Introducing the Candidates for MMSD School Board Seats 6 and 7

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Pete Christianson

Muldrow Toews Vander Meulen 3 8 2017

From Left: Kate Toews, Ali Muldrow and Nicki Vander Meulen

The Rotary Club of Madison hosted a forum for candidates to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate offered an opening and closing statement.

Ali Muldrow, Seat 6:  In her opening statement, she stressed her long-standing commitment to MMSD, going all the way back to her days as a students, having graduated from east High School in 2004. As an alumna, she has continued her ties to East High School, volunteering her talents in a capacity as a facilitator of an arts club.  Ms. Muldrow’s platform centers on equity and inclusion: “Our district has a history of not serving every student equally,” she said. “We talk a lot about racial disparity, an opportunity gap, and an achievement gap – we talk a lot about exclusionary practices – we should talk more about inclusive efforts and practices.” In her opening statement, she concluded by painting a vision of the district “working differently” toward an ideal of “students falling in love with learning.”  In the closing statement, she elaborated on her idea of inclusionary practices. Recalling her days as a student, when 50 percent of the African-American district population did not graduate from high school, she “watched her peers disappear.” Instead, she urged “to reach for the stars – to aim to be at the forefront of inclusion and make space for students who have been left out.”

Kate Toews, Seat 6:  As the parent of a student enrolled in the MMSD, she affirmed her strong “belief in public education.” Citing her background in industry, specifically her work with the McKinsey & Co. global consultancy, she stressed her expertise in setting a vision and implementing such a vision into reality.  Ms. Toews’ platform centers on a three-prong vision: “We have the ability to be the best district in the country, because we have an engaged community. We can show the rest of the country how to do urban education,” she said, stressing clearly that privatization of schools is not the answer. She classified the School Board’s recent decision to fund a private school with a Caucasian student population as wrong, referring to a recent decision to extend charter school status to a current private school. Secondly, she cited the district for having a “workforce challenge,” implying that employment opportunities are not competitive. Thirdly, she mentioned the achievement gap that has “plagued us for a long time” – solutions can be found in hiring teachers of color and focusing on early childhood education.

Nicki Vander Meulen, Seat 7: Identifying herself as an autistic person, her candidacy is deeply rooted in the notion of “giving a voice to the students who are voiceless.  Ms. Vander Meulen’s platform centers primarily on how students with disabilities and with disadvantages need to be treated differently.  Citing disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for African-American and handicapped students, she questioned the district’s discipline procedures. “We need a behavior education plan where facts are the same, and where punishments are equal,” she said. Further, she stressed the need for restorative justice solutions as opposed to handing students over to the juvenile court system.  She objected to current seclusion and time-out practices for disabled students as an example of unequal treatment.  Furthermore, she questioned the district’s wisdom in publishing a 70-page long document outlining behavior expectations and requiring students and families to sign those. “Let’s make the rules clear, simple, and precise.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

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