wholly beholden to the teachers union. No one suffers more than the poorly served minority community in Madison. Its candidates are being undermined for the benefit of the insider power structure that has allowed the minority achievement gap to grow to alarming levels.
Madison School Board member Mary Burke supports my suspicions. She says Madison Teachers Inc. president John Matthews is the brains behind Sarah Manski’s Trojan horse candidacy. Whoever is its author, the gambit succeeded in blocking a freethinking minority candidate, Ananda Mirilli, from surviving the front-end-loaded primary, so precipitously concluded.
For the record, John Matthews responded with a monosyllabic “no” mid-Sunday afternoon to my inquiry: “Is Mary Burke correct? Are you the brains behind the Sarah Manski bait and switch?”
So far, School Board member Marj Passman, the union’s most vociferous defender, and a longtime water carrier for the union, is left holding the bag. Matthew DeFour’s fine reportage in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal reports this:
Manski said she didn’t plan to run for School Board, but entered the race because Passman and a few other people [my italics] very strongly encouraged her to run. She declined to say who the other people were.
“I’ve been frustrated with the fact that our educational system continues to go downhill even with all the money the Legislature puts into it,” he said.
Pridemore said he will release more details about his educational agenda in forthcoming policy statements and has several education bills in the drafting phase. Asked if he believed schools should have armed teachers, he said that was a matter that should be left entirely to local school boards to decide.
Evers, who has been school superintendent since 2009, is seeking a second term. He has previously served as a teacher, principal, local school superintendent and deputy state schools superintendent.
Wisconsin’s education landscape has undergone some major changes during his tenure, including significant reductions in school spending and limits on collective bargaining for public workers that weakened teachers unions, which have supported Evers in the past.
Evers wants to redesign the funding formula that determines aid for each of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts and to provide more aid to schools. Also, he wants to reinvigorate technical education and to require all high schools to administer a new suite of tests that would offer a better way to track students’ academic progress and preparation for the ACT college admissions exam.
School Board president James Howard, the lone incumbent seeking re-election, faces a challenge from Greg Packnett, a legislative aide active with the local Democratic Party. The seats are officially nonpartisan.
Two candidates, low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and recently retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, are vying for Moss’ seat.
The race for Cole’s seat will include a primary on Feb. 19, the first one for a Madison School Board seat in six years. The candidates are Sarah Manski, a Green Party political activist who runs a website that encourages buying local; Ananda Mirilli, social justice coordinator for the YWCA who has a student at Nuestro Mundo Community School; and T.J. Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and local education blogger whose children attend West High and Randall Elementary schools.
Madison School Board president James Howard has drawn an opponent setting up the likelihood of three races for the spring election.
Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide, has filed paperwork to run for Howard’s seat. Howard has yet to file, but tells me he plans to do so by the Jan. 2 deadline.
Dean Loumos, executive director of low-income housing provider Housing Initiatives, and Wayne Strong, a retiring Madison police lieutenant, have filed to run for the seat being vacated by Beth Moss.
Adam Kassulke, a former Milwaukee teacher whose daughter attends Shabazz High School, and Ananda Mirilli, restorative justice coordinator with YWCA Madison and a Nuestro Mundo parent, have filed to run for the seat being vacated by Maya Cole.
One other update: State Rep. Kelda Roys and disability rights attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, who previously said they were thinking about running, have decided not to run.
The upcoming Madison School Board election is drawing plenty of interest from potential candidates, including at least two who say they definitely will run for an open seat.
Dean Loumos, executive director of low-income housing provider Housing Initiatives, and Ananda Mirilli, restorative justice program coordinator at YWCA Madison, both told me they plan to run no matter who else jumps in the race.
Several others, including state Rep. Kelda Roys, Edgewood College history professor T.J. Mertz, Democratic legislative aide Greg Packnett and attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick all told me they are considering a run.
Interest in the School Board election has grown since Beth Moss announced she would not seek a third term. Some are waiting until Maya Cole makes a decision about a third term before committing one way or the other.