Scarlett Johnson was born in Milwaukee, though her ten years as a Navy spouse resulted in many adventures before relocating to Wisconsin and making Mequon her home. She graduated with a BA in political science and U.S. History and was a Ronald E. McNair Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Scarlett put law school at Marquette University of Law on hold to raise her son, and four daughters later, she is the proud mother of five children. Her children have attended Gan Ami Pre-School, Rangeline Pre-K, Donges Bay Elementary, Lakeshore Middle School, Homestead High School, and Lumen Christi School.
My name is Scarlett Johnson and I am running for the Mequon-Thiensville school board. I have witnessed our communities’ frustrations with a school board that is not listening to its constituents and is unwilling to hold the administrative leaders accountable for a multi-year trend of academic decline. The dissatisfaction with MTSD leadership and their tone-deaf response to parents' concerns for their children was such that it lead to the historic recall of four school board members. Nearly 18,000 signatures of MTSD residents were collected over a period of only 60 days. The significance of this cannot be overstated. As one who led this grassroots effort and spent an entire summer, often 6-7 days a week, listening to stakeholder concerns, I know that our community lacks confidence in the current leadership and they are ready for change.
Effective school boards ensure that all students achieve at high levels through excellence in governance. Though I believe we live in a district with many talented educators, our ineffective board does not provide a path for MTSD students to reach their full potential. An engaged school board listens to all voices, not just a privileged few. A proactive board has open lines of communication with parents and teachers, invites partnerships, and provides leadership that builds public support which is vital to implement the board’s vision. Kris Kittell, Charles Lorenz, Cheryl Rebholz and I have a clear vision with high expectations and clear goals that engage educators and parents as we restore excellence as our number one priority in education and move MTSD forward.
Ordinary people can do extraordinary things:
Let me tell you how my story ends. I graduated from college where I was a Ronald E. McNair Fellow and then had the opportunity to attend law school. After, I lived abroad in many diverse communities as a supportive and proud Navy spouse. Finally, I have lived in Mequon for the past 11 years and call myself blessed to be happily married to my spouse Peter and the mother of five wonderful children (one just starting medical school and another beginning college).
Now let me tell you how my story began. I was born to a 14-year-old Puerto Rican teen with an 8th grade education. We were desperately poor and my first crib was fashioned from a dresser drawer. My Mom had three more kids before she was 18 years old. My father joined the U.S. Marines at 18 to avoid a jail sentence, and the military changed his life and the course of our family. My father took a second job cleaning toilets while my mom would waitress at night just so my siblings and I could have a good education.
We couldn’t afford a car until I was 10, but after, I remember summer nights when my parents would drive us around the Northshore area at dusk with Motown playing on the radio. As kids, we would squeal with delight at the sight of the “fancy” homes. Mom and Dad would tell us, if you work and study hard, one day you can live here too. And now I do! I live in Mequon today because I worked hard, studied hard, and chose to make responsible decisions more than I made bad ones. I met people who helped me, not because they had something to gain, but because they were kind and decent people who saw something in me even when I couldn’t see it myself. What was most pivotal for me was I was born in the USA to parents who truly loved America. I was raised to believe that this was the land of opportunity. And that anyone, even a desperately poor brown skinned girl with unruly hair and hand me down clothes, could be anything she wanted to be.
A story like mine does not happen in a vacuum and will become exceedingly rare as more and more school districts abandon high standards of learning for equitable or equal outcomes. MTSD leadership is focused on equity not excellence. As a woman of color and Puerto Rican decent, I feel I bring a unique voice and perspective to the board leadership team. I know just how valuable a high quality education is to future success. I do not want to manage a system in decline, and lead a race to the middle. Our district leadership and current school board aligns itself too closely with leadership styles present in Madison and Milwaukee ignoring the will of Mequon-Thiensville taxpayers. Like Madison and Milwaukee districts, MTSD equity policies ensure our students work up to a predetermined level rather than encouraging our kids to stretch as far as their ability takes them. Equity only guarantees equally average outcomes. Instead, we should strive for extraordinary.
Here in the Mequon-Thiensville school district, we have every advantage, yet for years we have been wasting those advantages. The rhetoric is for each child to be empowered to succeed... the reality falls short. Over the last several years, our district has handcuffed itself to a system which LIMITS OR DENIES a student’s proven needs. We need more direct instruction, smaller classes, differentiated learning, specialized classrooms, and a rigorous curriculum. We need a thriving and expanded TAG Program that identifies and supports accelerated learners, as well as increased college level STEM instruction. We need to develop a special needs strategy that really works for children, parents, and teachers and not one that just checks the DPI boxes.
Our world seems off tilt right now, I know we are feeling it here in Mequon-Thiensville. There is no time to wait to fix what is ailing. We need urgency. We must not shrug our shoulders and hope that if we don’t rock the boat things will magically improve. MTSD leadership that has a proven track record of decline coupled with an inability to lead. The time to act is now! A change in leadership is an essential component to the restoration of MTSD. I hope you join this movement of ordinary people, prepared and excited to do extraordinary things and I humbly ask you to chose me to help lead the way.
“We did it!” That was our reaction when the Mequon-Thiensville School Board finally met and officially accepted our almost 18,000 signatures on recall petitions against four incumbents board members - and set a recall election date for Tuesday, November 2nd - less than six weeks away!
Our success is the result of the hard work of hundreds of volunteers who went into the streets, going door to call, calling their neighbors, giving so much of their time. I am forever grateful to all Recall MTSD volunteers and the thousands who signed the Recall petitions in order to provide a real opportunity for new leadership in the Mequon-Thiensville School District.
I am sure you are aware of the effort to throw out the Recall petitions by the current board. In the battle between David versus Goliath, Goliath isn’t going to give up so easily. Some take pleasure in rooting for Goliath in order to maintain the status quo, but some brave souls not only root for David, they stand up along side him if only to stand a chance of being inspired. I know I was inspired by so many, and I am proud to lead this cause, but our work is far from over. I am just a regular person, a mom of five who could not stay silent as I watched the needs of children cast aside and the pleas of parents ignored for far too long. I decided to step up and DO SOMETHING!
Now, I need YOUR help.
There is no time to wait to fix what is ailing. We need urgency. We must not shrug our shoulders and hope that if we don’t rock the boat things will magically improve. We need strong MTSD School Board leadership now more than ever! Divisive concepts and practices which are the result of Critical Race Theory are already filtering their way into MTSD. We need a board member who will be sure our children are not exploited by trends in education that originate among radicals in academia. If elected, I promise to value equality, and promote classrooms which inspire academic excellence. I hope you will join this movement of ordinary people, prepared and excited to do extraordinary things and I humbly ask you to chose me to help lead the way.
We’ve already won our first big victories. Goliath is down, but not out. I know I can help finish the job and make sure our kids get the education they deserve.
Candidate for MTSD School Board
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Mequon, WI 53092
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Meet Scarlett Johnson as she explains why she is running for MTSD School Board.
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Mequon, WI 53092
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