West Marin School principal loses bid at county education post

06/07/2018

Mary Jane Burke secured her seventh four-year term as Marin County Superintendent of Schools this week, with 78 percent of the vote. She faced heated opposition from West Marin School Principal Matt Nagle, whose platform to focus on underachieving Mexican-American students brought him 22 percent support. “I believe this election shows that our community will support a leader willing to make the tough decisions and to do the right thing, even if it costs some votes,” Ms. Burke wrote in an email. “To those who supported my opponent, please know that I will be accessible and open to divergent points of view as we work together to provide the best possible education for all students. Our children and families deserve nothing less.” Ms. Burke, who has held her position since 1994, found a first-time challenger in Mr. Nagle. The Fairfax resident ran an unconventional campaign, appointing his daughter as campaign manager and accepting no donations. He often criticized Ms. Burke for her fundraising efforts, which generated nearly $150,000 for lawn signs, mailers, and print and online ads this year. Mr. Nagle also believes he risked his job to run against her. Shortly after he announced his decision in March, the district sent him a notice that the terms of his employment might change. Shoreline has yet to confirm a renewal of his annual contract, though district trustees have defended the actions as unrelated to his campaign. Despite his loss, Mr. Nagle remains positive about the experience. “For a healthy democracy, you need more than one candidate for an election,” he said. “There was so much support out here, in Point Reyes and Inverness, for the idea of running—for more political participation.” Mr. Nagle said he plans to run in 2022 for the job, or else for a seat on the Tamalpais Union School District board. He said he hopes he is inspiring young people, and all community members, to run for public office, and brought attention to the three positions that will be up for election this November on the Shoreline board of trustees. Mr. Nagle added he was pleased to hear Ms. Burke talking about “equity” in recent months, but he criticized her for not giving enough attention to the Mexican-American student population in the two debates they participated in.