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Madison School Board Member Chris Gomez Schmidt not running … – Madison.com

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Madison School Board member Chris Gomez Schmidt is not running for reelection in the spring.
There will be at least one competitive race for Madison School Board this spring after board member Chris Gomez Schmidt announced she won’t be seeking a second term and at least two candidates have jumped in the race to replace her.
Gomez Schmidt’s seat is one of two up for reelection in April. Board member Nicki Vander Meulen is also up for reelection and has announced she will seek a third term.
In 2020, Gomez Schmidt was narrowly elected to the board at the height of the pandemic. She filed her non-candidacy paperwork with the city clerk’s office last week.
“I appreciate the trust you have placed in me to serve on the board. As a proud supporter of public education, I have done my best to represent the interests of our students, staff, district and community,” Gomez Schmidt said in her announcement, saying the decision not to run again was “difficult.”
In reflecting on her three years, Gomez Schmidt highlighted navigating the pandemic, adopting a new K-5 reading curriculum and passing a $350 million referendum in 2020.
Most recently, Gomez Schmidt was part of the majority on the School Board’s 4-3 vote to keep stand-alone honors classes in Madison schools. She also joined the board in unanimously voting to reinstate Jeffrey Copeland as Sennett Middle School’s principal.
Gomez Schmidt
“I am grateful that this experience has challenged me in how I think about achievement, disparities, privilege and opportunity,” she said. “My sincere hope is that we can collectively find ways to continue to have necessary and challenging discussions with respect for one another.”
She said the school district’s challenges going forward are “significant,” including declining enrollment, achievement gaps, staffing shortages, aging facilities and more.
Gomez Schmidt’s decision leaves the race for Seat 6 on the board open. But two candidates — former Madison City Council candidate Badri Lankella and former Madison teacher Blair Mosner-Feltham — have already thrown their hats in the ring.
The School Board’s election system is unusual in that board members are expected to represent the entire district and can live anywhere within its boundaries, but must choose to run for specific seats on the board, rather than all appear on one ballot with those getting the most votes winning seats. The system means that in cases in which there are, say, three candidates for two seats, one of those candidates is essentially assured of winning before any votes are cast. 
Lankella, a computer engineer, formerly ran for Madison City Council in 2019, losing to Donna Moreland by about 14%. Lankella was among those who applied to fill the vacancy when Moreland resigned from City Council in 2020, but he was not chosen.
In a Q&A with the Wisconsin State Journal during the 2019 election, Lankella said he had two children in the Madison School District. In another Q&A with the Cap Times, he said that safe bus routes and neighborhoods, as well as building a “competitive school system” were among his top issues as a City Council candidate.
To better the school system at the time, Lankella recommended enhancing advanced learning programs, specifically science, technology, engineering and math programs.
Mosner-Feltham announced last week that she had filed her candidacy paperwork for the School Board seat. According to her LinkedIn page, she is an equitable multi-level systems of support coordinator for the Sun Prairie School District and a former teacher with the Madison School District.
“I know something about how (the school district) actually works — and not in a theoretical way,” she said in a Facebook post announcing her candidacy.
“We can have happier, healthier schools, and it’s not rocket science. Class size limits, protected planning time, the creative and connected curriculum students beg for, dedicated building subs, meaningful collaborative processes that value the voices of students and educators,” she said. “We can have all those things.”
Vander Meulen as yet has no opponents for Seat 7.
The filing deadline for candidates is Jan. 3. The election will be held April 4. If three or more candidates file to run for one or both of the seats, a primary will be held on Feb. 21.
Being back at the Wisconsin State Journal and in Madison has been a joy for me so far. And though I’ve only been back for a few months, that time has been filled with important stories in K-12 education.
From a busy school referendum cycle to fired principals, here are my top five stories from the year.
After weeks of trying to figure out why a Madison middle school principal was fired, he decided to tell us his side of the story.
Coming from a rural school district myself, it was interesting to dig into how relying on referendums may leave some schools behind.
Despite keeping schools safe at the peak of the pandemic, Madison custodians were left out of a $5 pay bump given to most support staff.
This was one of my first stories, and it was a warm welcome back to the community.
Cases of RSV and influenza cases have been increasing this season, mingling with COVID all at once — and hitting kids and families the hardest.
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Olivia Herken is an education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She is a former local government and political reporter for the La Crosse Tribune, and a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Journalism.
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Fewer marginalized students enroll in stand-alone honors classes, and the district had proposed eliminating them as an equity strategy.
Madison School Board member Chris Gomez Schmidt is not running for reelection in the spring.
Gomez Schmidt
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