Election 2017

Meet the candidate: Cris Carusi for Madison School Board

Cris Carusi says she would focus on community engagement and reducing class sizes if elected to seat six of the Madison School Board in the upcoming municipal election.

Image By: Morgan Winston

After 10 years of speaking up at school board meetings, Cris Carusi says it’s time to take her involvement in the Madison Metropolitan School District to the next level by running for a board of education seat.

A longtime Madison resident and mother of two, Carusi said her ideas for seat six of MMSD School Board—currently held by Michael Flores—come from firsthand experience in the district.

A crucial issue that needs to be improved, she said, is board transparency and engagement with the community in decision-making.

“It feels like all too often the district comes to the families in the community with new programs, like the Pathways Program for high schools, and nobody knows what it is,” Carusi said

To address concerns raised by programs such as the Pathways Program, Carusi said MMSD needs to include families and staff in planning these programs.

“The role of the school board is to be a conduit between the community and the administration,” Carusi said. “We need to make sure that many diverse people in our community are represented at the table when these kinds of decisions are made for our district.”

A major goal of the Madison School Board has been to address achievement and opportunity gaps in its schools. One way in which they have done this is through the Behavior Education Plan which attempts to reduce disparities, along with suspension and expulsion rates, and keep students in class.

Carusi called this a “noble” goal, but noted suggestions on how to improve the plan.

“In order to make the Behavior Education Plan work better, we need to look at class sizes in the district, which have been inching up over the years to try to deal with state budget cuts.”

Reducing class sizes has been a focal point in Carusi’s campaign. She said she would prioritize narrowing the student-faculty ratio, which she believes will help close the achievement gap by fostering positive relationships between pupils and teachers.

“I feel that reduced class sizes will give teachers more time to accept behavioral issues in the classroom and also build positive relationships with their students that help to influence good behavior,” she said.

Along with her push to reduce class sizes, Carusi said she wants to improve the conditions of teachers in Madison—a place she said teachers are leaving due to poor working conditions and the increasingly “top-down” curriculum guidelines.

“As a school board member, I would strongly support moving back to a more flexible approach to teaching and instruction where teachers would have the freedom to make the choices about how they teach and what they teach in their classrooms,” Carusi said. “There is no standardized approach that works for every child.”

The spring municipal primary is Feb. 21, and the general election is Apr. 4.

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