State superintendent

Jill Underly and Deborah Kerr will advance to the spring election to vie for the state’s top education seat after Tuesday’s primary.

State superintendent candidates Jill Underly and Deborah Kerr will advance to the spring election to vie for the state’s top education seat after Tuesday’s primary.

They both will be on the April 6 ballot in the officially nonpartisan race to be secretary of the Department of Public Instruction. The seat was held for over a decade by Gov. Tony Evers and his appointed successor, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who declined to run.

The role of the state superintendent will include creating budget proposals for education funding and guiding districts on a variety of issues such as pandemic safety and student discipline.

Veronans voted for Underly (385 votes) and Hendricks-Williams (241). The seven-way race for state superintendent was the only race featured in the greater Verona area for the Feb. 16 primary.

Underly, who received the largest percentage of votes, coming in at 27%, has been the superintendent of Pecatonica School District located in Blanchardville, for six years. She has worked as a teacher and administrator in the public schools system since 1999, according to her website.

Endorsed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the largest teachers union in the state, Underly’s platform includes being opposed to private school voucher expansion and educational equity for all students.

Kerr, a four-decade educator who finished in second place and received 26% of the vote, was most recently the superintendent of Brown Deer Schools for 13 years, leaving the district in June 2020. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in a Jan. 20 article that Kerr supports school choice, but wants to see a system of accountability and transparency for taxpayers through the means of state-issued “report cards” or other ways of measuring college and career readiness.

The primary was between seven candidates, with the top two vote getters moving on to the spring election.

Statewide, Underly and Kerr were separated by 2,600 votes, with Underly receiving 88,703 and Kerr 86,045.

The other candidates were Sheila Briggs (15.2%), Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams (11.3%), Steve Krull (6.3%), Troy Gunderson (8.4%) and Joe Fenrick (4.4%).

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at

State superintendent election results February 2021 Primary

Candidate State Dane Stoughton V. Oregon Verona
Jill Underly 88,703 (27%) 17,592 304 510 385
Deborah Kerr 86,045 (26%) 6,063 131 258 164
Sheila Briggs 50,741 (16%) 15,774 307 153 91
Shandowlyon Shawn Hendricks-Williams 36,829 (11%) 6,199 100 329 241
Troy Gunderson 27,422 (8.4%) 1,625 35 71 32
Steve Krull 20,518 (6.3%) 2,107 40 83 40
Joe Fenrick 14,504 (4.4%) 1,135 25 46 30