Mathiak (l) and Passman (r)
Gov. Scott Walker says the changes he has rammed through the Legislature will give school districts and local governments "the tools" they need to withstand the severe cuts in state aid his budget will deliver. What he doesn't get into is how the tensions caused by his agenda will divide the members of these bodies, as they have the state as a whole.
One example of this is the Madison school board, where disagreements over the impact of Walker's actions have spurned an ugly exchange, in which school board member Lucy Mathiak lobbed an F-bomb at a fellow board member, Marj Passman.
The exchange happened yesterday, March 14. Passman was contacted by a Madison school teacher who felt Mathiak had been dismissive of the teacher's concerns, urging her to "get over yourself." Passman, who allows that board members have been deluged with angry emails, says she expressed to Mathiak that she agreed this response was a little harsh.
Mathiak, an assistant dean with the UW's College of Letters and Science, in its department of Communication and College Relations, sent this e-mail in reply:
"EVERY state employee has been handed a >9% pay CUT for April, May and June. We have not had 3% raises plus step plus lane for the past decade. But then again, we clearly are not hard working or deserving of respect or sympathy. What we do clearly does not have value the way that teachers do. FUCK YOU"
Passman forwarded this email to the teacher, who showed it to a relative, who called it to Isthmus' attention.
Mathiak admits sending this email, saying it "has to do with a difference of opinion between board members and some extremely personal comments she [Passman] made to me, that the only people [affected by Walker's benefit cuts] were teachers." She adds that Passman "has made comments to me and about me that were inappropriate during board meetings" and that "I don't have to take crap from my fellow board member."
Mathiak declines to say what inappropriate comments Passman made about her. Passman at first told Isthmus she "accused [Mathiak] of being Walker," then, on reflection, denied having done so: "I certainly have never called her a name."
Both board members downplay the significance of the exchange, with Mathiak saying the dispute "has to do with differences in style" and Passman saying she does not "take it personally." Passman adds that she does not wish to stir things up: "Lucy is brilliant when it comes to finances, and I depend on her knowledge and skills."
Passman says the past several weeks have been "very tough" on board members and teachers. "I have to excuse Lucy for this. There's an enormous amount of pressure on us now."