School Board Candidates Respond to Questions About TAG Programming

The following was passed along by Kristin Meyer who attended the Northside candidates forum. Kristin asked the candidates about their position on supporting TAG services/support during ongoing budgetary shortfalls, and summarizes below the responses from each candidate. She reports that there was also a statement related to how the TAG program has already taken cuts and that, therefore, it seemed unable to adequately meet the needs of TAG students

Bill Clingan: Said that the erosion of TAG services/support is a big
problem for the district and he related this to the much bigger overall problem of how the revenue caps impact the budget for the MMSD (and all WI schools). He noted that he was the person to author the amendment to re-instate TAG positions during the last budget cut process. He stated his support for the idea that all students need to be challenged in the classroom. He said that what he really loses sleep over is the $2.4 million in cuts that have been made to Special Needs students. Again, he tied this to the revenue caps issue.
Lawrie Kozba: Stated that because of financial constraints/budget shortfalls, the district is being forced to provide for the “average” student and those at the low and high ends are forgotten about. She stated that there must be better management by the board of the budget we have, to make the most of what we do have so we can continue to support students (she had a strong message throughout the evening of needing better management and holding the school administration, particularly Art Rainwater, accountable). She said the district often talks about district scores or performances,
rather than individual groups of students or school performance, because that is more “comfortable”. By that I took her to mean that it looks better to look at the district as a whole. She also mentioned sports and fine arts programs specifically as being an area that has also been cut.
Carol Carstensen: She also agreed this was an important issue. She gave some background on the change in delivery of TAG services from pull-out at the elementary level, to a now centralized model with support coming from downtown to the schools. She thought this was an improvement in theory, but clearly stated that they (TAG staff) do not have the resources to do all they should. She also made a statement of how all students should be challenged every day – with an emphasis on how this should be challenge within the classroom rather than having students pulled out.
Larry Winkler: He stated that more students should be in the TAG program and taking AP classes. He said students should be more prepared so they are able to take AP classes, and that there are not enough AP classes being offered. He noted that parents are making up for what they feel their children are not receiving at school, and that the district needs to ensure enough challenge for students.
Kristin also sent along this summary of the evening’s debate:
The forum was set up with 3 questions they all answered, then each candidate got to ask his/her opponent a question and then had a chance to respond. Finally questions were taken from the audience – we wrote them down and they were read to the candidates.
The 3 questions related to: 1) the “city-school district relationship” and how to promote collaboration
2) “parental involvement” – particularly of low-income or parents of color
3) “changing and developing district policy” – the threat of elimination of the Equity Policy and how to get meaningful public input in district decision making
Summary of candidate responses/positions:
Bill Clingan:
* Said the district and city were attached at the hip and noted mobility (the 6000 moves of students during each school year) as an example of a city/district issue.
* Referenced his history as PTO president at Midvale/Lincoln – that he understands how to do outreach to parents that may not be easily included in dialogue
* Felt that the Equity Policy had been formulated long ago and that now the district (in practice) was already beyond what it says. He felt it should be back in committee for public input. Said the schools belong to the community.
* Clear supporter of a new school on Leopold site. Discussed class size, not size of the school as what is most relevant to learning. Felt that the district was pursuing a plan that the parents in this community want/need. Critical of Lawrie’s support for keeping North and Eastside schools open (because it is what those communities want) but then opposing the Leopold school (which its parents clearly want)
* He accepts PAC money from Teacher’s Union
* He was in support of maintaining the LGBTQ coordinator
* Repeatedly brought up issue of revenue caps and how substantially they impact the services the district can provide
Lawrie Kobza:
* Consistent message that the school board is not holding the administration (part. Art Rainwater) accountable – in terms of his evaluation, making sure the administration is doing what the board asks, that they are in charge of overseeing district policies.
* Repeated many times need for stronger management on the school board related to fiscal responsibility. She says she has a vision for the board and the management skills to carry it out.
* Sees herself as a strong, independent voice for the board. No PAC money. Supported by Ruth Robarts (in the front row with a Kobza pin on)
* Supporter of neighborhood schools – Opposed to any Mega-schools, including the proposed school on Leopold site. Open to real need of another neighborhood school on the West side
* Feels there is a lack of real parental input and accessibility to the school board for decision making
* Discussed concerns of administrative support/leadership for situation at East High School.
* Supportive of LGBTQ position
Carol Carstensen:
* Sees herself as a voice for parents/schools that don’t always have access. An independent voice, common sense and level headed leader.
* Strong supporter of school/city partnerships – cited many examples from her tenure
* Has hosted listening sessions, trainings, goes to schools freq. to gather input from parents/teachers
* Proud of her role in district goal to reduce achievement gap (3 priorities 1)reading by grade level by 3rd grade 2) 94% attendance 3) Algebra and Geometry taken by 10th grade)
* Vocal in opposition to state revenue caps – said she will fight for
adequate funding
* Takes no PAC money
* Supports LGBTQ position
* Made statement that she will not support any cuts in the budget – we have cut enough
Larry Winkler:
* Sees many problems with board – wants simpler solutions, currently sees a lack of solutions being offered up, and a lack of planning for known budget problems. Tired of the “dog and pny” show he often sees at Board meetings.
* Sees our schools as being in decline and that there must be ways to find more solutions
* Hopeful that through simplifying there can be money found in existing budget to mainatin services
* Talked about need to help low income families specifically to be connected to school and in planning and collaboration with the city
* He said he “kind of” supports revenue caps. He feels there is to little way for the public to have input into the budget process/decisions, and at least revenue caps hold schools accountable to some degree.
* Very research based – formal in his decision making process. Wants more public accountability
* Not familiar with role of LGBTQ position
* No PAC money