School Board Races: Yes, Experience Matters

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.

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13 Responses to School Board Races: Yes, Experience Matters

  1. Kristen says:

    Thanks Ed! Lord knows you and I can disagree, as well. But I agree 100% on your choice of Board-mates here. (And I’m hoping we can convince Ananda to make another run of it in the future – despite my strong support for TJ, I think she would be an excellent addition to the BOE.) Here I thought I’d be the only one with a “James Howard” yard sign right next to my “T.J. Mertz” yard sign….I would also add that James sends his kids to some of the highest-poverty schools in the district – and is an active, engaged parent in addition to his BOE responsibilities. I disagree with James on many issues – but he has earned my respect and my vote through his “walk the talk” manner.

  2. Laura Chern says:

    I agree with you that experience matters. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to run for school board. I attended the forum on Feb. 18 and was very impressed with both Wayne and Dean. Both bring interesting and valuable life experiences to the board. I was also impressed with Greg Packnett. I thought his answer about how to increase community involvement was well thought out. I strongly support TJ Mertz as he has put in so much time and effort understanding the issues and budget. I find TJ to be open minded and willing to compromise. I encourage everyone to attend the next BOE forum.

  3. I’m glad you’re supporting TJ. That bodes well for a better functioning board in the future.

  4. Mark says:

    Thanks for the information Ed. I’ve only looked closely at the race that I needed to vote in Tuesday. I voted for TJ Tuesday, but kept an open mind about Sarah (I assumed she’d get through with or without my vote). Her post election emphasis on being “he strongest voice against Scott Walker and the Republicans” give me pause though. No doubt that rhetoric will rally a lot of votes to her candidacy, but I for one was struck by how out of place it felt in a local school board race. She gives the impression of a single issue candidate — and in regards to that one issue there doesn’t seem any daylight between her & TJ anyway. I guess I worry those kinds of people may not get as engaged in to the nuts and bolts details of the budget etc. Equally curious is her statement she’s the better candidate because she’d be the “strongest leader.” I wasn’t aware the board needed a leader?

  5. Joe Smith says:

    Dear Ed: you say experience matters, yet I think doing some research also matters. Loumis is a former teacher in MMSD, For many years it looks like he has worked with people with mental illness. He has taught in the Dane County Jail assisting inmates get their GEDs. Looks like his own kids have gone through the MMSD school system. Wayne Strong is a cop and teaches at Globe University. I only know any of this after spending 10 minutes doing a little research. Yet I remember you did no outside research when Madison Prep was trying to become a charter school, and actually liked what you saw but the only reason you didn’t vote for it was because it would affect the union matters. I find it interesting that with a little research I was against the school because it was not going to be overseen by MMSD or its board, and it would have ended up cherry picking the children who cost less than the average MMSD student taking money from the rest of the schools and leaving those students who would cost MMSD left to the other schools to educate. The only experience he has with kids who are stuggling are the ones who are being arrested, while Loumos has first hand experience with not only being a teacher in MMSD in the alternative program, but also works first hand with those who are trying to do right but are struggling because of a mental illness. If you are truly looking who may have better experience to be on the MMSD, you may need to relook your choices. If you are looking at who you know personally, then don’t use experience as the reason one is better than another.

  6. Laura Chern says:

    I think the Loumos/Strong race may be one of the most interesting in MMSD BOE history. I wish I could vote for both.

  7. Karin Clark says:

    I believe the best possible result would be the win by Wayne Strong so we can bring in a Board Member who has worked with youth in Madison for years, who understands the achievement gap and the need for high expectations coupled with cultural relevancy and mutual respect. What remains as a gaping need on our board is the Latino voice. Last year’s candidate just didn’t have the background needed, I didn’t think, to be effective. I was happy to hear that Mertz was willing to have Ananda Mirilli on forums as the election approaches so that her write in candidacy has an engine behind it should she decide to restart her campaign after the charade of a primary last week.

    Mr. Hughes, I thank you for your honesty regarding the candidates in this race. Despite the comments about Loumos above, I do not see his background in mental health or alternative education being strong reasons for his position on the school board when our crisis is the achievement gap. Our kids need to see themselves reflected in the faces making decisions about their lives. Strong and Mirilli would be a wave of hope to a district in serious distress.

    • Joe Smith says:

      Karin, you work for Urban League with your boss being Kaleem Caire who tried to push Madison Prep through as a charter school, which had many issues with it including not having the school board oversee it. He wanted to have a curriculum which has very high standards and if the child ended up not succeeding with this curriculum, he basically would be kicked out and sent back to the regular public schools. His examples of successful schools, namely one in Chicago, had the average ACT score of 13 and a very small percentage of students stayed at the school for 4 full years. We can not forget that Kaleem Caire stated at the Dec meeting he would make sure that he had “his people” run until they took over the school board. He tried this with Nichols last year, and he though he had Burke who pulled her money from the program when it was not approved by the board.. James Howard voted for Madison Prep in the past. Ananda Mirilla has spoken in public she supports Madison Prep and has done some work with Kaleem Caire. And based on your comments, I am assuming Wayne Strong is another plant of Caire’s.

      You feel that someone who has been in a MMSD classroom for 3 years not have any idea on what happens in the school system? Really? Alternative education means he is working with students at risk – who are exactly the students who are in the achievement gap. He has taught students at a jail who did not succeed in their school system and working on their GED. Any idea on how many students are not succeeding who may be fighting a mental illness? Not sure why you don’t see this experience as someone who may have ideas on how to close the achievement gap. Strong is a cop. Why do you think he is going to have any knowledge on what happens in the classroom, what a typical day looks like for both students and staff, or how administration typically works. He may be bonding with students who he coaches, but we have no idea, are these his kids friends, are these students who are already successful in the school system? I have not seen ANY information that he has any experience working with students successfully who are struggling to succeed in the school system.

      You commented that “Our kids need to see themselves reflected in the faces making decisions about their lives”. How many children have gone to a school board meeting? How many students even know what the school board does? Why would you even think that skin color on the school board will be great role models for our students in MMSD? Doesn’t Ms Silvera have a child with hispanic roots? What role models on the board does the LBGT students have? Skin color is only skin deep and does not make the person a good or bad person nor does it make them a good or bad candidate. This is called racism.

  8. Laura Chern says:

    There is a BOE Candidate Forum on Thursday, March 21, 2013 6:30-8 p.m.
    at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Dr.
    Free childcare will be available
    Co-sponsored by:
    the Northside Planning Council and the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition.

    Seat #3: Dean Loumos vs. Wayne Strong
    Seat #4: (incumbent) James Howard vs. Greg Packnett
    Seat #5: TJ Mertz
    (Sarah Manski’s name will be on the ballot, but she has withdrawn from the race.)

    Please pass this on to people you think might be interested.

  9. Pingback: Latest News from the Campaign | TJ Mertz for Madison Board of Education, Seat 5

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