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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Laura Simkin wins Madison School Board Seat 3, hopes to reinstate school resource officers

The two candidates in the highly contested race were split on policing in schools.

Childcare manager and high school parent Laura Simkin won Madison School Board Seat 3 on Tuesday after voicing her support for police in schools. 

Simkin won the school district’s only contested race in this election, going up against Shepherd Janeway, a creative writing instructor. Simkin won 70.9% of the votes while Janeway — who was listed as Joyner on the ballot — received 29.1% of the votes. 

“Congratulations to Laura Simkin. This was a fantastic opportunity,” Janeway said. “I’m incredibly pleased with the results, and I look forward to using the community connections that I’ve built and bolstered and using the lessons in the future.”

Simkin believes that voters were influenced by her 30 years of childcare experience along with being a mother.

The two candidates were divided on their attitudes towards police in schools. Janeway supported the June 2020 vote calling for the removal of school resource officers from four Madison schools. Now holding Seat 3, Simkin hopes to reintroduce officers in schools.

School resource officers act as buffers between students and city police during incidents when police are called in. The removal of school resource officers preceded an increase in altercations, although both Janeway and Simkin believe that pandemic-related mental health concerns are also to blame.

“It is very likely safer for our children to have people approaching them who know them than people who don’t,” Simkin said.

Although Simkin believes that “their removal was unfortunate,” she suspects that the board is hesitant to reinstate school resource officers. 

“I plan to work with the school board as part of a seven-person team, and I will work with the school board to decide what issues we’re going to be working on,” Simkin said. 

Janeway believes that there are other methods to keep students safe than relying on student resource officers, citing a trauma-informed approach to addressing behavioral issues as a solution.

Simkin believes that school resource officers are only a short-term solution to the safety of Madison schools. For long-term school safety, Simkin hopes to address behavior-related concerns by instating mental health support systems and revamping the system’s Behavior Education Plan.

“We should increase the number of student services staff, including psychologists, social workers, special education staff and counselors,” Simkin’s website says. 

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Simkin also believes the curriculum should adopt restorative justice, where mediation is used to address altercations. Along with advocating for the reinstatement of school resource officers, Simkin is calling for increased transparency and inclusion in the board’s decision-making process. 

“I’m feeling like the work is just about to begin,” Simkin said.    

Simkin is set to be sworn in on April 25.

Other election results

School board president Ali Muldrow will maintain Seat 4 after running against write-in candidate David Blaska, a conservative blogger.

Jeff Hynes will replace Elena Haasl as District 5 County Supervisor. Hynes sparked criticism after campaigning without giving detail about his policy platform but later announced that he would advocate for public safety, affordable housing, homelessness and the environment. 

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