With next week’s municipal election quickly approaching, Board of Education candidates met with UW-Madison students Tuesday to discuss their plans for the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Kate Toews and Ali Muldrow are vying to fill Seat 6. Nicki Vander Meulen, the Seat 7 candidate, is running unopposed after incumbent Ed Hughes dropped out of the race earlier this month due to family health issues.
Questions from the forum, which was hosted by UW-Madison's College Democrats, centered around priorities for the MMSD, as well as how the candidates will address the district’s achievement gap.
Echoing her priorities from the spring primary, Toews, who has a background in business, emphasized the need to attract a high-quality and diverse set of teachers. Toews said she believes more diverse teachers will narrow the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Madison.
Although hiring high-quality teachers is important, Toews stressed the importance of keeping these teachers in the system.
“Right now, almost half of our teacher leave in the first five years after getting into the district. Our starting pay in Madison is lower than most other communities in the state,” Toews said. “As our teacher work force shrinks, it gets harder and harder for us. Our Wisconsin educators are better than other educators, and we are well-funded enough to be compensating our teachers better.”
Muldrow, a former MMSD student, says the board should address how schools provide equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds. Muldrow stressed that race should not be a factor in success for students.
“I know what it means to be black and go to school here. When we are talking about the achievement gap—we are talking about something big. We are talking about something we’ve created. We are talking about who we are and how we treat one another’s children,” Mudrow said. “Addressing the achievement gap means having a greater diversity in our leadership and allowing folks who have not been at the table to make decisions to be part of the conversation.”
Vander Meulen, a juvenile attorney in the area, would like to create a behavior plan with a clear set of rules that keeps students in the classroom. This behavior plan, she said, should be created based on community standards.
“We need to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions in our schools. We need to use an objective standard [when assessing the actions of students], and create a rubric on behavior created through community standards,” Vander Meulen said.
The general election is Apr. 4.