With all the votes counted Tuesday, Kate Toews was the clear winner over Ali Muldrow for Seat 6 on the Madison School Board, winning nearly 56 percent of the vote.
After praising Muldrow as a talented educator and worthy opponent, Toews said she was eager to get started on the “real work of supporting our kids and our teachers.”
“I’m very optimistic about our future and I want to help get us there,” Toews said. “I’m just really excited to get to work with the other board members and excited to start really pushing on some of the issues that I care about – supporting our staff better and making some real progress on (closing) the racial achievement gap.”
Toews also said she was “thrilled” about the decisive victory by incumbent state superintendent of education Tony Evers on Tuesday.
“Our state said tonight we care about public education,” Toews said, “and I'm excited to push us forward, to keep innovating in what public education can be and how it can serve our community best.”
Muldrow also had praise for her competitor Tuesday.
"I think she'll do an amazing job," she said of Toews. "She'll be an amazing representative for our community and I think we're really lucky to have her leadership."
Muldrow said it was too soon to think about whether she would run again for the School Board but noted she would continue to be active in education through her job and her extensive volunteer activities in the schools.
"It was an honor and a pleasure to run for School Board," Muldrow said. "But I'll still be around. The work is always there, and I'll work in education as long as I possibly can. I love our community and I want our kids to be successful. I'll always be a resource to the people of Madison."
Muldrow and Toews were the top vote-getters in the Feb. 21 primary for the seat, eliminating Cris Carusi in the only open and School Board contested race. Incumbent Michael Flores did not run for re-election and endorsed Muldrow.
Also elected Tuesday to the School Board was Nicki Vander Meulen, who won Seat 7 with 68 percent of the vote over incumbent Ed Hughes, who dropped out of the race after the primary election for family reasons, though his name remained on the ballot.
All School Board terms are for three years.
In candidate interviews and survey responses for the Wisconsin State Journal, Toews (pronounced "Taves") said the main challenges facing the district include low teacher morale, the racial achievement gap in student performance, and increasing pressure from state and federal politicians to privatize education.
To address those challenges, Toews advocated fixes such as prioritizing professional development and setting a specific goal for hiring more minority teachers. She also has emphasized more focus on early childhood education, hiring talented principals to improve school climates and offering incentives for teaching in high-poverty schools.
Toews, 36, worked in Boston schools as a mediation services coordinator, before moving to the business world where she has managed large staffs and budgets, raised capital as an entrepreneur and advised startup companies.
With experience in both public schools and private enterprise, Toews described herself as the candidate best able to identify the district's strengths and challenges, with an eye toward using resources more wisely for the biggest classroom impact and best teachers.
A district parent herself and classroom volunteer, Toews has three children aged 1 to 7. She is married to Daniel Erman and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Brown University and an MBA from UC Berkeley.
In her survey responses and interviews, Muldrow identified racial disparities as the school district's biggest challenge, while advocating for greater commitment from the community and its schools to measurable practices leading to increased equity and inclusion to address them.
Muldrow, 29, is director of youth programming and inclusion for the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE), a Madison nonprofit serving students statewide who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. She is a graduate of Madison East High School and worked there as a security guard and after-school specialist.
Vander Meulen, 38, is a juvenile criminal defense lawyer who described herself as an advocate for disability rights and said she was running to be a voice for all students.
Vander Meulen stressed the value of parental involvement and peer mentoring. She is single with no children and earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from UW-Madison, in addition to her law degree.