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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Moss, Thomas, and Cross-Leone take on curricula questions
Take Home Test 2007: Week 5, Seat 3

What and how the schools teach our kids, and who makes those decisions, is one of the most hotly debated issues in the Madison schools. Why? Because it's so closely related to academic success and failure. Almost as important to student success are the plethora of extracurricular activities that can round out the educational experience and inspire kids. We've asked the Madison school board candidates to address both matters.

Here are the responses for the candidates for Seat 3: Beth Moss, Rick Thomas, and Pam Cross-Leone.

What role do you see school board members playing in curriculum decisions?

Beth Moss
As an elected body, the board's job is to make policy guiding the district administration's decisions. These decisions are subject to the Board's consideration. Since the teachers know the needs of our students first-hand, they play a large role in determining which curriculum will best serve the majority of pupils and what supplements are needed.

Working with administrators, the staff recommends programs to the board. Sometimes programs are attached to grants, which give incentives for pilot trials in one or more schools. Curriculum must be judged based on criteria such as effectiveness and cultural relevancy and not financial incentives. The curriculum must also prepare our students for further study and work in the global economy of today.

The board also assesses curricula currently in use in our schools. Studying the administration's evaluations, asking questions of administrators and teachers, and listening to public input are all part of the board's job in assessing if a curriculum is working well for the district's students. The board requires a high level of expertise from the administration as well as clear and thorough evaluations so that the Board can make the best decisions for our students.

Rick Thomas
The evaluation and implementation of curriculum is an essential duty of the school board. This is why I feel it is imperative that the political parties stay out of the school board races. Each party has its agenda, and the greater good of the students is not their primary concern.

As a school board, we must take suggestions from students, parents, and teachers as to what they feel the educational needs of our students are. Then as a board, we must use our judgment as to which sets of curriculum produce the best results. Finally, we must review these decisions on an annual basis to make sure they are having the desired results.

As a member of the school board I will take an active role in determining which curriculum we will use, and I will make sure that the curriculum's effectiveness is evaluated on an annual basis. As a board we should be held responsible for the results of the curriculum decisions we make.

Pam Cross-Leone
I believe that school board members must rely on the expertise of the district's administration to establish the curriculum. The board should direct the administration to develop and continue to enhance a curriculum to serve a diverse student body with a range of abilities, interests and talents.

School board members should determine the strategic priorities and set the goals they expect to see for achievement in regards to curriculum. The board must continually evaluate the progress that is being made district wide and determine if adjustments are needed. They must, collectively, identify weaknesses through analysis and direct the administration to work on making adjustments or implementing improvements. The administration would then determine what the adjustments or improvements would be to the curriculum.

What extracurricular activities do you recommend that students consider?

Beth Moss
Often students pick activities where they excel or join groups with their friends. I would encourage them also to try new things, and to meet new people.

All students can benefit from extracurricular activities. These are great opportunities for students and teachers to get to know one another in a different context. Sports teams, academic and hobby clubs expose students to adult role models. By initiating and organizing clubs provide students can learn about leadership and cooperation. Extracurricular activities are also a way for students to participate in and contribute to the community. Activities outside of school such as language camps are an excellent source of academic enrichment.

The district and Madison School & Community Recreation are working to increase access to extracurricular activities for all students by removing barriers to participation such as transportation, costs and location. I support continuing and expanding these efforts. Clubs are a great opportunity for inclusion.

Our schools encourage involvement. Students who are involved are ultimately more successful. Extracurricular activities are important to growing up. They provide the foundation for life-long interests and relationships. Our community needs to recognize this importance, and as adults we can encourage students by becoming involved in our schools' activities.

Rick Thomas
I feel that students should take part in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. Academic extracurricular activities like debate, forensics, drama, etc. help build the mind in ways the standard academic courses cannot. Athletics help build the body and instill a sense of team and working for the greater good. Service activities like the Spartan Youth Service Team that I advise at Memorial High School help build leadership and community involvement.

Extracurricular activities are an essential part of the educational experience. If it were not for these activities many of our students would not achieve at the high levels that they do. These activities also teach skills that the students will use throughout their adult lives. As a member of the school board I will do everything I can to ensure that a wide variety of extracurricular activities are available to our students.

Pam Cross-Leone
There are many extracurricular opportunities for students and their families to consider at school and outside of the school setting. Families should explore different recreational and enrichment opportunities that will enhance the student's school-aged experience.

The choices seem boundless from the many different programs offered through Madison School & Community Recreation, sports activities, civic organizations, church activities, music, volunteer opportunities and on and on.

It is important to give kids many different opportunities to experience and encourage diversity in those choices. Families will find that each of their children's interests maybe very different from each other. It is exciting to see these differences blossom in each child and to support these differences enthusiastically.

My own children had very different paths in regards to extracurricular experiences. It was clear from a very young age that my son was going to be an athlete and he really focused his energy on playing organized sports year round from kindergarten through high school. My daughter's path was quite different and she tried many different experiences before she found her passion for singing and performing.

Just as with academics, there can be many different paths to success, so it is with extracurricular activities our children choose to be involved in. It is important to support their interest in a positive manner and watch them grow as individuals.

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