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Madison Metropolitan School Board members, left to right, Mary Burke, Ali Muldrow, Kate Toews, Ananda Mirilli, Gloria Reyes, Cristiana Carusi and Nicki Vander Meulen pose for a portrait at the Doyle Administration building in Madison in April 2019. Burke resigned from the board on Friday and now the search begins for her replacement.

Following the resignation of one of its seven members last week, the Madison School Board plans to appoint a new member on July 22.

The board discussed a timeline for selecting its new member in a special meeting Monday night. 

Mary Burke, who served on Seat 2, resigned on Friday, citing a desire to focus more time and energy on other aspects of her personal and professional life.

School Board President Gloria Reyes introduced the timeline on Monday, emphasizing a desire to fill the vacant seat as soon as possible given decisions the board will have to make in the coming months on hiring a new superintendent and working to get a facilities referendum on the November 2020 ballot.

“Given that Mary will not be attending any future meetings, I do feel a sense of urgency in getting this filled,” Reyes said. “I don’t want to move forward through some of the important discussions and decisions we’ll have to make … so i think it is going to be imperative that we move through the process pretty rapidly. We can still do a really transparent process and move quickly through it.”

Under board policy, a vacant seat must be filled by appointment within 60 days of a resignation.

Public notice will be posted in the Wisconsin State Journal from July 12 to July 19. Applicants' submissions will be publicly available on July 19 before the board votes to appoint a new member on July 22.

“I feel like this timeline is really tight,” board member Cris Carusi said, noting the quick turnaround between applications being due and a vote on the candidate three days later. “This feels way too compressed to make a good decision and I would argue for stretching it out even another week.” 

Though there was no vote on the timeline, Reyes said that if the board feels it needs more time to review applications it could explore that option later in the month. 

Anyone 18 years or older who resides in the Madison School District can apply to be considered by submitting a letter of interest to the district detailing what qualities they can bring to the School Board, a statement on three issues the district faces and how the prospective board member would address them.

Several elections are on the horizon for the seat over the next two years. Though Burke’s term would have lasted until 2021, whoever is appointed would have to decide by late December if they will run in the April 2020 election to finish out the last year of Burke’s term. Terms on the Madison School Board are three years, but whoever is appointed to Seat 2 must run to complete the one-year term before being able to run for a full three years. 

Appointing a board member is something the Madison School Board has not done for decades. The board last appointed a member in the mid-1990s, according to Matt Bell, MMSD’s attorney. 

Several board members expressed uncertainty on how to best navigate the selection process. Discussion on the applicants and selection of the new board member is supposed to happen in a public session.

“I think a little bit of what’s being expressed right now is that if we are going to eliminate folks publicly, then how do we do so in a way that’s respectful of every single person who wants to do this work and also allows for us to get the candidate that best represents the community?” board member Ali Muldrow said. 

Search for superintendent to include hiring a consultant

The new board member will be a part of the search for a new superintendent. On Monday the board discussed a request for proposals that the district will officially release on July 15. The board aims to hire a search firm by the end of August and launch its search for a superintendent by Sept. 23. 

“Some of this is based on feedback that we had last Saturday during our (board) retreat,” board member Kate Toews said. 

Under the timeline, finalists would be invited to a community forum in January 2020 before the board makes its selection in February 2020.

Using a consultant to run the search process is typical for superintendent hirings in large, urban districts like Madison. MMSD hired Ray and Associates, an Iowa-based firm, to conduct a search process to replace former Superintendent Dan Nerad.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will leave the district in August to take a faculty position at Harvard University. Jane Belmore was hired by the board to serve as interim superintendent while the district searches for a permanent replacement. 

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Education Reporter

Negassi Tesfamichael is the local education reporter at The Cap Times. He joined the paper in 2018. He previously worked as an intern at WISC-TV/ and at POLITICO.