“End the Vang Pao Debacle”

Marc Eisen:

Finally, the Madison school board is showing signs it may back away from its wrongheaded decision to name a new elementary school for Hmong warlord Vang Pao.
To a remarkable degree, the board has stubbornly ignored all evidence of Vang Pao’s bloody past. That’s because Madison’s emergent Hmong community has rallied behind the proposal, and the board, wishing to celebrate Madison’s multicultural makeup, has decided that the Hmong’s time is now, no matter what the objections.
Carol Carstensen has been the lone exception in her willingness to reconsider the naming decision.
Not surprisingly, Bill Keys, the former school board member and perhaps the city’s most arrogant and self-righteous liberal, has been in the frontlines of Vang Pao’s supporters. Disappointingly, several past and present board members who should know better also threw their credibility behind the school naming, despite serious accusations of Vang Pao’s war crimes, drug dealing and suspect fundraising activities.

10 thoughts on ““End the Vang Pao Debacle””

  1. Looks like we’ll spend more time discussing the school’s name than the impact of its construction on the rest of MMSD’s schools, prime example, Marquette.
    Here’s another example: Supt. Rainwater is forging ahead with a dramatic overhaul of our high schools’ curricula, stacking task forces with his players who will undoubtedly recommend what he wants done. And our BOE on this flawed process much less the outcome? /silence
    What is in a name, after all–it’s what goes on inside the building that matters. Let’s get back to discussing and solving the serious problems facing our schools and community.
    The BOE’s credibility is taking a big hit on the naming issue. Rainwater must be delighted to see them so stymied and distracted. That this is a pet issue for Bill Keys makes me all the more suspicious, come to think of it.
    Please, BOE, straighten out your priorities.

  2. Ed: I don’t see that analogy.
    There’s been a substantial change in governance over the past few years.
    Many issues have been discussed or disclosed rather than stonewalled.
    A few examples:
    East High “Redesign” stopped (though West continues while the present High School “Redesign Task Force” membership appears to support the move toward more one size fits all approaches):
    http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/11/rainwater_halts.php West’s changes continued unscathed under previous board regimes. One board member mentioned to me that “the public will have a say in this”. Clearly, there’s a difference of opinion on that question, given the current makeup of the high school redesign task force.
    Concessions before Negotiations – happening for years, disclosed recently:
    Structural deficits in the MMSD’s $333M+ budget publicly discussed
    Citizen’s Budget Document
    The Superintendent’s Performance Reviews (something that had not been done in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004 ).
    The current board’s freedom of movement in this matter is limited by the Superintendent’s employment agreement as Ruth Robarts noted in 2004:
    There will be significant changes in the day to day administration of the local school district over the next two years.
    The amount of time required by some board members to pull these things off is not small. It’s actually remarkable, given the day to day challenges.
    Finally, we’ve been fortunate to have several excellent, competitive school board races recently.

  3. I completely agree with Jim’s comments. Lawrie, Arlene, and Lucy really have brought some positive changes to the Board. I’ve been going to Board meetings fairly regularly for about 10 years and feel like we finally have Board members who are asking the right questions and trying to hold the administration accountable to the citizens of the school district. It takes time to change the paradigm, as they say, but I certainly do see some progress.

  4. Jim and Jill,
    None of the “progress” has improved the academic performance of low-income and minority students. The MMSD continues to graduate students who can’t read or do math at a level where they can pursue additional education or jobs that pay a living wage. And the board just sticks its collective head in the sand, as if academic performance is irrelevant to them.

  5. Hi Ed:
    I see things differently with respect to curriculum as well.
    Recall that a previous board failed to discuss Superintendent Rainwater’s rejection of $2M in Reading First funds:
    Reading First has been a political football, to some extent. But, $2M is $2M and it should have been discussed.
    West High’s move toward a one size fits all English 9 and 10 curriculum was also not discussed by the Board. East High’s similar changes recently were stopped (however, the composition of the current “high school redesign” committee could certainly be improved with a much broader swath of community representatives).
    You wrote about “The Impossibility of English 10” here:
    Is there more to do? Yes. However, addressing some of these issues requires four votes.
    I supported the Studio School largely for one reason: curricular diversity. We seem to have a growing, monolithic approach, which makes no sense, given the growing diversity in the student population.
    Finally, I posted this approach taken by a very large district ( > 100K students) to the reading issue a few months ago:
    Math was actually discussed by the Board.
    There’s now a Math Task Force, though we’ll see where that actually goes….

  6. What has the board done in the last couple of years (or longer) to improve the academic performance of students in the MMSD? Nothing. Even when MMSD studies document the failings of current programs.
    What curricular initiatives were in the recent budget to improve academic performance? None.
    How will the Vang Pao debate improve academic performance? It won’t.
    Even though academics are the core mission of education, the board does nothing on academics.
    Did anyone on the board even speak out when the superintendent made the outrageous claim that there is no statistical difference between minority and white students on academic performance? No. (See http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2007/03/cooking_the_num.php) Do they believe the superintendent? Are they afraid to challenge him? Do they just not care?
    Has any board member supported Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques in their effort to get data on academic performance at West? (See http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2007/06/west_hs_english_3.php). Not that I know of. Jeff and Laurie continue to get stonewalled by the administration and the board alike.
    The clowns continue to entertain in the side shows while the center ring offers nothing but poor academic performances.

  7. Naming the School after Vang Pao’s name is a bad choice. Currently, there are so much controversy against Vang Pao such as the recent arrest because violation Neutrality Act, Poligamy (6 wives), dealing with drug in the past, and extort money from the community and etc…. If the School Boards approve to name the School under Vang Pao’s name that means the School Board has not done enough research and that the School Boards only listening to one side of the stories. I have no choice, but to move out of the area and will incourage my friends and relatives to do the same.
    We need to name the School to carry a creditable individual, whether it’s Hmong or anyone else.
    Think about it, soon or later, the School Boards’ term will expire or retire, but the name will remain forever, if a bad example individual is named for the School, that will remain forever.

  8. The Madison School Board did not do its homework. They relaid on a couple of board members; the former Hmong board member and Lucy Mathiak, who had political agenda on naming Linden Park School after Van Pao. The latest criminal act has illustrated that Van Pao has such a dark and criminal history. He is not worth to be named after any young people’s school. The Linden community, and all the neighborhoods need an outstanding role model not a violent and criminal like Van Pao.
    It is time that the whole Madison community uprise and outcry against the Madison School Board. They deserve a no confidence vote.

  9. Dear Miss Armacanqui,
    Please elaborate on my alleged political agenda. Unsubstantiated allegations are not helpful in this discussion.
    Yours truly,
    Lucy Mathiak

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