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
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.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.