From where I sit, the contrast between the remaining School Board candidates is stark.
I have known and respected Wayne Strong since we served together four years ago on the School District’s Strategic Planning Committee. I am impressed with Wayne’s approach to the issues and by the countless hours he has devoted to his community work coaching and serving as a role model for many, many of our students.
TJ Mertz and I disagree on a host of issues, Lord knows. But if all Board members had to agree on everything, there’d be no need for seven of us. Despite our differences, I like and respect TJ. To those who follow what’s happening in our schools, it is obvious that no one is more knowledgeable about school issues or better prepared to serve on the Board than TJ.
James Howard, of course, is completing his first term on the Board and his second year as our Board president. James doesn’t speak as often as some of us, but when he talks about the achievement gap, the culture of our schools or the need for a more diverse work force, we all sit up and listen. James brings a compelling moral authority to his work on the Board that benefits us all.
There is no mystery about why Wayne, TJ and James are running for the School Board. They are each deeply invested in our schools and our community. They will all be willing to roll up their sleeves and commit to the hard day-to-day work of moving our schools forward.
The other three School Board candidates are Dean Loumos, Sarah Manski and Greg Packnett. I don’t know any of them. During my five years on the School Board, none of them has had any involvement in any Madison school issue. I don’t recall seeing any of them at any School Board meeting, though I have read that Sarah Manski may have been at a meeting in December. They have not been among the scores of community members who have spoken to us on nearly every conceivable topic during public appearances at our Board meetings.
We receive school-related emails from hundreds of Madison residents each year. Searching through my email archives, I see that Dean Loumos sent us an email last August urging us to reopen our union contracts and increase pay for school staff. I have no record of Sarah Manski or Greg Packnett ever writing to the Board about anything.
Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.