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How do Passman and Cole work with others?
Take Home Test 2007: Week 6, Seat 5

Only a few days remain until the Madison school board primary on Feb. 20. Just one of the three spring races --for Seat 3 -- will be on the ballot as voters narrow the three-person field of Beth Moss, Pam Cross-Leone and Rick Thomas to two finalists on the April 3 ballot. In his final pre-primary query, we ask the school board candidates how they work with others, when it's appropriate to compromise and when it's best to dissent.

Here are the responses from the two candidates for Seat 5, Marj Passman and Maya Cole.

The Daily Page: Serving on the school board will require you to work collectively with six other board members. Tell us how you operate in a group setting. How much value to you put on consensus? When is it appropriate to be the lonely voice of dissent? What role so you see yourself playing on the board?

Marj Passman
Life is full of compromises and working towards consensus on school issues is critical to any initiative's success. I am running for school board because I love Madison schools and because I believe in public education as society's great equalizer. I have strong opinions, based on my many years of teaching experience, and I will not compromise them when it comes to the education and safety of our children.

My first priority will always be high quality schools that maintain high standards of education. I will push for a challenging curriculum for all. I will not accept watered down courses nor teaching to the test. I will work to build consensus in ensuring that our dwindling resources are earmarked for the classroom and not spent on programs with little educational payoff. And I will insist that our schools function in a safe educational environment. I will not compromise on my core values, but I will work to convince my fellow board members and the entire Madison community of their validity.

With Ruth Robarts' upcoming retirement, there will be no one left on today's board with any recent teaching experience. That is why I chose to run for her seat -- so that I could use my expertise and classroom knowledge as a unique resource for my fellow board members. In particular, I hope to be a bridge of understanding between the board, the school administration, parents and teachers.

Maya Cole
I see my role with the six other board members as that of creative thinker and down-to-earth person. I am pragmatic but also open to ideas and innovation. I put great value on consensus. As a community activist, I have learned to be open to others' ideas and opinions. An open and respectful dialog goes far when working with groups. I am a team player. In addition, I've been told that I have a good sense of humor, have good interpersonal skills and make one of the best banana breads in Madison.

I embrace the model of governance that sees our district's impact outside the schools and classroom. I encourage consideration of the diversity of viewpoints throughout the city. My goal is not to promote an agenda or one perspective. My ideal is to inspire citizens about public education. I want everyone to be a part of the excitement going on in the education of our future citizens.

I view my past work with various community and school groups as a success when my ideas have generated conversation, debate and consensus. As an individual board member one should be free to dissent (or agree to disagree) but sometimes it is necessary to nuance this into a compromise. The board needs to speak as one once it establishes policy.

One characteristic I value in myself is that I am a good listener. I have been trained as a facilitator and can take on this role, if necessary. I am quite aware of those who are not entering into the conversation and will readily invite them into the discussion.

I am also quite comfortable voicing concerns and disagreeing as long as it is productive and respectful. I welcome difference of opinion and feel it is beneficial to be challenged in one's thinking.

Note: The 2007 edition of the Take Home Test will be returning the week of Tuesday, Feb. 27 with the remaining six candidates running for the Madison Board of Education.

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