Why are you running for elected office?
Education is my life’s work. Before I ran for the board three years ago, I was involved in public education as a teacher, a family advocate with Wisconsin Family Ties, and an MMSD parent. My three children attend MMSD schools. Now that I have experienced what it takes to be a board member, and especially one who does not rubber stamp management decisions, I am more committed than ever to public education and advocating for the most marginalized students in our district. If we are not ALL doing well, then the district is not doing well. I am running to continue my advocacy for equitable distribution of resources, and to reduce and limit exclusionary practices in our schools. I will fight for policies, practices, and working conditions that validate and support our educators. Serving on the Board of Education is challenging and demanding, but I am ready to put my experience to work in a second term.
What are your 3 biggest areas of concern with MMSD, and what would you like to see
changed to address these concerns.
1. Meeting the needs of struggling students who have been underserved by our district.
Changes: a) better allocate resources based on students’ needs, rather than parents’ ability to advocate for resources; b) address the systemic discrimination and segregation that exists within current MMSD programs including advanced learning, the DLI program, clustering, inadequate alternative programming, and lack of reintegration planning and support for students returning from Metro HS; c) use an allocation strategy that provides additional resources for students living in poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities; expand community schools; and assure that those students who do not meet the eligibility criteria for programs like PEOPLE, SOAR, or AVID also have access to programs and supports they need and deserve.
2. Better treatment and recognition of our school-based staff/educators.
Changes: a) restore collective bargaining rights for our staff; b) create career ladders for educators that don’t take them out of the classroom; c) validate and celebrate their work on a regular basis; d) provide adequate support and in-depth professional development for educators to be successful; e) provide educators with opportunities for creative instruction inside and outside the classroom; f) be more receptive to the insights of classroom staff at all levels of decision-making.
3. Provide our students, educators, parents, and community members with more and better
opportunities for authentic and meaningful collaboration, feedback and dialogue.
Changes: a) reduce the number of selective advisory councils and open these meetings to the public; b) explore different ways to include the public in decision-making opportunities like the ERO Ad Hoc Committee; c) have a parent representative on each School-Based Leadership Team (SBLT); d) expand the use of parent liaisons in our high-poverty schools.
Please read the enclosed draft education platform. What recommendations do you have
for additions and what pieces of the platform would you want to work on?
I think the platform is extremely comprehensive and includes many things that I have worked toward as a Board of Education member. My main concern is how to prioritize our work for meaningful progress. This is one of the most important things a board member must do.
I will continue to work on discipline transformation, policing in schools, inclusive and culturally and linguistically responsive teaching practices, creating supports and a school climate that is welcoming and safe for all students, expanded access to early education, building capacity to work with students that have learning differences, high-quality alternative education programs, public Montessori options, expanded vocational/technical programs, full funding of our schools and restoration of collective bargaining rights.
Evaluate the issue of transparency with the way the School Board currently operates,
what problem areas do you believe need to be addressed and how will you work to
Despite getting our agendas and meetings posted a little earlier, the timeline for when information is distributed is still too short, and some information is only made public when a board member requests that it be. The lack of a culture of openness and transparency is a serious problem in MMSD. To facilitate more public participation in Madison school board meetings, I will continue to explore strategies like changing the meeting date from Monday to later in the week. Multiple advisory groups appointed by the superintendent are not publicly noticed or open to the public, and their records are not publicly posted. I would like to change this. The creation of the ERO Ad Hoc Committee is an example of what we should be doing, with an open application and appointment process, noticed meetings, and easily accessible records he . This year, the board will be reviewing and revising policies related to board operations, and I see this as an opportunity to move forward and increase transparency.
What is your position on Educational Resource Officers in the Madison Schools?
The school to prison pipeline is a tragic, lived reality for many of our youth of color, resulting from business as usual and from a mindset that is more policing than educational. I believe that the current use of EROs, as well as the lack of accountability, is unacceptable. I have led the effort to bring this topic to the forefront and provide greater inspection and discussion in regard to the role and work of police in our schools. I am proud of my leadership in creating the ad hoc Committee that is preparing recommendations for the board. Those recommendations may include a call for significant changes, or even ending the program. Out of respect for the process and the ad Hoc committee, I am keeping myself open to many options. The one option I am not open to is continuing the program without significant reforms to increase oversight and eliminate the needless criminalization of our students.
What strategies do you favor to address the achievement gap?
Many factors contribute to Madison’s shameful and egregious racial disparities in academic achievement, in my work on the Board in the community I have been particularly concerned with the intersections of race, poverty, and disabilities. I believe it will take multiple strategies to bring positive change. This means action at all levels—elementary, middle, and high school, as well as in our alternative programs. I believe a significant underlying cause of disparate academic outcomes, particularly for our Black students, is rooted in racist systems that have been institutionalized within our district and community. The school to prison pipeline is not an abstract concept—it is the lived reality of many of our students. As I have visited high schools with members of our restorative practices team, I have seen how business as usual results in targeting black students for disciplinary interventions, including exclusionary practices. This is a reality white students simply do not face. In the last three years MMSD has made progress in decreasing exclusionary practices, but we have not done near enough to provide the supports our students and staff need. I advocated strongly for the creation of the ad hoc committee to examine the uses of Educational Resources Officers in our district, interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, keep students in school, and provide comprehensive and wrap-around services for our students who can’t access them on their own. We must examine and question the role of school police. If we are to have police in our high schools, we must limit the scope of their involvement, such that they are not contributing to the operation of the pipeline.
At the elementary level, I supported the budget amendment to reduce class sizes in high poverty schools. Teachers must be able to recognize and attend to the needs of their students, and this is impossible where they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of pupils in their classes. But we also need to look at the expansion of successful programs that address opportunity and achievement gaps, such as Building Bridges.
In all of this, we need listen to all communities in our district, because everyone does not see or experience things the same way. We must listen to multiple voices within communities most impacted by the achievement gap, and overcome the biased perspective that all members of these communities see things in the same way.
We need to break down the systems and barriers that have been constructed in our schools in order to exploit and marginalize certain demographic groups These include clustering, tracking, relying on inexperienced and unlicensed staff to teach populations with complex needs (as is increasingly the case with English Language Learners and students with disabilities), expanded use of standardized testing, and busing students to schools that are not geographically accessible. A key example is the pressing need for an elementary school in the Allied neighborhood.
All of this is still only a start, but it is essential that we push MMSD on these issues.
Do you support charter schools? What can the school board do to protect against the
constant pressure of privatization?
I do not support charter schools that are authorized by the state and governed by private boards, rather than our elected school board (“non-instrumentality” charter schools).
While I support our existing MMSD charter schools, the question of what the school board can do to protect against the constant pressure of privatization is extremely important. Each application for a charter, and request for renewal has to be evaluated carefully on its own merits. Because of inadequate state funding, our regular schools are under intense pressure to produce efficiencies through standardized instruction, clustering, and other practices that fail many of our children with the greatest need. We must scrutinize charter school initiatives that provide more interesting or varied curricula for relatively few students. We will close gaps by allowing all our teachers to use creative approaches, and if we invest in adequate staffing and support at all our schools. It is a false choice to say only charter schools can be innovative. I believe all schools should have room for culturally and linguistically appropriate instructional approaches and content.
In our district, instrumentality charter schools have to deal with two levels of bureaucracy: they answer to their own governing boards, in addition to the democratically-elected MMSD school board. While it is critically important that charter schools are accountable to the school board, I believe the added layer of charter school governance can dilute the focus on the school and its
students. This is a reason I prefer magnet or alternative schools to charters. Charters also cannot be a workaround to our moral commitment and legal obligation to serve every student. Raising awareness about the exclusionary practices used by some charter schools outside MMSD, as well as the lack of accountability, is critical. Most importantly, we need to provide every student with a high-quality public education in their neighborhood school.