Explanation of My Positions
I am a teacher with 35 years of experience in teaching children ages 7 to 18. I have a teenager who is currently happily enrolled at Memorial High.
I support the empowerment of teachers and local school principals over the dictates and power of “Downtown.” I believe that centralized control and micro-management from the Doyle Building and MMSD Board has led to a decline in our schools, especially in regards to children most in need of real alternatives. This decline has greatly accelerated since Jennifer Cheatham was hired by the MMSD board as superintendent - fresh from the failed Chicago Public Schools - almost 6 years ago.
I think that solutions to school issues are best found when parents, teachers, principals and students all work on a more local level to find solutions. I believe that parents should be the final authority on what works best for their children, in regards to choosing where their kids go to school.
For schools serving more disadvantaged kids, I think that additional financial and technical support should be offered by the MMSD school board when needed and possible. But such help should not be made in order to simply cover up and perpetuate administrative incompetency and abuses going on at any of those schools. The most unforgettable and unforgivable example of this happening over the last few years, perhaps even in MMSD’s entire history, is Sherman Middle School.
One of the worst aspects of our current educational climate is the idea that just throwing money at a problem will result in a better solution. I think that before spending money on a problem, competent leadership, either current or future, needs to be part of the calculation before this money is spent. Otherwise, this money upholds a broken system which I think needs rebuilding from the ground up. It also puts additional pressure on many Madison families who are in dire economic straits already.
That said, this does not mean that money should not be spent on brand new programs which show real promise in yielding exciting results down the road, after careful consideration. That is what progress is all about, and risks like this should be a fundamental part of good educational leadership by the MMSD board.
But elected members of the Board, just like new charter and voucher-supported schools if they want to attract students, should first be capable of thinking outside the box when it comes to what might truly work for some children over time. That can best be determined by first offering a truly competitive market place of ever-evolving solutions regarding what best serves all of Madison’s children.
There are far too many people at the top who would have you believe that they know what they are doing, while the smoking wrecks from their failures is there for anyone who is not blind, to see. Because of this, I don’t think anyone in 2019 who still claims to know how to find real solutions, but still rejects true alternatives in trying to find real solutions to real problems, should be involved in running a $450 million enterprise involving 27,000 children.
For me, the 2019 MMSD school board race is, above all else, about failed leadership at the top. Once again, what happened at Sherman Middle School is incontrovertible evidence of this, and incontrovertible evidence that the current MMSD Board is not doing its job at its most basic level.
Jennifer Cheatham is not fit to be Superintendent of the MMSD, and yet she continues on, with no signs of concern from the current Board about what she has done in the past. This stretches all the way back to 2014, shortly after she was hired, when she supported a heartless and abusive expulsion of an honest 14 year-old honors student at East High.