Madison School Board Seat 5 (Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, Ananda Mirilli); Out of State Fundraising (!), Utility Bill Lawsuit, Candidate’s Spouse Works for the District, Status Quo Comments

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.

T.J. Mertz: How did Act 10 prevent you from paying your electric bill, and what about your conflict of interest? by David Blaska

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.

Madison Mayor Paul “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” Soglin Asked Sarah Manski to Run for the School Board; “Referred” her to MTI Executive Director John Matthews

Matthew Defour

Manski declined to name the other people who recruited her and has not returned calls since last Friday.
Soglin said when he spoke to Manski he did not know who the other candidates were or which seat she was going to run for.
“I thought she would be a good candidate committed to public education,” Soglin said. “The only discussion I had with Sarah Manski was her candidacy for the School Board. There was nothing else to discuss.”
Soglin said he was “disappointed for our community and disappointed for her” at the news of her withdrawal.
Matthews said in an email that Soglin referred Manski to him for a discussion about her candidacy, but that the grad school application never came up. He said he learned Manski would be moving to California when she called him at 6 p.m. on Feb. 20, the night before she announced her withdrawal from the race.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Madison’s long time disastrous reading results and the school board.
2013 Madison School Election Intrigue (Public!)
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
I’m glad DeFour continues to dig.

Commentary on Sarah Manski’s Sudden School Board Candidacy Withdrawal

The Capital Times:

Sarah Manski did the right thing when she quit the race for an open Madison School Board seat just days after finishing first in the Feb. 19 primary. Manski’s strong primary finish had positioned her as the front-runner in the general election April 2. But after she learned that her husband had been accepted for graduate school in California, she recognized that it is not appropriate to seek a term of office she could not complete.
Manski brought to the race big ideas and a commitment to build real coalitions to expand and improve upon Madison’s support for public education. She was relentless, and right, in her unequivocal rejection of Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to school funding and assaults on local democracy. That’s why she won more than 45 percent of the vote in the primary.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.

Sarah Manski and the messed up Madison school board election

Dave Cieslewicz:

I know Sarah and Ben Manski, and I wish them well in California. Congratulations to Ben for getting into a prestigious graduate program there.
But graduate schools don’t just call you up out of the blue and say you’re in! It’s not like the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes — you plan for this.
So, the question is, if Sarah Manski knew that her husband had a good chance of getting into school out there, and she knew she would go with him, then why did she run for school board in the first place? And while she was running, why didn’t she disclose that possibility?
Both Manskis have put transparency and concern about the process at the center of their careers. So why was it lacking here?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Election, here.

Manski and Democrats used Madison’s minorities as partisan cannon fodder (2013 Madison School Board Election)

David Blaska

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.

Madison Urban League head calls out Manski and Mertz for dishonest school board campaign

David Blaska

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.

Is teachers union boss John Matthews behind the Manski-gate conspiracy?

David Blaska:

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.

Voucher Posturing & Special Interest Groups

Pat Schneider

Why is EAGnews, the website for a Michigan-based “education reform” group — proudly pro-voucher, pro-charter school, anti-union and basically anti-public schools — blasting local Madison media outlets with alarming press releases about spending in the Madison School District?
To galvanize Madison citizens into demanding accountability from school district officials, says Steve Gunn, communications director for the group.
To promote EAG’s pro-voucher agenda, say critics.
“Maybe we’ll whet some taxpayers’ appetite, and they’ll march down there and ask, ‘What are you spending my money on?'” Gunn said in a phone interview Thursday. The website is part of Education Action Group, a private nonprofit organization out of Muskegon, Mich.
The headline of the press release EAGnews sent to local media Thursday proclaims: “Madison schools spent $243,000 for hotels, more than $300,000 for taxis and more than $150,000 for pizza in 2012.”
Well, actually it’s $232,693 in hotel expenses in 2012 that EAG cites in the body of its press release and associated article. Beyond the discrepancy between headline and text, both press release and article mash together credit card expenses for travel by district employees with expenditures for routine district functions. In citing more than $300,000 in taxi cab charges paid to three local companies, EAG does not mention that the companies are hired to transport special needs, homeless and Work and Learn students to school and job placement sites.
Gunn admits that the taxi charges or the “cool $4.8 million” in payments to bus companies might be for transporting children, but says he doesn’t know for sure because the school district did not deliver promised details about the spending list it released in response to an open records request.

“Wisconsin Wave” appears to be active on governance issues as well, including education, among others.


is a project of the Liberty Tree Foundation. The Liberty Tree Foundation appeared during the 2013 Madison School Board race due to Sarah Manski’s candidacy and abrupt withdrawal. Manski’s husband Ben is listed as a board member and executive director of Liberty Tree. Capital Times (the above article appeared on The Capital Times’ website) writer John Nichols is listed as a Liberty Tree Foundation advisor.
Long-term disastrous reading scores are an existential threat to our local schools not vouchers

Re-thinking Madison School Board Elections

The Capital Times:

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.

2013 Madison School Board Election Updates





Pat Schneider:

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.

Matthew DeFour

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.

Madison’s racial divide: The school board race exposes an ugly problem

Amy Barrilleaux:

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 says response to union’s voucher question an error

Matthew DeFour

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.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses charter schools, teacher evaluation

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Race a Factor in the 2013 Madison School Board Election? I believe it is more of a “class” and/or “we know best” issue

Matthew DeFour (and many others):

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.

Capital Times Madison School Board Endorsements

The Capital Times

The Madison School Board will face difficult, perhaps definitional, choices in the next several years. To make those choices, the board must have the right mix of members. Members must be absolutely committed to public education. Yet that’s not enough. They must have varied experience and bold visions for how to address the district’s challenges. With this in mind, we recommend: Howard, Mertz (Primary winner Sarah Manski dropped out of the race, remains on the ballot), Strong

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison’s Proposed Charter School (!) Policy (Now Explicit: Union Represented Only)

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel; Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff:

During last month’s Committee meeting, we presented a new, rewritten Policy 10000. At that time, we explained that the changes contained therein were intended to reflect the time the Board has spent reviewing and discussing Dr. Julie Mead’s work regarding principle-based policymaking. Over the course of the last meeting, several members suggested changes for and improvements to Draft 1 of the rewritten Policy 10000. Tonight we present Draft 2, which we believe incorporates the Board’s suggestions and input. Attached hereto is a redline draft highlighting the differences between Draft 1 of the rewritten policy and Draft 2.
The changes include:

  • Express language stating only instrumentality schools will be considered (p. 10-1)
  • Refinement of the guiding principles (pp. 10-1and10-2)
  • Revisions to the timeline to include more Board involvement and specificity (p.10-3)
  • Board review and approval of Initial Applications (p. 10-5)
  • Clarification of the timing of the Superintendent’s Administrative Analysis (p. 10-6)
  • Removal of the term “qualified” in Section IV (p. 10-7)
  • Additional detail regarding location requirements (p. 10-8)

The changes in Draft 2 do not reflect any of the proposed statutory amendments contained in Governor Walker’s biennial budget. At this time, the changes are only proposals and may or may not be passed as law. Obviously, if any of the proposed changes, which primarily relate to independent and instrumentality charter schools, do become law, we will need to review Policy 10000 again to insure compliance.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” Soglin Asked Sarah Manski to Run for the School Board; “Referred” her to MTI Executive Director John Matthews.

Could restorative justice bring education antagonists together?

Pat Schneider:

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.

Commentary on the 2013 Madison School Board Races

John Nichols:

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.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses why he is running, the achievement gap

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Community members are at each other’s throats after the Madison school board catastrophe

Ruth Conniff:

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.

A bit of History on The Madison School District’s at large board seats

Chris Rickert:

Since Sarah Manski dropped out of the Madison School Board race two days after winning her primary, she’s been pilloried not only by the school district’s smattering of conservatives but by the same liberal, pro-democracy folks she once epitomized.
Leaving the race effectively left voters with little choice in who will get the seat she briefly coveted. It will either be second-place primary finisher T.J. Mertz or whomever the board appoints should Manski — whose name will remain on the April general election ballot — get the most votes.
Sure, Manski deserves the criticism.
But in creating the current mess, she had quite a bit of help from people pulling the district’s strings back when she was just a kid.
Until 1985, if one candidate dropped out of a school board race it mattered less because candidates weren’t required to run for particular, numbered seats.
Instead, they filed as candidates, primaries were held if the number of candidates was more than twice the number of seats up for election and, in the general election, voters voted for their top two or three choices, depending on whether there were two or three seats on the ballot.
Under that system, the people who actually got the most votes were assured of winning seats. And if one person dropped out of a six-person race — say, after a primary — you still had five to choose from.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

2013 School Board Elections – Connor: Madison liberals hurting communities of color

Derrell Connor:

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.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Election, here. And, GRUMPS resurfaces.

Ananda Mirilli: I was falsely depicted as pro-voucher

Pat Schneider:

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.

The Madison School Board, Experience and our long time Disastrous Reading Results
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Elections, here.

Madison School board hubbub just another mockery of democracy

Chris Rickert:

It’s ironic that democracy activist Sarah Manski would run for the Madison School Board knowing that if she won, she might have to resign before her term was up.
As it happened, she dropped out of the race on Thursday, just two days after winning her primary — turning what had been a solidly democratic contest among three candidates into a cakewalk for one. T.J. Mertz is now the only person on the ballot who could actually take the seat.
Ironic, too, that fellow progressive and current board vice president Marj Passman would allegedly — i.e., Passman denies it — tell Manski not to worry about having to resign because if she did, the board would, as Manski claims Passman told her, “appoint somebody good.”
But I can’t be that shocked about a pair of progressives in democratically engaged Madison engaging in some democratically questionable behavior when the process for electing school board members in Madison is itself a minor mockery of democracy.
Here’s why:

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

And So, It Continues 2: “Pro Union” or “Union Owned”


Madison School Board.

Chris Rickert:

There’s also the obvious point: If seniority and degree attainment make for better teachers, why are seniority protections and automatic raises for degree attainment necessary in a collective bargaining agreement or an employee handbook?
One would think good teachers should have secure employment, dibs on choice positions and regular raises by virtue of being, well, good teachers.
I’m not drawing attention to the ridiculousness of seniority and degree-attainment perks because I think Walker’s decision to effectively end public-sector collective bargaining was a good one.
But support for these common contract provisions is one way to measure school board candidates.
There’s a difference, after all, between being pro-union and union-owned.

Focus needed on long-term educational goals by Dave Baskerville:

There is now much excitement around Madison and the state with the selection of a new Madison School District superintendent, the upcoming election of new School Board members, the expected re-election of State Superintendent Tony Evers, the rollout of new Common Core state standards, and now a vigorous debate, thanks to our governor, over the expansion of school vouchers.
The only problem is that for those of us who pay attention to classroom results and want to see our students really move out of second-class global standings, there is no mention of long-term “stretch goals” that could really start getting all of our kids — black and white, poor and middle class — reading like the Canadians, counting like the Singaporeans or Finns, and doing science like the Japanese — in other words, to close the gaps that count long-term.
Let’s focus on two stretch goals: Wisconsin’s per capita income will be 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030, and our eighth grade math, science and reading scores will be in the top 10 globally by 2030.
This would take not only vision, but some serious experimentation and radical changes for all of us. Can we do it? Of course, but not with just “feel good” improvement and endless debate over means to that end, and without clear global benchmarks, score cards, and political will.

www.wisconsin2.org
The New Madison Superintendent Needs to “Make Things Happen”, a Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Barely half of the district’s black students are graduating from high school in four years. That’s a startling statistic. Yet it hasn’t produced a dramatic change in strategy.
Ms. Cheatham, it’s your job to make things happen.
Your top priority must be to boost the performance of struggling students, which requires innovation, not just money. At the same time, Madison needs to keep its many higher-achieving students engaged and thriving. The district has lost too many families to the suburbs, despite a talented staff, diverse offerings and significant resources.
Being Madison’s superintendent of schools will require more than smarts. You’ll need backbone to challenge the status quo. You’ll need political savvy to build support for action.
Your experience leading reform efforts in urban school districts is welcome. And as chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, you showed a willingness to put the interests of students ahead of the grown-ups, including a powerful teachers union.
We appreciate your support for giving parents more options, including public charter schools and magnets. You seem to understand well the value of strong teacher and student assessments, using data to track progress, as well as staff development.
The traditional classroom model of a teacher lecturing in front of students is changing, and technology can help provide more individualized attention and instruction. The long summer break — and slide in learning — needs to go.

Madison School Board Election Intrigue (Public!)

he top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Madison School Board primary said Friday she ran for the seat knowing she might not be able to serve out her term because her husband was applying for graduate school in other states.
Sarah Manski, who dropped out of the race Thursday, said she mentioned those concerns to School Board member Marj Passman, who Manski said encouraged her to run. Passman told her it wouldn’t be a problem if she had to resign her seat because the board would “appoint somebody good,” Manski said.
Passman vigorously denied encouraging Manski to run or ever knowing about her husband’s graduate school applications. After learning about Manski’s statement from the State Journal, Passman sent an email to other School Board members saying “I had no such conversation with her.”
“It’s sad to believe that this kind of a person came close to being elected to one of the most important offices in our city,” Passman wrote in the email, which she also forwarded to the State Journal.
Manski said in response “it’s possible (Passman) didn’t remember or it’s possible it’s politically inconvenient for her to remember.”

And so it continues, part 1.

2013 Madison School Election Intrigue (Public!)

Matthew DeFour:

The top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Madison School Board primary said Friday she ran for the seat knowing she might not be able to serve out her term because her husband was applying for graduate school in other states.
Sarah Manski, who dropped out of the race Thursday, said she mentioned those concerns to School Board member Marj Passman, who Manski said encouraged her to run. Passman told her it wouldn’t be a problem if she had to resign her seat because the board would “appoint somebody good,” Manski said.
Passman vigorously denied encouraging Manski to run or ever knowing about her husband’s graduate school applications. After learning about Manski’s statement from the State Journal, Passman sent an email to other School Board members saying “I had no such conversation with her.”
“It’s sad to believe that this kind of a person came close to being elected to one of the most important offices in our city,” Passman wrote in the email, which she also forwarded to the State Journal.
Manski said in response “it’s possible (Passman) didn’t remember or it’s possible it’s politically inconvenient for her to remember.”

I am pleased and astonished that substantive questions are being raised by our local media…..

2013 Wisconsin DPI Superintendent and Madison School Board Candidates

Patrick Marley & Erin Richards:

“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.

Don Pridemore links: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming. Incumbent Tony Evers: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming.
Matthew DeFour:

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.

Clemenza’s Advice to Madison

John Roach:

Here’s a good idea.
In light of the retirement of Pope Benedict, Madison should demand a similar transition.
Pope John Matthews I, the Vicar of Madison Education, should step down from his throne. Admittedly this suggestion is informed by my participation on the board of the Urban League of Greater Madison and the now-defunct Madison Prep board.
But look, Matthews is still in good health. His $300K per annum package at the helm of Madison Teachers Inc. has placed him among the very one percent many of his followers revile. Like the Pope–and Don Vito Corleone–John has fought too many wars. He now prowls his mansion at night, toying with the local Democratic Party he has purchased, fighting enemies that do not exist, in battles that need not be waged.
No better example of why John’s retirement would be good for our New Madison, rich with faces of many colors and voices, than The Manski Debacle. Never have Progressive White Folk appeared so utterly smug and ruthless as when Sarah made her dash.
First, it has to be asked: Why was Manski even running for the Madison School Board? Kids? No. A passion for education? No. So why? Because The John Father wanted it to be so.
So The John Father, like Don Corleone, unleashed his money and powerful networks. The usual list of progressive endorsers fell in line creating a snapshot for Manski whiter than Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. The Cap Times played its part, never seeming to understand that “all white progressive” is an oxymoron. Did any of them think for a minute that the sea of white faces for Manski communicated something to minority Madison? This is how tone deaf they have become.