Calling "the erosion of trust and accountability" the most pressing issue in the Madison School Board elections next year, two-term incumbent T.J. Mertz said Thursday he's running for re-election.

Mertz will face at least one challenger, Ananda Mirilli, who has filed a declaration of candidacy for Seat 5.

"I stand second to none in celebrating the great work of our students and staff, but believe continued improvement requires more," Mertz said in an email announcing his run.

"Too often concerns about public relations take precedence over forthrightly facing our failures," he said. "Too often discussions and even decisions take place behind closed doors. Too often the knowledge experiences, and insights of many of our staff, our students, our families, and our community are marginalized."

He said he would provide specific examples "as the campaign goes forward."

Mertz did not face any active competition when he first won his seat in 2013 after the top vote-getter in the primary dropped out of the race too late to have her named removed from the ballot.

He faced no opposition for re-election in 2016.

Madison School Board elections are unlike all or most other school board elections in the state in that candidates must opt to run for one of seven citywide seats. As a result, if there is no competition for a seat or if the vote totals for that seat are especially low, a candidate for that seat can still be elected to the School Board over candidates for other seats who get more votes.

So far, two people have filed paperwork or announced they will run for each of three, three-year terms on the April 2 school board ballot. If more than two run for a seat, a Feb. 19 primary will be held to whittle the number down to two.

Dec. 21 is the deadline for incumbents to declare to the Madison City Clerk that they are not seeking re-election. Jan. 2 is the deadline for candidates to submit their declarations of candidacy and their nominating petitions.

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