It’s election season and I’m on the ballot. Since I’m running unopposed, I’m reasonably confident of the outcome. Nevertheless, opponent or no, it is a time for accounting for my actions and explaining my views to whomever might be interested.
The League of Women Voters is interested. My responses to their questionnaire were due last Friday. The challenge was keeping my answers to 100 words – seems more like haiku than the long-winded explanations I tend to post here.
Anyway, for what it’s worth – here’s the LWV questions and my answers:
1. What educational, professional, civic and community experiences have you had that you believe qualify you for this elective office?
I am completing my first three-year term as a member of the Madison School Board. I have previously served on a number of boards and commissions. I am a partner in the law firm of Stafford Rosenbaum, LLP. Last June, I completed a 20-year run as a parent of one or both of our children attending Madison public schools (Lapham, Marquette, O’Keeffe, East). I am a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Chicago Law School. I write on local school issues at www.edhughesschoolblog.wordpress.com.
2. What is the value of including the following in the school curriculum: a) civics; b) bilingual education for all children; c) music and art; d) 4-year kindergarten; e) preparation of the workforce; f) physical education?
Everything on the list is valuable and complements our core academic curriculum. The challenge is fitting it all into a six-hour school day. There are practical impediments to expanding our day, but we’re looking at smarter approaches to summer school options.
Examples are encouraging incoming ninth graders to take physical education or health classes in the summer to open room in their schedules for electives and adopting a “fifth quarter” approach for more summer work in core academic areas for struggling students.
Thankfully, next year Madison will join the vast majority of Wisconsin school districts that offer voluntary 4-year-old kindergarten.
3. What criteria would you use to evaluate proposals for charter schools in your district?
A charter school is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
If there are impediments to learning we can’t address or opportunities for improvement we can’t provide through our neighborhood schools, a charter could be an effective alternative.
I enthusiastically supported the Badger Rock charter proposal, which allows us at modest cost to partner on an exciting sustainability project and locate a middle school in an underserved area.
Questions remain unanswered, but the Urban League’s Madison Prep is an intriguing charter proposal to attack our achievement gap with an intense academic focus for students who are behind.
4. How would you ensure that all staff are aware of how cultural differences and poverty affect student learning?
Our goal is higher levels of achievement for all our students. Students’ cultural differences and poverty can stunt learning by impeding effective communications between teachers and students.
The school district’s strategic plan calls for implementing culturally relevant teaching strategies, in particular addressing African American students, across the content areas to enhance all students’ achievement levels. Pilot programs for research-based implementation of this goal are underway at Mendota, Falk and Lowell elementary schools.
We’ll see if these programs actually help our students learn more effectively. If they do, we’ll expand the beneficial aspects of the program more widely throughout the district.