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Pearson, Gomez Schmidt advance to general election for Madison School Board Seat 6

Pearson, Gomez Schmidt advance to general election for Madison School Board Seat 6


The group of six Madison School Board candidates that appeared at a forum earlier in February was trimmed to five in Tuesday night's primary, with Karen Ball no longer in the race for Seat 6. Maia Pearson, center left, and Christina Gomez Schmidt, second from left, advanced to the general election.

Maia Pearson and Christina Gomez Schmidt will move on to the April general election for Madison School Board Seat 6 after receiving the most votes among the three candidates in Tuesday's primary election.

Karen Ball, with 10,380 votes to Pearson's 18,520 and Gomez Schmidt's approximately 14,105 — with 100% of precincts reporting on the Dane County Clerk's website — will not advance to the general election.

The three were competing to take over the seat being vacated by Kate Toews, who chose not to run for re-election.

It will be one of three School Board seats on the ballot, with a Seat 7 race between incumbent Nicki Vander Meulen and challenger Wayne Strong and a Seat 2 election that includes only incumbent Savion Castro running for a one-year term.

Pearson has three children, all of whom attend Lincoln Elementary School. She is a revenue agent with the state Department of Revenue, and has spoken throughout the campaign about her family's three generations in Madison watching the persistent disparities between white and black residents.

She is endorsed by three current board members: Castro, Ali Muldrow and Ananda Mirilli.

Pearson said she was "so grateful" for the support from "the community who raised me and supported me."

"I am extremely grateful for all of the support that I received tonight, to see that many people really believe in me but also believe that we definitely need some change," Pearson said. "It’s surreal."

She said she’s "really committed to prioritizing our teachers, our students, our community-at-large for stronger Madison schools."

"I think the only way we can do that is together," she said.

Pearson credited her time spent knocking on doors and talking to voters for her victory, and said it’s something she’ll continue to do leading up to the April 7 election.

"People really appreciated that I took the time out to really come to their door and talk to them, even if they couldn’t talk very long, just to be able to have a quick question,” she said. “I think what really resonated with a lot of people and what I’ve heard is that my message is based off of my lived experience."

Gomez Schmidt has two school-age children, one at Memorial High School and another at EAGLE School in Fitchburg, with another that recently graduated from Memorial. She works as the director of enrichment for Galin Education, a test prep and college admissions tutoring service, and has been a vocal advocate for improving the district's advanced learning program.

Her campaign has focused on the importance of the district's upcoming K-5 literacy curriculum selection and improving transparency. She received an endorsement from Toews.

Gomez Schmidt said in a phone interview she was “honored to receive all the support that I have from voters across the city” and is “looking forward to continuing a strong city-wide campaign.”

"People do understand that it's a critical year for the Madison schools with the new superintendent arriving, two potential referenda on the ballot in November and a lot of issues that we need to move forward on," Gomez Schmidt said. "I think that resonated with a lot of voters and I think people are looking at working together to really support the Madison schools going forward."

She said she believes focusing on "getting out the word about my campaign and really connecting with voters" will help make up the gap between her and Pearson for the general. She said she will continue to focus on priorities like "achievement disparities, support for teachers and staff, supporting student success and improving accountability and also focusing on school safety."

"I'm just ready to get started in the next phase," she said. 

Ball is the director of academic success at Edgewood College and has two children in the district, one at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School and another at Sennett Middle School. She stressed three priorities throughout her campaign: establish sustainable infrastructure to help staff close the racial opportunity gap, ensure an effective transition for new superintendent Matthew Gutiérrez and prepare for the two potential referenda on the November ballot.

She said in a phone interview Tuesday night she learned a lot during the campaign process and was surprised at how politics played out on a local level.

"I really, really believe I was the underdog coming into this," she said. "I had no idea what politics in Madison meant until it started."

She said she was "proud" of her campaign and the more than 10,000 votes she did receive, and she will "go back to work tomorrow and keep closing opportunity gaps with the students that I serve." She's hopeful the School Board can start "being good to each other" at a critical time for change and improvement.

"Ninety-five percent of what I experienced through this campaign was amazing, but there was a small part that hurt," she said. "People are angry, people are divided, and if we can’t begin to reconcile some of that, we’re not going to make any progress.

"If we can’t figure out how to be good to each other and how to move this work forward in a way that is good, we’re going to be in the same position in 10 years."

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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