I have so many great memories going up on the Southside of Madison. From running track on the South Madison Panthers track team, which through that program I was able to travel almost to every state in the US and spend time with my family and friends; to being a cheerleader for the Southside Raiders Football team. From the food the neighborhood elders provided to make sure I ate, to the corner candy store.
Overall, my most favorite memory growing up and going to school was my Kindergarten teacher, Connie Hood, who would become my mentor and continue to be a part of my life to this day. She took me under her wing and made sure I soared. I remember those moments when I worked really hard, we would go and get a happy meal from Mc Donald’s with her granddaughter (happy meals were the rave in the 90’s). She not only made sure I mastered what I was taught, but she made sure that I experienced activities I might not have gotten a chance to do, like riding horses (my favorite was a horse named Slimer). Even when we lost touch when I went to college, she made sure to find me (thank you Barb Rubin for helping her also find me).
Thank you Connie for always believing in me and for sharing EVERY Disney movie ever made!
How can your district raise achievement levels for all students while holding the line on property taxes?
It’s important to keep property taxes at a reasonable level. MMSD can allow teachers to make decisions regarding appropriate efficiencies in the district and at the school level. They know more about how to use the money we have more efficiently.
What is your experience in working with African American and Latino youth? how that experience will inform your decision-making as a MMSD school board membeR?
I grew up in the Black community of South Madison, where my family and community was very committed to ensure that our children received a good education, while embracing the richness of our community. I can proudly say that if there was a program for Black children and children of color, I was in it: The African American Academy, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the first cohort of the UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program. My grandmother, Sadie Pearson, arrived in Madison in the early 60’s. I have benefited from generational wisdom and experience, including years of work as an activist and advocate for public schools.
Professionally, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County from 2005 to 2013. I worked directly with elementary, middle, and high school students and their families from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and other community organizations. I taught a host of programs including, but not limited to: language programs, reading programs, computer literacy and safety programs, and life skill programs. I created with other staff, a program that transported children with housing insecurities to school each day. Later, I had responsibilities of securing funding, ensuring transparency, data analysis and auditing for grants and programs, I have been on the outside looking in. My expertise comes from having lived experiences, I do not have to rely on being part of committees or task forces.
I know what it was like to be left out of classroom learning communities as students partnered with their friends for academic projects. I was on my own while the other students had each other as resources to brainstorm and develop their academic ideas.
I know what it is like to feel as though I was “bad” and needed to be “fixed” when I was told as a child that the way I expressed myself in language was “not correct.”
I have institutional memories of black students in our high schools making school improvements to climate and culture; what decades of young people of color like and dislike when it comes to reading, math or science; how to lead groups of ethnically diverse students in exploring what outside factors impacted them emotionally and what their social lives were like.
I know what makes students of color fascinated in schoolwork and what makes them want to pass notes during lessons. I know what it is like to consistently be in the lives of the homeless youth in our schools - not because it was my position, or job, but because I saw how tired, hungry and scared the children in my community were.
I know what worked in the Black communities initiatives to help us read at grade level using books that we were all into, what it felt like to finally get an A on a math test, what attitudes the adults had when they taught us, what programs disappeared because someone moved out of the area, or how some people worked out ways for us to only focus on our creativity.
Part of my expertise is in being a parent learning through the IEP process - not understanding the process, scheduling and meeting with my son’s teachers, even when we were all at a loss, brainstorming solutions and watching them work with my son.
In short, I see my community in a holistic way. My own experiences matter, because I have many shared experiences with black, latinx, and Hmong youth today. These are the experiences that are needed to shape board policies.
I am very interested in following the progress of each of these bills below. I am most concerned about the (1) increasing tax deductions (2) regulation surrounding school “report cards” and juvenile detention centers (4) increased permissions for online schools (5) tax deduction (6) collective bargaining.
teacher licensure in parental choice programs and in the Special Needs Scholarship Program and granting rule-making authority
state aid to the resident school district of a pupil attending a private school under the Racine or statewide parental choice program
Applications for full-time open enrollment
Posting the child abuse and neglect reporting hotline in school buildings
Participation in interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities
Creating a legislative office of inspector general and making an appropriation
Incorporating the Holocaust and other genocides into the state model social studies standards and requiring instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides
Public health campaign for prevention of tobacco and electronic cigarette use, a grant program to support organizations working on youth vaping and cessation services, and making an appropriation
Expanding the part-time open enrollment program
Prohibiting vaping on public and private school property
Correcting the 2019 personal property aid distribution
Creating a sexual assault victim bill of rights; collection and reporting of data regarding sexual assault kits; storage and processing of sexual assault kits; tracking of sexual assault kits in sexual assault cases; and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority.
Creating the Council for Equity and Inclusion and the Office for Equity and Inclusion and making an appropriation
Phasing out parental choice programs and the Special Needs Scholarship Program, repealing the achievement gap reduction program and the student achievement guarantee program, creating a new student achievement guarantee program, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation
A property tax exemption for all machinery, tools, and patterns; a reduction of state general obligation and variable rate debt supported by general purpose revenue; and increasing the maximum deduction under the individual income tax sliding scale standard deduction.
Measuring a school district's improvement for the school and school district accountability report
Allowing certain child care providers to participate in the teacher loan program and making an appropriation
Grants to school districts to pay student teachers an hourly wage, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation
Bargaining over wages, hours, and conditions of employment for public employees
Question: What behavior and discipline plans other than SRO's (Police officers) would you support to deal with students’ misbehavior?
As a mother of three black children who currently attend Madison elementary schools, I believe that if black children feel emotionally and mentally safe in our schools, all children will feel safe and misbehavior will decrease. To do that we need to focus on seeing our children from a standpoint of excellence instead of a deficit. For example, as a board we can work with administrators to create policy that directs schools to take a common set of steps regarding student behavior comes from the recognition and expectation of excellence, i.e. requiring administrators, teachers, parents and the student involved to first develop a list of assets and excellent qualities the student has as the first step in the disciplinary process. The second step is to have an evidence based scientific and trauma-informed plan to leverage those assets and develop the students capacities to develop and display patience, while at the same time being able to demonstrate one of the skills they naturally possess to the teacher or to the class.
As a board we can create policy that goes beyond requiring culturally relevant practices and curriculum/literature that feature stories about people of color - and reflect what teachers who practice Culturally Relevant Pedagogy already do in our MMSD schools, like require that curriculum be more rigorous in its source material to reflect primary sources that our diverse students see their local histories, their family histories in and that creates opportunity for our students to show their expertise regarding how their ethnicity, nationality, ability status, socioeconomic stats etc. contributes to world history, technology, science, mathematics etc.
Our students are incredibly bright, smart and ambitious. If you listen to our students - like the students who came to the last Black Excellence Coalition meeting at the end of February, you will hear that they don't just react to social relationships, or teacher/administrator interactions. They want, need and are calling for to be challenged academically. Disengagement from the curriculum is a student identified problem. Our own students are asking us to create more rigorous academic programs to engage them in the classroom. How can we include academics in a positive way to prevent disciplinary issues in the first place?
Second, we must have more black teachers, support staff, and trauma-informed staff in our schools. When we have more staff in our schools, we not only give our students more people to form relationships with, but we give our teachers perhaps the most important resource -more time in the classroom to teach.
Third, we need to clarify the BEP/IEP process. as a mother of a black boy with an IEP, I have been very active in MMSD sessions regarding IEPs, as my experience started out in such a way that I was disempowered to discovering options, resources, and power to ensure that my child is taken care of. From the meetings I have been at, I noticed that black parents do not have information regarding IEPs and the BEP that empower them to advocate for their child.
There have been a lot of community sessions that review the details of the BEP. Unfortunately these sessions do not offer clarity for myself or parents like me regarding the process and how decisions are made. Our questions include:
How it is implemented by teachers and administrators?
What do they base their decisions off of when they implement this plan?
How well do they know our children, I only hear from them when my child is in trouble.
How these decisions are made regarding my individual child?
Why am I meeting with my teachers half-way through this issue becoming a problem?
As a board member my goal is to work with my board members, district administrator, parents, students and teachers to refine, revamp, create and lobby for school board policy that clarifies the process and directly answers questions to the questions that I myself and other parents have regarding this process.
There are so many factors that affect any one teacher of color. You cannot pick one single thing that can be “fixed.” Policies that keep teachers of color in the district are not complicated.
First and foremost - increasing teacher pay. We need to support teachers in being able to teach instead of working a second job. This is very important to recognize and understand that teachers of color starting in the workforce do not just have nuclear family structures to support, they typically are financially responsible for extended family members. We do what we must to get out of generational poverty.
Second we need to create policy at the school board level that requires teachers and administrators to collaborate more on school and district policies, curriculum and the operations of their school.
We also need to:
Although I know I have to make decisions regarding officers in schools as a board member, my thoughts on the issue are not as simple as a yes or no.
I had positive experiences with school resource officers (SRO) when I attended West High School in the early 2000s, as our neighborhood officer (South Madison) was the SRO. However, that was not the case for my brothers, and many other students, especially black and brown students. When a crime happens and an investigation needs to take place, I want police officers to be able to do their job. At the same time, if there is trouble managing a classroom, I do not want the police called on to be used to manage student behavior. Crimes are different from behavior issues. This doesn’t take away from the fact that students, teachers, and staff need to be safe from violence in our schools.
Therefore to give a yes or no answer to a complex issue is purely political. We are supposed to be having a conversation about safety, which isn't only about physical safety.
Last, I do not see evidence that there has been a serious examination of better staffing for counselors and social workers. There probably has been, and if so I think the Board would benefit from having a more transparent discussion of the decision making.
I want to make decisions that will be the best for all our students and teachers. My vote will reflect what the students, teachers, community members and administrators come up with together. This requires considering all of the possibilities.
Recently in a questionnaire, each candidate was asked what the last 3 books they read. I thought this was a great question. Something so simple, yet so powerful. The last three books I read was:
When I decided and declared that I was running for school board earlier this year, one of the first things I did was to go back to the books by Gloria Ladson-Billings. She pioneered Cultural Relevant Pedagogy, and is a woman I admire. I wanted to know what academia had to say about the best ways to help children of color reach their full potential. The information I learned was invaluable.
My great-grandmother (born approx. 1906) had a garden where she grew many herbs and roots to make many herbal remedies. I never got to meet my great-grandmother, but my grandmother Sadie Pearson, told me all about it. I was curious about the herbs and flowers she grew that matched with my grandmother's stories of cod liver oil and yellow dock root. So I purchased "Working the Roots" and have learned a lot of how many herbs and roots can boost immune systems. It is especially relevant in these difficult times as we deal with COVID -19.
Where it all starts:
My vision for MMSD includes:
Our district has always been in a position to offer excellent rigorous education for all children. Our community has always been there to help. Our businesses have always been ready to partner with us. I am running because I will ensure that the board will pull these pieces together again.
The School Board’s role