Disappointing School Races

Well, so much for that.

Despite our repeated urgings here at YSDA, few candidates have stepped up to run for Madison School Board. At yesterday’s filing deadline only four candidates had filed to run for three seats. That means two seats will go uncontested. Four other board seats are not up this year.

Board President Ali Muldrow will run unopposed as will Nichelle Nichols, who ran for a seat back in 2012, but lost that race. She will replace Ananda Mirilli who declined to seek a second term. The only contested race will be between Laura Simkin and Shepherd Janeway.

I was hoping for candidates that would moderate the current board and get back to basics with an emphasis on reducing violence and disorder in the schools. Muldrow will continue the current policies and emphasis and Nichols’ background suggests that she will support that course as well. Nichols works for the National Equity Project, which is described as an organization that supports equitable learning practices and outcomes. It’s not that that’s a bad thing, but there certainly is no lack of that perspective on the board right now. Janeway is focussed on transgender issues, again something not lacking on the current board.

Simkin works for an organization that provides city accreditation for in-home learning. It’s not clear from the State Journal story what her priorities might be.

What’s discouraging is that none of the candidates demonstrates a sense of urgency about violence and disorder in the schools or seems to want to emphasize personal responsibility over group grievances. Late last year there were two melees outside of East High School and an assault outside of West while a student brought a loaded gun to La Follette. I think it was a mistake to remove School Resource Officers from the high schools, but none of the candidates is making that an issue, at least in their initial interviews.

Look folks, they say showing up is 90% of everything, and so I respect anybody who shows up to run for local public office. It’s a poorly compensated job in which your good deeds go largely unnoticed while you expose yourself to harsh criticism when something goes wrong. So, my purpose here is not to criticize any of the four candidates who stepped up to put their names on the line.

I’m also not going to be a whiner. If people who share my views and my concerns didn’t want to run, well, that’s on us. We can only conclude that the community as a whole supports the current direction of this board. I’ll have to continue to be a member of the loyal opposition, but I can’t say that that direction is illegitimate. If enough people felt strongly enough that a change in direction was needed we’d have hotly contested races for all three seats. The fact that we don’t speaks volumes.

But as a citizen and a taxpayer who views our public schools as the most important institution in our community and who respectfully disagrees with the priorities of this school board, I’m disappointed in my choices — or lack of them — in April.

Welcome to the 321st day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

4 thoughts on “Disappointing School Races

  1. Very disappointed in the lack of engagement. The county supervisor races are also just a wasted opportunity. Redistricting really jumbled them up and opened up some opportunities but I guess people are burned out. Which doesn’t herald good things for next fall.

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  2. I think you might appreciate the discussion on this topic on the local Reddit board: https://www.reddit.com/r/madisonwi/comments/rwlkui/just_1_contested_race_for_3_seats_on_the_madison/

    I don’t think it’s really a reflection that people like the way things are going, social media has just made the landscape for even local offices so toxic people are reluctant to run. That said, you’re correct that if there was more discontent it would eventually reach a boiling point where all the races well well contested.

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    1. Blaming “social media” is like blaming ink for libelous speech. Freedom Inc. and their allies at Progressive Dane harass and intimidate anyone they deem insufficiently woke, especially by playing the race card. That’s how they drove Gloria Reyes off the board. A little late-night F-bombing at her home. And when you do challenge the likes of Ali Muldrow, the WI State Journal won’t support you. Don’t ask how I know.

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      1. If you actually doubt that social media has worsened and hastened the spread of misinformation and polarization you must have the world’s biggest blinders on.

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