Why are you running for school board?
I am running for a seat on the MPS School Board because I cannot sit idly by while the children in our community do not receive the education they deserve.
What in your background or makeup especially qualifies you for this seat?
My child attended and graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools as did my husband and my father. I taught in MPS for 30 years in a variety of positions. Most of that time was spent as an Advanced Placement literature and composition teacher at Riverside University High School. I served as literacy coach there and at another school also. I finished my career as an advanced academic coach traveling throughout the district supporting Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and gifted and talented programs, teachers and students. My office was located at Central Office, which allowed me to observe how district business is conducted and decisions are made.
I have lived in the school board’s 5th District for forty years. I love that it is organically diverse from the lake to the freeway.
These experiences ground me in my pursuit of a seat on the MPS School Board. I have firsthand experiences of what is good about MPS and continue to be challenged by what needs to improve. Building on my life as a parent and teacher I know that I can continue to positively impact the lives of Milwaukee’s children and community as their elected voice in MPS.
What are the most important issues facing the board — and your district in particular? What do you think should be done about these issues?
The most glaring problem in Milwaukee Public Schools is the shortage of certified, qualified, anti-racist, invested teaching staff. I know firsthand that teaching is a stressful and challenging profession with little appreciation and inadequate compensation. Nonetheless, I cannot imagine a more rewarding career. Working with young people, hearing their naive perspectives and analysis of the world keeps a teacher young and always thinking. MPS must adjust its compensation policy so that those who make the highest salaries make a little less in order for new teachers to earn more. It is untenable that teachers have to work additional jobs just to make ends meet.
Another problem MPS has to deal with is competition from charter, choice and voucher schools. These programs are not available to every child. They siphon public school money away from MPS, choose the easiest students to enroll in their schools, and leave the most expensive and difficult learners for MPS to educate with reduced funding. Policy says that these schools are not required to have licensed teachers. So they do not have experts in education working with their students. When these schools determine that a child is a problem they send them back to MPS. Frequently, these students are not performing at grade level and MPS ends up bearing the blame for their poor test scores and inability to graduate on time. By segregating who can and cannot attend, these charter, choice and voucher schools deny all students the opportunity to be exposed to a plurality of ideas, beliefs, histories, cultures, races and dynamics. This plurality is the foundation of our community and our democracy. Charter, choice and voucher schools need to be held to the same standards and requirements as MPS or eliminated altogether.
This last issue I am going to address is the physical infrastructure of MPS and relates to the old school buildings in District 5. In what other profession would you find 1,600 people in one building without air conditioning in April, May, June, August or September? It is unsafe for schools to reopen in MPS because they are already unsafe. Not all schools are handicap accessible — a discriminatory practice. Furniture is broken or too small for teachers or students to use. Lighting is inadequate. Windows have no screens. Soap dispensers are broken or empty. Cloth towels are not replaced as often as needed. ”Out of Order” signs stay posted on lav doors, copy machines and elevators for unreasonable periods of time. Maybe some of these things have been addressed while schools have been closed? Still, MPS has deferred maintenance and improvements on its buildings for too long. Some ways to solve the teacher shortage include paying teachers reasonable salaries, providing them with mentoring, coaching and ongoing support when they need it, and implementing maximum class sizes of 29, which will attract teachers to MPS and encourage them to build their careers in the district. Voucher and charter schools were supposed to be competition to MPS, but MPS has declined the challenge. MPS must step up and commit every staff member, every department, every school site, every dollar to providing every student with the highest quality, most innovative, 21st Century education available in Wisconsin. The solution to updating buildings in MPS is easy and not open to debate. Costs may be deferred by offering students apprenticeships with tradespeople working to improve the physical environments of our schools.
Are you satisfied with the district’s efforts to address disproportionate disciplining of Black male students as described in the Office of Civil Rights report? Would you want to change the district’s approach to this issue if elected?
I am not at all satisfied with the district’s efforts here. All they have done is give dispassionate lip service to a truly egregious problem. The steps MPS is taking do nothing to shut its tap on the school-to-prison pipeline. I believe the steps I elucidate below will result in noticeable change in MPS and our larger community:
- Change MPS discipline policies from punitive to proactive.
- Examine what rules are necessary for safety and order, and enforce only those.
- Stop making every infraction a mark on a student’s record.
- Cultural responsiveness
- All adults in MPS must know, honor and respect the diverse cultures of our students and not punish them for manifesting their identities.
- Anti-racist ideology: Before enacting their power, adults must examine their biases.
- They must support students in their anti-racist actions and their own.
- Root cause analysis
- Give students the attention they are demanding and examine why they make their demands inappropriately.
- Increase school-based mental health and social worker services.
- Re-envision school facilities so they do not mirror correctional facilities.
- Stop assuming the worst of students and visitors.
- Get rid of metal detectors.
- Unlock lavs and stairwells.
Do you agree with MPS’ decision to keep most students in all-virtual instruction until April? If not, how would your plan be different?
No. Having sat through the board meeting where they came to this decision, I think they came to it without considering factors such as how close reopening is to the end of the school year for high schools, bus safety, and managing students. Moving forward, many students and teachers are being treated for chronic ailments like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, which exacerbate the effects of COVID-19. Schools must be entirely disinfected and air circulation must be guaranteed before filling them with people again after rates of infection significantly decline. Additionally, to prevent outbreaks of any illnesses, lavatories must always have soap and clean towels at the ready. Classroom capacities need to be reconsidered so that students can sit at a reasonable distance from each other. If teachers are going to be responsible for cleaning their classrooms, then they can no longer be expected to help manage the halls between classes. Schools might consider one-way halls and stairways to limit contact. MPS will need to work with transportation contractors to ensure that buses are disinfected and students can be seated at reasonable distances from each other. These protocols will require increased staffing and resources. Funding will have to be designated to support these improvements. MPS needs to continue planning for reopening but should not set a date until the rates of infection have significantly decreased, the rates of vaccinations have significantly increased, and every aspect of safety has been addressed from hallways to classrooms, from cafeterias to buses and beyond.