Q&A with School Board Member Jilly Gokalgandhi

Jilly Gokalgandhi

School Board | Milwaukee, WI

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

I’m a multilingual immigrant, born in Mumbai and inspired by Milwaukee. I majored in International Affairs & Economics at Marquette University. I’ve worked in youth workforce development, in a Milwaukee Public School implementing the Community Schools Model, and over the past few years funding Equity in Education work, specifically for Literacy, Early Childhood Education, and High School Graduation. Justice and honesty are my core values and I try to live up to those each day.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

I’m forever inspired by Mindy Kaling’s question, “Why not me?” and I thought the same — I had the experience in the Milwaukee public education landscape. My personal and professional experiences lent themselves to be a fierce advocate for public education and the issues are students face today.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

I believe that my personal and professional experiences uniquely qualified me for this office. I’ve worked with the youth workforce system, within a school implementing a progressive reform model based on shared governance and culturally responsive teaching and learning, and now have worked in funding equity in education programs.

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?

I still have my full-time job, so I have to balance my board position with that — I typically try to take work meetings in the morning and block off from 12-3 for school board-related meetings. On the weekends I try to meet with constituents, attend events related to public schools, participate in local and state public school advocacy work, and of course, try to have some fun in between.

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?

My role is specifically dedicated to ensuring the success of Milwaukee’s public education system.

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

I am responsible for passing a $1.3 billion budget! That’s bigger than some Fortune 500 companies!

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

Patience, perseverance, and discernment.

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

You really get to meet the most amazing people — there are so many individuals within a community who are working tirelessly to make life better for students, parents, and educators, and I am forever inspired and moved by their dedication to our community.

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

A few months ago, I was able to create a department dedicated to Girls, LGBTQIA+, and gender non-conforming students.

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?

Start volunteering with your public school system, talk with educators and the general public school community, and make sure you have a love for public education!