Carmela Rios was chosen by the School Board on Monday to fill the unexpired term of 37-year board member Lois Weber, who resigned last month.
Rios, who challenged and was defeated by incumbent Phil Kroner for his seat in the April election, was one of five candidates for the recently vacated Seat No. 7. The other candidates were Kristy Casey, Tyra Hildebrand, Michael Huitink, and Gay Leigh Calquhoun-Mundy.
The resumes of all the candidates showed previous involvement in education and with students, and they were praised by School Board President Michael Meier.
"If we were to resign and you all took our places, I have no doubt the district would be in good hands," Meier said.
Rios a teacher
Rios was elected by the board members in two ballots after all the candidates had spoken. She earned three votes from board members on the first ballot, with Huitink placing second with two votes, and Casey getting one. Rios and Huitink advanced to a second ballot, with Rios receiving a majority of four votes. She will face election in a year if she chooses to run.
Rios has been a Wauwatosa resident for 11 years. She worked as a high school science teacher for a decade, including four years in Milwaukee, and in Greendale, where she taught biology. She became science curriculum facilitator in the Greendale schools, with responsibilities in training teachers, professional development, and hiring, firing and scheduling of teachers.
Now at Marquette University, she said, "I see what's expected of our students once they graduate high school, and that gives me another perspective."
She is pursuing a doctorate in molecular biology, and helps teach undergraduate biology courses. She said she ran for School Board, not with an agenda, but "just because I feel have skills to contribute."
Rios on equal opportunity
In response to board questions, Rios said the most important responsibility of the school district is providing equal opportunity to all students.
"It seems obvious, but I think it's actually tricky. Public education is really equity in education. It's the idea that all students, no matter what their background, no matter where they are, are going to have equal access to top-quality education."
She cited the example of the current "bring your own device" computer initiative of many school districts. "Bring your own device is something that's being implemented, and it's a positive thing. I recall last year when I was teaching, the discussion coming up, 'Well, how is that translated, if a student doesn't have a device to bring?' All of a sudden our curriculum switches to using these technologies regularly in the classroom, and, we give them a laptop to use during school, but then they can't take it home with them.
"That's one of the issues that comes up with equity. We don't want there to be anything in public education where one student, because of their background, or because of the income their parents make, has a leg up over another student."
In her closing statement, Rios said she was running because she had made a promise to herself to work as hard in her children's school district as she had in her professional role as an educator.
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