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June 28, 2007

The new school year

Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira:

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on the Madison School Board. The purpose is to familiarize you with who we are, how we do our work, and how we can work together to keep the Madison Metropolitan School District strong.


July 1 marks the start of the 2007-08 fiscal school year. For the Madison School Board, this will be a year filled with many challenges and tremendous opportunities. We are coming off several rocky months.

State-imposed revenue caps forced us to make budget cuts that will affect every school and student in the District. Special interest groups lobbied for specific schools and programs for their children and sometimes found themselves pitted against other groups. Decisions had to be made where there were no good choices. In addition, the public was divided on the naming of a new school. As a community we were fragmented in actions yet united in our belief that quality schools are vital for the future of our children and society.

A new year provides us with an opportunity to look ahead and make plans to move the District forward. As a Board, we are committed to working hard to make this happen. We have set our Board priorities for the year, all integral to the success of our District and our community.

Our single most important priority is to hire a new Superintendent to lead our District. This will be an exciting process, directed by the Board, that will involve staff and the community in developing a leadership profile for the new Superintendent and the future of our District. Ways in which you can participate in this effort will soon be announced.

In other priorities, we will evaluate the need and weigh the options for going to another referendum in order to eliminate painful budget cuts again next year. We will consider revisions to the Board’s equity policy and the development of guidelines to implement this policy. We will develop specific, measurable goals to evaluate student progress and success. We will study and address the issues that affect educational environment and student achievement such as attendance, dropouts, truancy, expulsions and bullying.

The priorities I have listed above are educational issues. I also believe we need to demonstrate consistency in the decision-making process. The community must understand how the Board makes decisions, and at the same time, the Board must listen to what the community values in public education. This year you will see a proactive effort by our Board to collect information from the community and strengthen the school-community partnerships.

As Board President, what are my thoughts? I know there are challenges ahead of us, many of which are caused by inadequate state funding for schools. I know we have a strong foundation, with talented staff committed to the children of our District. I know we have a community who believes our children are our future. I know that a strong public school system is central to a thriving community.

You have my commitment that as a Board we will work hard to focus our discussions and actions on finding creative, collaborative and positive approaches and solutions to the challenges facing us. A School Board working together in partnership with the community can prevail and succeed not only for our nearly 25,000 children but for the entire Madison Metropolitan School District. Happy New School Year. I look forward to working with you.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 28, 2007 7:21 PM
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