Madison school board candidates face off in primary

Tuesday election will single out two for seat five

Published On: Feb 17 2013 11:48:01 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 17 2013 11:55:49 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

A two-term veteran is leaving Madison Metropolitan School District’s board of education, and three candidates are vying for her position.

A primary this Tuesday will narrow down the candidates to two.

Maya Cole will no longer serve on the board of education after this term. On Tuesday, Feb. 19, voters will choose who will move on to the general election for seat five in April.

The three candidates are Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, and Ananda Mirilli.

Manski supports collective bargaining and has led a number of efforts against Governor Walker's policies in the past. She says that she wants to be a strong voice against those pushing from privatization in the schools, and will be an advocate for teachers to be respected and valued.

Manski says that her long-standing relationships with public officials and community leaders, along with her business experience, set her apart from the other candidates.

Mertz said his deep involvement in public education issues has given him the knowledge, experience, and relationships to be successful on the board. He put the budget on the forefront of challenges in the coming term, as well as employee issues and Madison's approach to standardized testing. Mertz is working off of a motto of "prepared, progressive, passionate."

Mirilli said she’s focusing on the achievement gap and addressing discrepancies in academic accomplishment, behavioral referral, and other issues. She said the community needs someone with experience in the schools, something she said she has over her opponents.

Mirilli also emphasized that she does not support privatization of schools, and feels that her campaign is the only one not motivated by political gain.

Kaleem Caire, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison hasn't seen a contested primary for the board of education for quite a few years. He said this board election is the most important one in decades, and feels like there is a definite need for change.

Caire said if the people who know the classroom best don't get out to the polls, nothing will improve in the Madison school system.

"If they don't, then we will get what it is that we get, and I am very concerned about this election, that it could keep us stuck where we are rather than grow and improve for the future," Caire said.

Caire said his non-profit will not endorse a candidate, but that he does sees a clear choice in the race.

On the other hand, Madison Teachers Incorporated will endorse a candidate once the primary results are in. President John Matthews said the candidates have very similar platforms at this point, but he expects that to change once the first election narrows the ballot down to two people.

Matthews also sees opportunity for significant change on the board. With three positions up to a vote in April and a new superintendent, Matthews said voters need to get to the polls to make sure that change does happen.

"They have the opportunity here to elect a board of education that will function far different than it has in many many years," Matthews said.

For more information on Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, and Ananda Mirilli, visit their web sites.

Go here for more information on polling places.