My oldest son is a first-grader in public elementary school, and my other two children will follow him soon. I am running for School Board because our young kids are going to grow up in an education system shaped by our choices right now. I believe it must be public. And I am not willing to let Scott Walker, Betsy DeVos, or anyone else destroy it.
Our schools feel strapped. They are under attack from powerful forces that simply don’t believe in public education. Our federal and state governments are going to spend the next four years trying to siphon money from public schools: I will be a fierce advocate for children and families in the face of these challenges and will fight to keep money in our public schools.
Education is how we build a better future, and thankfully, we control our schools right here in Madison.
But despite our resources and progressive tradition, we do not yet serve all of the children in our great city well. A poor child here is significantly less likely to graduate than her wealthier peers, and the racial achievement gap remains one of the worst in the nation. In addition, our staff morale is down, we struggle to recruit bilingual teachers, teachers of color and teachers to serve children with special needs, and 42 percent of our teachers leave within their first five years. This is inexcusable: Our ability to attract and retain high-quality educators is the foundation of our district.
We must build a culture where every child can excel, and I have the passion and experience to help do it.
I grew up in an elementary school where Spanish and Khmer were the most common languages spoken. Those early school experiences, shaped by diversity in race, class, and language, propelled me to work in urban schools after college. In Boston public schools I led a peer mediation program to equip students with their own conflict-management skills. My office was the place to take the complicated stuff — the caregiver who wanted to kick you out, the unexpected pregnancy, the look you got in the hall from someone you didn’t like.
I then spent 15 years working in the business world. I was CEO of a local startup that provides nutritious food to seniors, and I’ve advised some of the largest companies in the country on major change, growth, and sustainability initiatives while working at McKinsey & Company. I have years of experience making difficult budget, personnel, and strategic choices; and as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to steward scarce resources and innovate.
Our School Board is responsible for our $450-million budget, managing the superintendent, and making major policy choices for the schools. After researching the candidates, MTI, the teachers union, chose to endorse me as the best candidate. They support me as a strong progressive with years of experience of guiding large organizations, financial leadership, and because of my understanding of public schools.
My vision for our schools is simple: I want to be one of the best public school districts in the country, and I believe we have the right ingredients to do it.
First, we must stand up to Walker, DeVos, and those who want to privatize our school system and strip away protections for our most vulnerable students. Second, we must innovate within our public schools to find better ways to support students and families, including a deeper commitment to early childhood education and mental health support. Third, we must always recruit and retain the best, most diverse, educators; and we must proactively find ways to do this in light of growing teacher shortages.
We need to start building the future in Madison that we value. We are a well-resourced district with fantastic families, teachers, and students, and I firmly believe we can lead the way to show the country what public education is capable of.