School Committee vice chair Manikka Bowman, seen in January 2020. (Photo: Derek Kouyoumjian)

School Committee member Manikka Bowman has decided not to run for reelection. In an essay published Monday in the Cambridge Chronicle, she said she was “choosing to center the needs of myself and my family instead of seeking another term in office.”

Bowman was first elected in 2015 and would have been seeking a fourth term in office; in the current term, she was chosen by fellow committee members as vice chair, a role that includes appointing the chairs of subcommittees, leading a public budget process and representing the committee in labor negotiations.

“In the best of times, doing this work while holding a full-time job and raising a family was ambitious,” Bowman wrote in the Chronicle.

Her decision could jolt a sleepy race, because it means there is a guaranteed space for a challenger on the committee come Election Day on Nov. 2. Incumbents’ campaign announcements have been rote or slow in comparison with council races, and only four people took out campaign nomination papers when they became available Thursday – all incumbents. The incumbent who did not immediately take out papers, Rachel Weinstein, has said she is running for reelection.

Over her three elections, Bowman won an increasing number of No. 1 votes in Cambridge’s ranked form of voting, drawing 1,488 in her first run and 3,109 in 2019 – and going from fifth choice out of 12 candidates in 2015 to second choice out of 11 in 2017 before becoming the top choice out of 11 in 2019.

Only 106 top votes behind Bowman that year, in a race where no one else came close, was Emily Dexter, who later resigned. Bowman had played a key role in a conflict resulting from a classroom panel on race in which Dexter had taken part. In her essay Tuesday, Bowman acknowledged in the context of debate over in-person learning during the Covid pandemic that “my advocacy was sometimes met with resistance and personal attacks.”

“I often say leaders don’t get to choose the moment; the moment chooses them,” Bowman wrote. “I don’t know why the moment chose me to be a crucial leader in education, during the worst public health crisis of our time, while being a sleep-deprived mother. As a woman fully aware of Black maternal health outcomes, I carried the weight of my health, the safety of my newborn baby and family during Covid, all while serving children and families in Cambridge.”

Read the full letter on the Cambridge Chronicle website.

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