Q&A with School Board Member Nicki Vander Meulen

Q&A with Nicki Vander Meulen

School Board | Madison, WI

Maria RiveraTell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

Public Education saved my life. My family was told that I belonged in a school for the severely disabled, as I am Autistic and I have Cerebral Palsy. I disagreed with this assessment and got a law degree instead.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

The trigger moment for me was learning about how an Autistic student in our district was dragged out of school because she had an Autistic meltdown. That student could have very easily been me in high school. So I decided to run for the local school board.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

My background in juvenile law combined with my passion for education made me confident that I was qualified for the position.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

Every Thursday we receive our board information packets. I scour the packet to see what topics are being discussed and what topics we as a board may vote on. After the first reading, I then read the packet cover to cover. Pre-Covid, I would visit schools on a weekly basis (my district has 50 plus schools). Every Monday, we meet in person (during Covid we met by Zoom) for several hours discussing topics involving the district, we listen to community feedback and then vote on specific noticed issues.

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

The school board has three main jobs:
1. Drafting a Budget
2. Hiring and firing the Superintendent
3. Draft and vote on policy.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

How often a board member has to attend public and community events.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

1. Curiosity, 2. A strong worth ethic, and 3. The ability to speak on any educational topic spontaneously at any given time.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

In my case, it’s working and helping children reach their educational potential.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

Being the first openly Autistic School Board Member in the nation.

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?


What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

Please run. We need people to serve and help their community.