Achievement Gap Plan Front And Center At School Board Candidate Forum | Schools
About 20 people attended a 2012 School Board candidate forum, co-sponsored by the Northside Planning Council (NPC) and the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition (EAAPTOC), held at Warner Park Community Recreation Center on March 1.
Community members were introduced to the four candidates running for two available seats on the School Board.
The candidates, who include incumbent, Arlene Silveira, vice president of education and learning at Urban League of Greater Madison, Nichelle Nichols, former Commerce Secretary, Mary Burke, and firefighter, Michael Flores, gave brief introductory statements and then answered questions posed by the NPC and the EAAPTOC.
Nichols will take on Silveira, and Burke and Flores will face each other at the polls on April 3.
One of the first questions of the night referred to the recent achievement gap plan proposed by the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate was asked what they thought the single most important part of the plan was.
Burke mentioned the significance of the broad array of programs designed to affect students of all ages, while her opponent, Flores, likened the plan to his job as a firefighter.
“I believe much like attacking a fire, a house that is on fire, there’s not one single job as a firefighter that is going to put out the fire. There are many aspects within the job, I see that in this plan,” Flores said.
Silveira praised the aspect of the plan that expands the school day and year, with after school programs and an alternative summer school program. Nichols, who is competing against Silveira, talked about the importance of sequencing in the plan.
“I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have your foundation right, the rest of the floors in the house will come crumbling down,” Nichols said. “So what I think is one of the most single important components of the plan is the K-12 sculpt and sequence curricular alignment.”
After the questions posed by the NPC and the EAAPTOC, the candidates moved on to answer each other’s questions, with Silvera and Nichols exchanging inquiries, and Burke and Flores doing the same.
The night concluded with a few anonymous questions from the audience, which were collected prior to the start of the forum. The MMSD achievement gap plan was mentioned again, with one community member asking if the candidates were comfortable raising taxes to support the plan.
While Flores unequivocally supported the proposal, Burke, stated that she would wait until the achievement gap plan had proven successful before raising taxes.
“My preference would certainly be for managing that within the budget. But then once, of course, we’ve been able to prove success and we want to roll it out on a district wide basis, I would certainly support added resources through increased taxes if we have successful models that we can work on,” Burke said.
Nichols agreed with Burke in terms of waiting until the plan had proved successful, whereas Silveira said that she would support raising taxes for the plan, while also ensuring other aspects related to education were accounted for.
“I can’t promise that I would agree to all nine million dollars, or all 10 million dollars to target the achievement gap because we do have other needs as well,” Silveira said.
With only a month until the Board elections, the candidates are working harder than ever to get their views and opinions about the education system in Madison to all those eligible to vote.
They will meet at seven further forums throughout March, including two on March 10, from 9 – 11 a.m. at Centro Hispano, and 2 – 4 p.m. at Sequoya Public Library.