Board members explain votes to close schools

Susan Troller:

When newly elected Madison School Board members Maya Cole and Beth Moss went into Monday night’s crucial budget meeting, both intended to vote against closing schools, consistent with their campaign promises.
But by the time the seven-member board patched together the various cuts, additions and compromises necessary to restore some programs and services while keeping the budget in the black, both Moss and Cole found themselves making a reversal and voting with Lawrie Kobza and Arlene Silveira to consolidate the paired elementary schools Marquette and Lapham at the Lapham site on East Dayton Street.
Now Moss, along with board members Carol Carstensen and Lucy Mathiak, would not mind reopening the discussion with the possibility of reconsidering that vote.
But Cole — who during the campaign was firmer than Moss in her opposition to school closings — says her decision to consolidate Marquette and Lapham is final.

Moss said she had received hundreds of e-mails on all budget issues, many specifically about the consolidation of Marquette and Lapham.
“For many parents, there’s a sense of anger and betrayal,” she said.
She said that when she went into Monday’s meeting she had several priorities, but foremost was trying to find money somewhere in the budget to keep class sizes small in the early elementary grades. Another priority was not closing schools.
In an interview Thursday, Cole said she has struggled with the issue but has decided not to reconsider her vote.
“The cuts are horrid, but overall I think we made some excellent decisions,” she said.
She outlined four things she felt that were particular accomplishments, given the tight budget constraints:
“We saved Lindbergh, and we did not close Black Hawk. We kept small class sizes in math and literacy for kindergarten and first-graders, and keeping these small class sizes means we can hold onto more of our young teaching staff. And at Marquette, we committed to a home for the alternatives program, which is a group that is least able to advocate for itself,” she said.
As for the consolidation of Marquette and Lapham, she said she did not really view it as closing a school.
“We merged a pair, and we put something new in one of the schools,” she said.
“I’m willing and eager to work with the neighborhood, but I don’t think it’s healthy for School
Board members to be seen as changing their votes,” Cole said.
“There are people I know and respect who are really angry about this, and that makes me feel sick. But my vote on this wasn’t because it was PC or because I was pushed into it. If I’m a one-term board member, so be it.”