The whole agonizing conflict over Madison Preparatory Academy did not end on Monday night, when the school board voted 5-2 against allowing the African American charter school to open next fall. Now comes the lawsuit.
But first, our community faces two immediate tasks: healing the wounds that were ripped open during the Madison Prep controversy, and getting something done about the urgent problem the charter school was developed to address — Madison’s disgraceful achievement gap for African American children.
Monday night’s six hours of emotional testimony mostly highlighted the first of those two problems. In front of the packed auditorium at Memorial High School, Urban League president and Madison Prep founder Kaleem Caire read “What happens to a dream deferred?” to the school board. Nichelle Nichols, the Urban League’s vice president of learning, read a poem that placed the blame for her own children’s spoiled futures squarely on Madison Metropolitan School District officials: “My kids are in the gap, a chasm so dark…. I ask, Mr. Superintendent, what happened to my sons…?”
The sense that Madison has mistreated children of color was a powerful theme. White business leader and former teacher Jan O’Neil pointed out the “huge amount of capital in this room,” all focused on solving the historic educational inequality for African American kids. A “no” vote, she warned the board, might be hopelessly polarizing.