School Board Candidate Forum Excerpts and Video

March 7, 2006 Madison School Board Candidate Forum

Thoreau Elementary’s PTO held a (reasonably well attended – roughly 24) candidate forum last night. Excerpts, questions, links and video available below:

Opening Remarks [video];

Arlene Silveira (seat 1)

Look at decision making from a business point of view, what is the data, are programs working, is this cost effective? We’re in a terrible situation budget wise and I think we need to start making decisions based on good information.

Three things I want to accomplish on the board and address immediately.

We really have to work on communication between board members and between the board and the public.

Safety and violence in the schools is very important to me. It’s an issue that really needs to be addressed.

Access to educate all of our children. Irrespective of who you are, where you come from. We’re a diverse district. It’s very important that we provide the tools to challenge all of our children and make sure they develop to their full potential.

Maya Cole (seat 1)

Budget. We can’t do the things we want to do as a school district unless we’re very clear about what’s going on with the budget. Discusses the 2 year administrative agreements vs. the current annual budget cycle. What that means is that when the public (and the media) goes to see budget debates, the first thing to get cut is gym.

I want parents to be engaged and respected for their opinions, their education and for their experience. We need to get away from the 1 year budget cycle and from the experts in the Doyle building telling us we don’t have any more money to cut. This is not how it’s done in other districts. The district acts like they are surprised that they will have to cut again, at least to the general public. We need to come up with a 4 or 5 year budget.

The district’s vision is 3rd grade reading, math (algebra/geometry) and attendance. Most progressive school districts take those goals and make sure everything supports those goals.

Neighborhood schools are very important to me, whether you’re in Fitchburg or the east side of Madison.

We have to hold the board and administration accountable for their decisions.

Juan Jose Lopez (12 year incumbent, seat 2)

We have to be strategic in how we deal with the budget. I have the experience, the know how and I have the commitment to deal with that issue.

The number one issue you have all the time is academic achievement. Are the resources going to your school so that your kids experience not only a positive experience but a successful education experience. Those are two critical things when we’re looking at academic achievement. We need to make sure that the resources are here so that the teacher is engaged with the student. That they are engaged academically, that they are challenged and that their expectations are high.

We as a school board have been very, very supportive of making sure that the expectations of all of our kids are high. There are many challenges with the type of different students we have in the Madison Schools. 44% of our kids are poor kids in this Madison School District. That does not necessarily reflect the Madison population.

The most important thing is safety. Safety is a big issue. I’m talking about bullying, gangs and all those other issues that we’re seeing more and more in our society, that have hit Madison, WI.

Lucy Mathiak (seat 2)

When it comes to budget time, we discover (even though we sort of know that we have a structural deficit) that when we look at what we think we’re going to need and we look at what we’re going to have under the state revenue caps, we are going to have to cut. Again this year, we’ve seen one of the first volley’s and what is the group we’re talking about: social workers. These are the last places I’d like to cut.

I would really, really like to find a process that looks at the entire budget. And really starts with what do we need to keep our schools strong. What do our schools need to succeed and what do the children need? Depending on who the children are, what the school needs changes. How do we allocate resources to make sure we have those things?

I find it ironic that the Ford Foundation has put out a publication called “Deep in the heart of Texas” that talks about how the Texas schools are using arts to increase academic achievement, and in Madison we’re talking about cutting them.

I would like to see a different process and a different outcome. If you are interested in changing how things work, then I will be your candidate.

Question 1:

I was wondering if the school board is able to cut the salaries of the Administration? [video]

Question 2:

One suggestion I’ve heard a number of people say, regarding a school building is to let the developers pay for it, in those new areas. A lot of people don’t know, and I’ve learned this in the past year myself, that that is in violation of state law.

With that background, under current state law can the school district move to a multi year budget? [video]

Question 3:

From being a member of the West and Memorial Task Force and knowing that Thoreau was always an immediate player in the Leopold issue, but also as a parent on the far west side, where do each of the candidates stand on the building or facility plans in the Leopold attendance area as well as the far west side of Madison and since you did bring up, Maya (Cole), the enrollment issue in your last response could we start with you and just work our way around. Thank you. (Marisue, an active parent, has endorsed Cole’s opponent, Arlene Silveira) [video]

Links, interviews and much more are available on the election page