A Cap Times editorial
It has been a good long while since Madison Metropolitan School District voters have had an opportunity to vote for a new School Board candidate who is as prepared as Arlene Silveira is to hit the ground running and to have an immediately positive impact on the process.
The parent of an 8th-grader, Silveira currently serves as the president of the Cherokee Middle School PTO and is the past president of the Leopold Elementary School PTO. She’s been a highly engaged member of the school district’s West/Memorial demographics task force and has worked closely with the Madison Foundation for Public Schools. She’s on the steering team of Madison CARES, the group set up to inform voters about referendum issues. She’s a regular at School Board meetings, and she showed up for her Capital Times endorsement interview with a copy of the budget in hand and a clear familiarity with the document.
To a board where new members are often marginalized by a demanding learning curve, particularly when it comes to budget issues, Silveira will bring knowledge, skills and contacts that are likely to make her a more significant contributor than several veteran members.
That’s important, because difficult budget, referendum timing and curriculum issues are on the agenda immediately and this board is no place for a newcomer who will simply fall in line with one of the two relatively well-defined factions that have developed around Carol Carstensen, the current board president, and Ruth Robarts, the loudest and most frequent critic of the board majority and school district administrators.
Silveira is backed by Carstensen and other members of the board majority, while her opponent, Maya Cole, is backed by Robarts and board member Lawrie Kobza. But Silveira, who works for the Promega Corp., is too sharp and too concerned about issues facing the school district to fit easily into one of the board’s existing camps. Her own experiences as the mother of a Latina daughter in the public schools, as an active parent at the elementary and middle school levels, and as a member of bodies charged with advising the board on critical issues regarding overcrowding and new construction, have made her exceptionally sensitive with regard to the achievement gap, to curriculum and to spending matters that have divided the board in the past. As such, she is refreshingly blunt about her desire to build new coalitions so that the board can present a more coherent message to the community particularly when it comes time for referendum votes.
It is this combination of experience and independence that underpins our faith that Silveira is the better choice in the contest for Seat One on the board, which is being vacated by former board President Bill Keys. We think her no-nonsense approach will help the board overcome some of the pettiness that has distracted it in recent years, and we are excited by the prospect that as a savvy newcomer she will forge an effective working relationship with Kobza, who has much to contribute.
The only qualm we have about endorsing Silveira has nothing to do with her. Rather, it has to do with her opponent.
Maya Cole is an exceptionally appealing candidate. Like Silveira, she is a genuine progressive, with a track record of activism that is as long as it is impressive. Cole would be a fine School Board member, and we hope that she will run again in the future.
But, at this essential turning point for the schools, we are convinced that Silveira is better prepared to join the board as a fully prepared and fully engaged member. She is ready to serve as the progressive coalition builder that the board needs to get focused and to win the confidence of all the constituencies students, staff, parents, taxpayers whose support is essential to maintaining one of America’s great urban school systems.
Published: March 27, 2006
Copyright 2006 The Capital Times
A Cap Times editorial