One of my favorite events of the year is the annual Principal for a Day event organized by the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools and sponsored by CUNA. For one thing, it’s an opportunity for me to use phrases like, “Hey, hey, no running in the halls!” and, “sure, it’s funny until somebody loses an eye.”
This year I chose to be the shadow principal at Toki Middle School. It’s no secret that Toki is at the center of a neighborhood that has been in the news in recent years in part because of some changing demographics. Those changes are apparent at the school where kids eligible for free and reduced lunches have increased from about a third to about half of the school population in just a few years.
But what I saw on a typical day where most of the kids didn’t know or care much who I was (just like a normal day around City Hall) was a school where a lot of learning was taking place. I visited Rhonda Chalone’s Student Leadership class, Vern Laufenberg’s Technology Class and Scott Mullee’s Science Class. I also spent some time with Principal Nicole Schaefer and her staff. What I witnessed was dedicated teachers and engaged students in a friendly and orderly atmosphere. And the diversity that is there is a big advantage, setting those kids up for success in a world that is, if anything, even more diverse than the student body at Toki.
Every school has some challenges, but anyone that doesn’t think Madison schools are doing a great job teaching our kids, should spend a day in one.
The southwest part of Madison, including Toki Middle School has had its share of challenges over the past few years.