Hey! On Tuesday, February 16, there’s another election! The 2021 Spring Primary! Fun!

Only one statewide race is on the ballot—the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. You can find a voting guide for that race HERE.

THIS voting guide covers two races—in District 4 and District 5—for seats on the Milwaukee School Board (Two more races feature only one candidate: Marcela Garcia in District 6, and Harry Leonard in District 7.) The top two vote-getters in each district will face each other in the 2021 General Election on April 6.

Find out what is on your ballot, how and where to vote (including voting absentee), and more HERE.

Here are the candidates for the two races, with information from their websites. Vote!

Milwaukee Board of School Directors District 4

Aisha Carr

BACKGROUND: Aisha Carr is a single-mother, educator, mentor, and community organizer. Carr is a graduate of both the public and private education sectors, and the single-mother of a soon-to-be high school freshman. She is also the product of the foster-care system and a single-father household. Carr has devoted her entire professional career to the advancement of students of color, fighting for racial and educational equity. She is eager to bring her lifelong commitment to equity and her varied personal and professional experiences to the Milwaukee School Board.

Carr is currently the Opportunity Youth Re-Engagement Director for the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center where she works with youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24, to connect them with high quality skills training, family-sustaining employment opportunities, individualized coaching and case-management. As a Culturally Responsive Teacher Leader for the Milwaukee Public School District, she helped pilot MPS’s Black Lives Matter Resolution Course, and facilitated teacher, faculty, and staff professional development training on Comparative Ethnic Studies district-wide. As an MPS Secondary Special Education Teacher and a Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee Community Learning Center Club Manager, Carr’s experience includes community organizing, educational policies, political leadership, and youth employment, skills training, leadership and development.

Carr is a first-generation college graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. Carr also earned an Urban Special Education Teaching Licensure while serving as a 2013 Teach For America Milwaukee region Corps Member.

School Health & Safety Plan (COVID-19)
• Develop a district-wide pandemic Crisis Intervention Team to respond to and address the immediate needs and concerns of students, families and educators during COVID-19.

• Provide in-person individualized instruction to students with special needs who require IEP services in accordance with IDEA State Regulations, with proper building sanitation and social distancing measures in place.

• Follow the guidance of National Health and Scientific experts for school reopening clearance, with the necessary building ventilation, protective equipment, mandated masks and health reporting measures in place.

Commitment to Equity and Inclusion
• Provide funding for cross-cultural and expeditionary learning initiatives for all Students and Educators to bridge learning gaps between theory and practice.

• Recruit, retain and provide equitable and competitive compensation to Black and Brown Educators while offering mandated mentoring and financial resources to encourage long-term careers in the field of Education.

• Allocate funding to invest in the mandatory training and development of school safety personnel and designated community leaders to promote restorative practices and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline thus eliminating the presence of law enforcement officers and metal detectors in educational settings.

• Provide on-going, mandatory equity and inclusion trainings district-wide. Trainings should include strategic and measurable plans to address district-wide racial, behavioral, academic and funding disparities assessed and measured by a community designated Equity & Inclusion Task Force.

• High-quality, culturally responsive curriculum delivered by highly-trained, passionate educators and administrative leaders.

Equitable Funding & Universal Accountability
• One size doesn’t fit all and the District’s overall budget doesn’t meet the needs of every school and every student. Without equitable funding and universal accountability, an equitable educational experience is null and void. MPS funding needs to stay in the District rejecting any efforts to privatize Milwaukee Public Schools will be rejected.

• Schools that are low performing should be placed on school improvement plans with a window timeframe to measure progress and success, The funding support the development of the school’s culture, climate and educators. If the schools fail to demonstrate academic success, then the school(s) need to close and funds should then be reinvested in schools that are academically excelling, demonstrating growth and serving students and families right. This applies to MPS public and charter schools.

• Develop district and school leaders’ capacity to understand the driving forces of district-wide inequities and how school-level financial data is related to other student data. Use this data, leadership and lens to deliver a more equitable and accountable budget for students within the district.

• Per pupil funding should be based on student performance outcomes and not racial, economic or geographical factors.

Cheryl Hayes

BACKGROUND: Cheryl Hayes has been part of this community for over 50 years, working tirelessly to make MPS a better place. She understands what we need from experience and advocacy. She is the one to trust!

ISSUES: Smaller class sizes. Special needs focus. COVID-19 re-entry plan. Classroom safety.

The kids need a representative that will support their ideas, fight for the needs of our community and earn your respect. For someone who truly cares for our community, look no further.

Cheryl Hayes knows the value of smaller classes, alternative programs, improving the services offered to families, more funding, better working conditions for staff, and training to deal with our children from all walks of life; That’s why she’s running for this position.

Dana Kelley

BACKGROUND: I am Rev. Dana Kelley, a servant leader! I am a servant leader in the community of faith, currently serving as Assistant Pastor of The Reviving Faith Movement Church. I am a servant leader in my family, where I serve as the mother of two amazing adult sons (Delvante’ and Tyler Tatum), grandmother to my outstanding GlamSon (Dell Khalid Tatum), and mother-in-love to my beautiful daughter (Khali Jackson). I am a servant leader in the North Side community of Milwaukee, where I serve as Lead Organizer of North Side Rising, a community organizing Co-op of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

I am a proud alumna of the Milwaukee Public School System and a graduate of North Division High School (Go Blue Devils!!!). I have also completed parts of my higher education through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

ISSUES: I am someone who believes in radical change. Our world needs to be transformed- our current system of capitalism is not the right system. I am running for this office as a democratic socialist, which means that I hope to empower regular people to make the economic decisions that affect all of us. Socialism means community control. I have been endorsed by the Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America. I proudly accept their endorsement and I am glad to call myself a member of DSA.

When I’m on the board, I’m going to fight for four things – I call them The Four Points for District 4:

• Ensure quality education for children of color.

• Fight for public schools.

• Green New Deal for MPS.

• Democratize education.

Victor Nwagbaraocha

BACKGROUND: Victor was born in Lagos, Nigeria and has three younger siblings. His parents came to America as immigrants from Nigeria to seek a better life for themselves and their children. They chose to upend their lives and relocate because they knew America offered boundless opportunities. They knew I could receive an education and that I could go on to pursue great things.

Victor was raised in Milwaukee where he attended school. After high school, he attended UW-Madison. Victor began his career in education, motivated by the chance to unveil opportunities for underrepresented students like himself.

Victor maintains over 30 years of experience in education. He was a teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools for over a decade before becoming an assistant principal at Malcolm X Academy and Bayview high school. Throughout his 30 plus years in education, Victor has taught in the classroom, served in a myriad of administrative roles, and found success in educational leadership roles. His wealth of educational experience has prepared him to protect and empower students on day one when elected to school board.

In 2000, Victor founded Positive Images, a non-profit dedicated to responding to the needs of Milwaukee area students who were academically successful, demonstrated leadership potential and civic awareness but had limited exposure to role models and mentors who could support their academic and professional pursuits. He committed himself to building bridges and shaping positive trajectories for these students. Victor’s passion for empowering young people and fostering community are key priorities for his tenure as a school board member.

• Ensure guidance counseling and mental health counseling is available for every student.

• Guarantee high quality early childhood education (K3 & K4) with emphasis on pre-reading, pre-mathematical, and pre-writing skills.

• Provide structured mentoring and coaching services beginning in middle school.

• Develop community based learning programs to ensure premier extracurricular activities for students.

• Recruit and retain world-class educators.

• Create teacher mentorship programs to retain and empower quality educators.

• Compensate teachers for the vital role they play in educating our next generation of leaders.

• Ensure diversity among educators and administration so students can see their own identity represented.

• Apply a racial equity lens to budgeting.

• Fully fund the reimbursement rate per special education student.

• Fund superb transportation, nutritious meal plans, and quality educational equipment.

• Fix funding gaps for individual schools within district.

• Target extra funds to help low-income children.

• Utilize public health experts as guides for navigating pandemic policymaking. Rely on expert studies and scientific research.

• Clear, consistent communication on public health protocols.

• Secure effective PPE and sanitation personnel for schools as they reopen.

• Ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations for students and educators.

Milwaukee Board of School Directors District 5

Alex Brower

BACKGROUND: I am running for Milwaukee School Board to create the transformative change that our students and community deserve. This position is crucial for the future of our city. Our public schools are under attack by privatizers, and we need strong, proven leadership to fight and win for our students—no matter their race, gender identity, income level, immigration status, sexuality or disability.

As an MPS educator, past union president and active community leader, I have the vision, experience and drive to deliver this transformative change for our students and city. As president of the substitute teachers’ union for four years, I defied the skeptics and won healthcare benefits for many substitute teachers by engaging in a 21-day hunger strike. I also defeated efforts to privatize our jobs via a temp agency and organized volunteers to knock on hundreds of doors to help win a historic referendum to increase funding for our schools by millions of dollars.

As an active community leader, I am the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, which fights for retirees alongside labor unions. I am also the elected Treasurer of the Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America and a leader in the movement for a Green New Deal. As an MPS educator and substitute teacher, I have educated students across our city for more than six years, building a strong reputation as a sought-after, high-quality educator and making lasting and impactful connections with students.

I am a proven leader in the fight for quality public schools, and I will create the change that our students need. I would be honored to have your vote on February 16, 2021 and April 6, 2021.

ISSUES: As a School Board Director, Alex Brower will…

• Democratize education by opening up school and district-wide decision making to our community: parents, students, school staff, and residents. Our schools need to be community controlled. He will propose a democratic budgeting process where regular people decide how to spend the district’s money, a citizen policy initiative process to bring decision making power to regular people, and the creation of new seats on the school board to represent all of the communities in this city.

• Fight for public schools by holding charter and voucher schools accountable. Our community-owned public schools continue to be under threat from privatization. We need to strengthen our public school system that serves all students in Milwaukee. MPS does not currently have an existing policy that holds charter schools to the same high standards of our public schools.

• Create a Green New Deal for MPS by working to achieve MPS’ energy independence from fossil fuels and providing every student with an environment that supports their health, including providing high quality, healthy foods; mental health support instead of an unqualified police presence; and removing toxic infrastructure like lead.

• Stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter at School and work to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Wisconsin is the worst place to grow up if you are a Black child, according to a recent report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Our schools need to prioritize policies that work for our Black, Brown and Indigenous students and do not criminalize their behavior in schools. Alex will work to expand restorative justice practices while immensely lowering the use of suspensions and expulsions, and prioritize the recruitment and retention of educators and staff of color.

• Champion the struggle of MPS workers by providing healthcare to all full time employees regardless of what school they work in, ending the use of temp agencies, providing living wages, and doing everything possible to support and retain educators and staff of color.

• Ensure every student has access to the high quality education they need and deserve. Alex will fight to get more funding to reduce class sizes and support English Language Learners and special education students. He will work to expand bilingual and arts education opportunities, and work to ensure that students get the best education they can, with all of the resources they need, while learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbie Fishman

BACKGROUND: I am Abbie Fishman and as a longtime Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) teacher and local activist, I am running for the 5th district school board seat representing Milwaukee’s Harambee, Riverwest, East Side, and Downtown neighborhoods, where my family has lived for decades.

My experiences as both an MPS Teacher and parent of an MPS graduate have inspired and energized my candidacy. I have held a variety of positions across MPS and benefited greatly from my work with passionate teachers, and all varieties of devoted students in MPS.

I found myself frequently frustrated by the multitude of obstacles that have discouraged teachers and students. My mission is to facilitate and effect systemic change by replacing the stop gap measures MPS has historically implemented to address the needs of our diversity of students of color, cultures, languages, and abilities.

ISSUES: On the school board I will work to:

• Make sure teachers and students have all of the resources, materials, and support they need to pursue their ambitions.

• Increase mental health services available in schools.

• Implement and embed Cultural Responsiveness and Restorative Practices in the superintendent’s priorities, district programs, and teachers’ lesson plans.

• Insist Antiracist ideology guide budgetary and personnel decisions.

Schools need to be safe, clean, and inviting.

I found myself frequently frustrated by the multitude of obstacles that have discouraged teachers and students. My mission is to facilitate and effect systemic change by replacing the stop gap measures MPS has historically implemented to address the needs of our diversity of students of color, cultures, languages and abilities.

Schools need to be staffed by certified, qualified, and passionate faculty and staff

In the course of my career, I have worked as a substitute teacher, Title 1 teacher, English teacher, International Baccalaureate (IB) teacher, Advanced Placement (AP) teacher, literacy coach and most recently academic coach supporting advanced programs such as AP and IB throughout the district.

Thought my career, I have observed opportunities to deliver greatness when we eliminate the despair and disparity in our public schools. I have consulted for the College Board and presented at conferences, worked as adjunct faculty at UW-Milwaukee, Marquette University, and Lakeland College.

Our children and young adults are enriched by challenges and dreams that must be nourished.

As a member of the MPS school board I will work to reform MPS into an organization that serves the 21st Century needs of all our stakeholders. That organization must ensure that teachers and students are empowered with the most updated and effective educational textbooks, resources, technology and professional development and the support to use them effectively. This is essential to make sure our students have all of the resources, materials and support needed to pursue their ambitions.

Excellence is delivered by teachers empowered with current, contemporary resources and technology.

To be a vibrant and effective educational environment, MPS must celebrate the strength delivered by our myriad of cultures, ideologies, genders, and family dynamics of the MPS community. I will work to ensure that Cultural Responsiveness and Restorative Practices must be embedded in the superintendent’s priorities, district programs, and teachers’ lesson plans.

Jilly Gokalgandhi

BACKGROUND: Jilly Gokalgandhi was born in Mumbai, India and immigrated to the United States as a child. Her parents, Bharat and Sangeeta, despite having polio, worked tirelessly to navigate a vastly different system and culture in hopes of providing a brighter future with more opportunity for their children.

A proud product of K-12 public education, Jilly benefited from quality public school teachers, growing up with access to arts, music, and bilingual (English + Spanish) education, inspiring her to advocate for educational equity for all students. Through her career in the Milwaukee, she has worked to build community partnerships for greater support and investment in our public schools.

As a Community Schools Coordinator at Bradley Tech High School, Jilly brought teachers, students, administrators, neighbors and community partners together to ensure student success. This team used collaborative decision making to create school budgets, strategic plans and curricular changes.

Jilly created space for Rockwell Automation employees to connect with Milwaukee Public Schools students through Girls in STEM at Escuela Vieau and Rogers Street Academy and with middle and high school students during Engineers Week. These connections allowed for an authentic encounter over a shared passion.

At Employ Milwaukee, Jilly secured funding and advocated for policies advancing youth workforce development programs at the local, state, and federal level.

ISSUES: Protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community. Support our schools during COVID-19 by providing sanitization products and personal protective equipment for in-person learning and robust technology services for world-class virtual learning.

Fight for equitable funding. Fight to adequately fund schools to attract and retain high-quality dedicated teachers, support students with special needs and English language learners, and provide needed classroom supplies and technology.

Promote anti-racist and culturally relevant teaching. Commit to a robust anti-racism, anti-bullying professional development plan and school curriculum that supports, celebrates, and promotes our diverse student body and community.

Create a culture of shared decision-making. Adopt “Community Schools” values which ensures all stakeholders – teachers, students, parents, and community members – collaborate in decision-making.

Build inclusion for women and gender non-conforming students. In parallel with the Black & Latino Male Achievement Program, create an inclusive initiative for young women and gender non-conforming students to thrive inside and outside the classroom.

Protect public education and oppose privatization. Be the best stewards of taxpayer dollars by providing excellent public instruction.

Kahri Phelps Okoro

BACKGROUND: Successful school systems don’t just happen, they are built. For that reason, I Kahri Phelps Okoro, am working to implement a “Blueprint 4 Change” for our Milwaukee Public School System. My “Blueprint” is designed to improve our school system with 4 pillars in mind: our Children, our Curriculum, our Culture and our Community Collaborations; an overall strategy for Change. I am sure you share my overall goal: a brighter future for Milwaukee.

ISSUES: I have a strong history teaching reading and financial literacy and with that experience, here’s my Blueprint for Change:

• Ensure all Children can read by the end of 2nd grade. From the 2015-2016 WI DPI report card data only 20% of MPS students scored advanced and/or proficient in the area of literacy. Research shows a correlation between literacy and incarceration rates. To increase the graduation rate, let’s increase the number of literate children.

• Strengthen the Curriculum. The MPS district received a score of 53.3% on the WI Department of Instruction Report Card, so let’s ensure all schools offer a vibrant and culturally responsive educational program that is accessible to all children, challenges and moves them forward in life, and offers effective interventions for any who are behind.

• Build a better Culture. I will create a stronger MPS by reengaging the communities surrounding our schools and reintroducing the neighborly feeling. Let’s also collaborate with choice and charter schools to identify what is working, and change what’s not.

• Engage the Community. We’ll engage businesses, schools and families to bring equity back into our schools.

• It is imperative that the Board of Directors have a stake in the community that it serves. My family and I live and work in the 5th District, and I am running for Board of Director District #5. I look forward to earning your confidence and vote.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.