Although I had made up my mind regarding which candidate I would support in the three-way contest for Madison School Board seat 5, I resisted writing about the races during primary season. Based on what I'd read, whom my friends (Facebook and otherwise) were supporting, and what I'd heard about performances at candidate forums, it seemed like there were three qualified individuals running. I thought I'd just see how the election would play out.
By the time I went to bed on February 19, it was clear Sarah Manski would win the primary with almost half the vote. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Manski had been endorsed by a number of prominent local politicians (including Paul Soglin and Mark Pocan); hers was the only campaign literature that had arrived on my doorstep in the weeks preceding the election. Perhaps when turnout is extremely low, a few strategically dropped pamphlets might be all one needs to capture frontrunner status.
When I awoke the next morning, I read that words were already flying between Manski and the next highest vote getter, TJ Mertz. This is politics, I thought -- I shouldn't expect it to be pretty.
I have to say though, perhaps naively, I still expected it to be fair. And something just didn't sit right when I learned Wednesday afternoon that Manski would be dropping out of the race. As the ultimate non-conspiracy theorist, I assumed this was supremely poor planning on her part (I always tell my kids don't start what you don't intend to finish), but hardly something nefarious.
But when the news broke this past Saturday that Manski claims current school board member Marj Passman encouraged her to run despite her likely inability to serve out her full term, the story, regardless of its validity, moved Manski's dropout status from an unfortunate incident to a genuine embarrassment.
I agree with many that Manski's actions have cost the community a real choice in this election. Instead of a meaningful debate between two qualified candidates, we'll either have a default winner or an uphill write-in campaign for third place finisher Ananda Mirilli.
But a potential lack of choice on April 2 is not my only issue.
Here we are with public schools under attack. Those espousing to be its greatest defenders -- school board candidates and board members -- are engaging in what feels like a political circus (and you know how I feel about the circus). And their actions reflect, justified or not, on the district as a whole.
Perception, I know, is not reality. There are numerous MMSD families, teachers, and staff members who know that while not perfect, many excellent things are happening in our schools every day. But perception is important, and here we have two back-to-back public missteps -- first, last month's screwed-up superintendent search and now this seat 5 controversy -- that are making district leadership appear unprofessional and clumsy.
There are likely far bigger dangers. But it's not just things like underfunding, vouchers and privatization that can potentially destroy public schools. Over time, public-confidence-eroding incidents like the ones that have taken place over the past few weeks can do damage, as well.
Manski doesn't just owe Mirilli an apology for failing to keep her name off the ballot. I think she owes the district an apology, too.comments powered by Disqus
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.