Silveira is right choice for School Board

A letter to the editor
Dear Editor: For years I have been fairly passive about working on local campaigns, but this year the School Board election has me so alarmed that I feel I have to do more than just vote or put up a yard sign.
Anyone who has attended recent forums has seen Arlene Silveira continually giving superior answers to all questions because she is much more familiar with the issues schools face today. Arlene has gained her information through experience and study. She has put in her time supporting our schools and not attacking them.
While some think her opponent is a nice person, I have never seen any sense of depth on educational matters coming from her; in fact, most of her answers at forums are non-answers, attacks on school administrators or worse, naive and unrealistic proposals to save money.
I have not heard one positive statement about our schools made by those candidates endorsed by the people behind the “school info systems” blog.
We have one candidate who states that parents of younger children haven’t been “tainted” by our schools yet and who has called Fitchburg parents “whiners” because they didn’t get a school. A second candidate promises we can have all the programs we want if we just get rid of more administrators. Since these people have no trust in our schools and believe every bit of information given to them is flawed, how are we possibly going to get a positive dialogue going on the real, substantive issues facing our schools? Frankly, the incessant attacks on our schools are beginning to wear thin.
For honest answers to our problems I suggest going to two Web sites:
1) Read under “Hot Topics – Recently Answered Questions” and discover, among other things, that school administrators have been reduced by 28.4 percent over the last six years with four more administrators up for elimination in next year’s budget. This means that the remaining administrators are doubling, tripling and even quadrupling their responsibilities.
2) for a truly reasonable discussion of issues characterized by good judgment and sound thinking.
Personally, I don’t want angry, negative people running our schools, and so this is not an election to be neutral about. It is time for the press and our entire community to support a candidate who wants to take an already great school system and make it even better. It is Arlene Silveira’s confidence in our schools as well as her quiet dignity and intelligence that we need on our School Board.
Marjorie Passman
The Capital Times
Published: March 15, 2006

9 thoughts on “Silveira is right choice for School Board”

  1. Maya Cole’s campaign messages seem positive to me:
    – Expand islands of excellence in the district;
    – Offer a curriculum to ensure excellence;
    – Create an understandable budget process.
    Lucy Mathiak’s core messages seem to be:
    – Take responsibility for how we use the resources that we have;
    – Show results for our investment in public education;
    – Find creative solutions to tough problems.
    I’m voting for both of them.

  2. As am I, Ed.
    The only negativity I’m reading is from Silveira’s supporters. Accuse your opponent of being negative while you do it yourself–a clever campaign tactic Karl Rove would applaud.

  3. Ms. Passman, as a retired teacher, I would assume that you would back Arlene. As I look at the endorsers to her campaign a great number of them are teachers from Leopold and Cherokee where her daughter has attended. I like Arlene as a person, but I feel she doesn’t see all sides of the story either. She is a strong backer of hetrogeneous classrooms, and for most this might be okay. But there are kids on either end who these don’t work for. I am going to back the people who see this and are open to the ideas of finding ways to meet these kids needs also.

  4. We can be proud that we have four talented and hard working candidates interested in serving on the school board. Let’s start there. I can’t fault any of the candidates on their motives. No matter who gets in, we’ll need to work together to support the board as they handle the mundane issues as well as the gripping crises.
    However, that’s exactly why I support Arlene Silveira and Juan Lopez. Both are consistent in their goals for better and authentic community and school relationships, as well as wider community input and involvement. Don’t fault them for having many supporters!
    They, like Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole, share the interest to have effective budgeting and creative solutions. They may differ in how they engage with educational professionals – how they see them as partners rather than adversaries or people primarily resistant to change. Some on this post may believe that partnering with teachers and administrators is a fundamental flaw. Beyond those roles of the board where there is clear need for objective oversight (contracts and personnel issues), I don’t agree. We need a healthy climate of partnership. Clear and simple.
    We can have a school board that requests, proudly and with sound reasoning, that the community fully support public K12 education for the primary benefit of student learning, in principle and with economic support. If we don’t get to those requests or if these requests are put forth without a clear rationale, we’ll be taking more than a few back steps in the quality of our schools.
    Sure, there will continue to be a need for rational measures of efficiency and budget transparency, but there will also be a need for seemingly irrational and emotional support of public education for all students who need K12 education. You can’t piece together all the bits of emotional connections a community has with its schools. The emotional connections made around our schools provide many of the essential threads of our larger community. On a much smaller scale, imagine a completely rational basketball team – they’d have no errors in their stats, they would know what they are doing wrong, but they’d lose many games and have few fans.
    This is where it comes back to us. The outcome of those requests for public support (which may need to be frequent in the midst of a flawed state funding system) rests on the community – not on the school board. For some, this may be the best reason to vote for people like Arlene and Juan, two talented community members who continue to build strong and diverse community alliances as they become more involved in it.
    – Jerry

  5. I’m surprised that Arlene and her supporters brag about her ability to “build strong and diverse community alliances” when she led the failed referendum on Leopold a year ago.
    I do not mean to disparage Arlene and her dedication but she did not lead a successful campaign. In fact, the campaign was divisive, and she was very hostile toward Laurie Kobza and Ruth Robarts when she spoke to the board after the referendum. I cannot imagine how she might be able to build coalitions with people she blasted.
    Ditto for Juan. He’s a champion for another Leopold referendum when he was on the losing side previously.
    Juan, Arlene, Carol Carstensen, Bill Keys, and Johnny Winston fail to understand that they represent a minority point of view, based on the referendum vote.

  6. From The Capital Times, Silveira believes: “I’m a proponent of the heterogeneous classroom,” she said. “But she said to make it work, you need very well-trained teachers so they can address the different levels in their classrooms, and that she would stress the importance of providing adequate resources.”
    Thank goodness my sisters are an entire generation older than me. They have been telling me for years, since my children were born: “Get involved. Your children will care because you care. It’s all about the teacher and the teaching.”
    Well, my children have had awesome teachers, right here in MMSD. They have taught *me* a few things as well. I believe we need someone willing to continue to work with them to understand today’s classroom demands and learn from the best on how to continue training.
    School is so much more than academics. It’s really life; from interaction, to maintained excitement and passion, to extra curricular activities; without any of these what would be left? What would the children and teenagers do?
    Yes, I AM a supporter for Arlene Silveira

  7. Your correct that school is more than academics and that there are some awesome teachers in Madison. But in the long run, we send our kids to school to learn academics. I have never heard of anyone who sends their kids to school to “socialize” only, or to play. The public would be screaming if kids where not learning anything. Look at Milwaukee. This is the situation some high end kids are facing. I am not saying every high end kid. In fact, a lot of kids can get needs met by a teacher who differentiates well. But teachers can only reach so many different levels, and even the best teachers can’t always meet every need when the classroom is so diverse.
    Take 1st grade. It isn’t unusual to have kids in a classroom who are still learning the sounds of the alphabet, but how do you expect the teacher to reach the children who are reading/comprehending at an 8th grade level also? First, she isn’t going to have the books in her classroom that are going to challenge these children, and don’t they deserve time with the teacher to learn? You can’t expect a 6 year old to be completely independent, no matter how smart they are. What about the kindergarten classroom where kids are learning their numbers and then have kids in the same classroom who are counting money, and multiplying/dividing double digit numbers. Doesn’t this child deserve to have the teacher’s time also? In fact, for the math kid, they may have to work on math facts through 5th and 6th grade if they are in hetrogeneous classrooms. Is this fair to them?
    At the high school level, you have children who say are reading/comprehending about a 4th – 6th grade level with kids reading/comprehending and have a vocabulary at a college level. What are going to be appropriate books to read and discuss in either English or History. Try to do a Shakespeare unit on Othello, you will have some who really get into this and see what Shakespeare is trying to say. But you have others who won’t be able to read the first page. Huckleberry Finn would be the same way. Does the child with a large vocabulary have to simplify everything he/she says so that everyone in the class understands what he/she is saying. I know of kids who would be so turned off by this that they wouldn’t participate at all. Vocabulary grows by both reading and listening to others. But how long do you think a child who doesn’t have a strong vocabulary can sit and listen to those with very large vocabularies. A classroom may have kids who can’t write a sentence, with those who can easily write 12 page essays. Say for English 9, a teacher can’t expect some kids to only write a paragraph, while others write a 5 page essay and give them equivalent grades on say.
    There is a saying, when kids start school they are at many different levels, but by 3rd grade, it all evens off. Is that fair for the child who happens to begin school reading or takes off reading after they begin, to need to sit around waiting for everyone else to catch up?
    Kids even in kindergarten know who the “smart” kids are by observation. Even in hetrogeneous classes, there will be those kids who will feel “stupid”. My concern is for those who are not allowed to learn at their level can also feel “stupid” because they feel that no one feels they are smart and that they have to learn the same thing that they have covered in years past.
    I feel there are many times where kids can be in hetrogeneous classes. There are specials and sometimes even in social studies and science in the lower levels and in many of the electives in the upper grades. You don’t expect the football or basketball team to have hetrogeneous kids on the Varsity team. We also have different level bands or choirs based on skill levels. Foreign language also has different levels for incoming Freshman. Why can’t History, English and Science have the same thing at the high school level?

  8. Thank you Jerry for your contributions and thank you edukation4u for the thought provoking discussions, I was starting to believe the statement within the letter:
    “I have not heard one positive statement about our schools… ”

  9. Marisue,
    Is it positive or negative when Maya says she wants to “expand islands of excellence?”

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