CapTimes endorses Kobza

Editorial: Lawrie Kobza for School Board
An editorial
March 30, 2005
Voters who care about public education are blessed with two fine candidates for Seat 6 on the Madison School Board. Both incumbent Bill Clingan and challenger Lawrie Kobza have deep roots in the community, both have solid records of involvement with neighborhood schools and both line up on the progressive side of debates about equity, discipline and curriculum in the schools.
So there is not a “wrong” vote that can be cast on April 5. But there is a “right” vote, and that is for Kobza.
The School Board has been rocked by too many personality clashes, and there are growing complaints that the board majority has not done a good job of involving the community in the decision-making process. We worry about the ability of this board to go to an essentially pro-public education electorate and win support for needed school funding referendums. The last referendum barely won, yet the board has continued to operate as if the disenchantment of the voters can be dismissed – or that a slightly different spin will do the trick.
We share Kobza’s view that it will take more than that. Kobza says, “I am concerned that the public will be less supportive of referendums than they were in the past. The public has little confidence that the board and district are managing the money the district already has wisely. The board and district must do a better job of making its budget and budgeting process understandable and relevant to the public in order to regain the public’s confidence in the board’s financial management of the school district.”
If elected, Kobza would bring fresh ideas to the board, along with a smart, professional style that, we believe, would allow her achieve the reforms she seeks. We are equally certain that she could do this without getting mired down in the “personality politics” that often thwart board cooperation.
A respected environmental lawyer, Kobza has expertise is in working with local government bodies. As such, she would bring valuable professional skills to the board. But Kobza’s passion in recent years has been the Madison public schools, and she has been deeply involved in grass-roots efforts to improve them. She’s the president of the parent group at Sherman Middle School, where she and other parents played a leadership role in stabilizing a school that over three years had three principals and four assistant principals.
It is inspiring to listen to Kobza’s story of the work she and other parents did to get Sherman back on track – she served on principal interview committees, worked with the district on building improvement plans and helped school staff develop a new discipline plan. And it is notable that Kobza is not just a “my-kid’s-school” activist. She’s a member of the Northside PTO/A Coalition, where she has been a leader on equity and summer literacy initiatives, and she was recently honored by the Northside Planning Council for her work with schools.
Kobza has direct ties to parents and community activists with whom the School Board needs to make deeper connections. That would help her implement her goal of increasing citizen involvement in budget decisions – perhaps using a model developed by the Waukesha School Board.
Kobza also has a savvy understanding of the dynamics of the current board, including how its internal conflicts have created perception problems in the community. With a tough, no-nonsense approach, she thinks she can free up the debate and create a healthier, more open and engaged discourse.
We believe Kobza is right, which is why we endorse her. It is difficult for us to go against Clingan, an amiable and well-intentioned board member whom we have backed in the past. But we simply don’t see the incumbent as someone who is going to change the dynamic on the board. In order to renew confidence in the board, a change is needed, and we think Lawrie Kobza is the best agent of that change.
Editor’s note: Thursday’s editions of The Capital Times will feature endorsements for the Madison City Council.