Three Contested Milwaukee School Board Seats On April Ballot
Plus: two uncontested races. Meet the candidates.
Directors, who set policy for and control the budget of MPS, are elected to four-year terms and serve on a part-time basis with an annual salary of approximately $18,950. The school system has approximately 69,000 students and also provides community programming through its Milwaukee Recreation arm. But some of the most controversial votes the board makes are to lease space within MPS buildings to outside schools.
In at least two cases, a new person will occupy the seat as two incumbents opted not to run for re-election. The board will also have new leaders as president Bob Peterson and vice president Sequanna Taylor are the two individuals not running for re-election.
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Below you’ll find basic information provided by the candidate and a link to any available campaign resources. If you click on their name you’ll be brought to any stories written about the candidate. Candidate names are listed in alphabetical order.
Background: District 1 covers the far northern portion of the city, including all of Milwaukee located north of W. Silver Spring Dr. and a limited southern segment that is west of N. 107th St. According to a district map, there are 18 schools within its boundaries including Harold S. Vincent High School. The seat is currently held by Marva Herndon, who was first elected in 2019.
Marva Herndon is a longtime resident of District 1, and enjoyed a wonderful career as a computer programmer. Marva is well known in the public education community for her fierce commitment to education, challenging the expansion of charter and voucher schools, staunchly opposing funding cuts to public schools, and demanding the high-quality public scAhools all Milwaukee children deserve.
Prior to her election to the Milwaukee Public School Board, Marva led a successful fight that ended with the passage of a city ordinance requiring all schools to have a fully equipped outdoor playground space. Marva also regularly testified before the City Chartering Board and the State Legislature on such issues as funding cuts to public schools, sale of public school buildings and takeover attacks on MPS. As a co-founder of Women Informed, Marva organized a bus tour of private, failing, unaccountable voucher schools to demonstrate how public tax dollars are taken from public schools and squandered on private voucher schools.
Marva was twice awarded the City of Milwaukee “Unsung Hero Award” for her outstanding community service. Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) also honored her with their, “Friend of Public Education” award.
As a Milwaukee Public School Board Director, Marva was successful in the passage of Music Instruction and Art in all schools that lacked these services. For this achievement, she was awarded the “Distinguished School Board Member Award” by the Wisconsin Music Educators Association in October 2021. Most recently, Marva was successful in the new designation of River Trail K-8 School of Agriculture Science – Citywide and a feeder school to Vincent High School’s Agriculture Program. She has also been a champion of smaller class sizes, improving mental health services in our schools and expanding after school programming. Marva is now running for a second term on the MPS School Board.
Shandowlyon’s desire to serve as a School Board Director is grounded in her experience as a parent of a son with disabilities. Shandowlyon felt disempowered during her son’s IEP meeting which propelled her into pursuing her own education. With over 25 years of service in the field of education, Shandowlyon served at MPS as a handicapped child assistant, paraprofessional, special education teacher, assistant principal, principal, and central office administrator. She served as Adjunct Faculty at two institutions of higher education as well as Director at Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction and Department of Administration.
“It is time to move our educational system along the trajectory towards continuous improvement by implementing my Bill of Rights for Students and focusing on ensuring that every student is guaranteed their inalienable right to a sound basic education. We can no longer ignore our communal and moral responsibility to our future, our children. We have to maximize potential student by student; parent by parent; educator by educator; and, school by school. I feel a tremendous sense of urgency in this matter.”
“The Wisconsin Constitution calls for a sound basic education that the legislature defined as including mathematics, science, reading, writing, geography, history, arts, music, vocation training, social science, health, physical education, and foreign languages. My 20-point education policy is a plan to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for high post-secondary outcomes.” Shandowlyon is a graduate of Custer High School, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Springfield College, and Cardinal Stritch University and earned her doctorate at National Louis University. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. Shandowlyon previously sought office as Wisconsin State Superintendent.
Background: District 3 covers the northeastern portion of the city. The oddly shaped district is generally bounded by W. Silver Spring Dr., W. Locust St., Interstate 43 and N. 60th St.
It includes 15 schools, two of which are high schools: Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education (the former Custer) and Rufus King High School. The seat is currently held by board vice president Sequanna Taylor, who also serves on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Taylor did not file to run for re-election.
My name is Gabi Hart & I am running for this years School Board of Directors seat in District 3 because I feel it is a natural progression that coincides with the work and investment I have put in with school aged youth in Milwaukee. The different programs and initiatives I have helped co-found have been successful with dealing specifically with the more dire need students, as well as their parents, which I continue to see there being a disconnect in prioritization in the formal classrooms and schools, which adds and or leads to the negative statistics in behavior, attendance, or academics.
I know I can add a grassroot and community lens to policy and procedure in MPS, and additionally I believe some of my connections to some key stakeholders can help foster and bridge missing relationships in my district to much needed resources. I’ll be a champion for issues I have heard and supported the students and parents voice over the years, including better food, activities, advocacy, and including them in everything from the budgeting process to building policies.
Jackson did not provide candidate information by the time of publication.
Background: The single at-large seat on the board is elected on a citywide basis. Bob Peterson, the current office holder, was first elected to the seat in 2019 after working for the district and ultimately leading the union. He opted not to run for re-election.
As a Milwaukee Public Schools parent and long-time public education advocate, I am running for the MPS School Board to ensure that every student has class sizes small enough for individual attention, amazing educators who are supported and respected, reliable transportation, nutritious school meals, and an education that celebrates diversity. Public education is a civil right and public responsibility. I will unapologetically fight against privatization schemes that harm MPS students.
I currently serve as the marketing director for Rethinking Schools – a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education through social justice teaching and education activism.
I’m proud to have early endorsements from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, Communication Workers of America Local 4603, The Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America, and Our Wisconsin Revolution.
It is with a great sense of love, commitment, and dedication to Milwaukee Public School students and families that I am seeking the citywide seat for the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
Spence did not respond to a request for candidate information.
Two incumbents won’t face any challengers. District 2 representative Erika Siemsen, first elected in 2019, is running unopposed after challenger Pamela J. Holmes failed to submit a sufficient number of signatures. District 8 representative Megan O’Halloran, first elected in 2019, is also running unopposed.
The seats held by four other members, Aisha Carr, Jilly Gokalgandhi, Marcela Garcia and Henry Leonard, are not up for election. Each joined the board in 2021 and has a term that runs through April 2025.
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