Marj Passman was involved in the Madison School district for a total of 45 years as a teacher, parent and two-term school board member. Now that she is stepping down from the board, she says she regrets "not being able to be the voice of the teacher." She hopes one of the candidates running for the open seat -- Wayne Strong or Michael Flores -- picks up that mantle.
Passman, 74, says she is not running for reelection to deal with health issues and to spend more time with her husband and grandchildren. "It was not an easy decision, but I am impressed with our new leadership, so I felt a little more relaxed," says Passman, alluding to new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
Passman is interested in parents and communities working together "in a non-angry way" to find solutions to the district's challenges. Problems in the schools, including the achievement gap, can be linked to increased poverty as well as racism, she says, noting the rising number of Madison students eligible for free and reduced lunch.
"To blame the school system for every ill in society is to not understand," says Passman. "The school system cannot cure society's problems by itself. We need help from the city and the state. And [Gov. Scott] Walker is no help."
Whoever is elected to the board will face a steep learning curve, says Passman. "You're there for the teachers and for the students. It's a lot of work. I could do it nine to five."
School board members do not endorse candidates, but Passman says, "Both candidates are very decent, community-minded men."