Madison School Board candidate forums begin this weekend, continue throughout March

Scott Girard:

Voters will have several opportunities this month to hear from candidates for Madison School Board beginning this weekend.

The East Side Progressives will hold a forum Sunday, March 8, at Lake Edge Lutheran Church, 4032 Monona Drive. It’s the first of four forums currently planned for the month before the Tuesday, April 7, election.

In the two contested races, Wayne Strong is challenging incumbent Nicki Vander Meulen for Seat 6 and newcomers Chris Gomez Schmidt and Maia Pearson are facing off to take over Seat 7 from Kate Toews, who is not running for re-election. Savion Castro is running unopposed for a one-year term in Seat 2, to which he was appointed last summer after Mary Burke resigned from the board.

[Pearson, Gomez Schmidt advance to general election for Madison School Board Seat 6]

Each of the elections is at large, so any eligible voter can vote for all of the seats on the ballot.

The March 8 forum, which begins at 3 p.m., will feature candidates talking about their vision for meeting the district’s challenges followed by a “speed dating” format offering the chance to meet each candidate in a small-group setting, according to the Facebook event. All five candidates plan to attend.

March 17, the Cap Times will host a forum with questions asked of the five candidates by education reporter Scott Girard and Simpson Street Free Press managing editor Taylor Kilgore. That forum will begin at 7 p.m. in the East High School auditorium, 2222 E. Washington Ave.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”. 

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close. 

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers. 

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.