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.
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?
I believe I am uniquely qualified to make our school board more effective. I currently serve on the board of several organizations and consistently work toward making these organizations more efficient and effective.
I am running as an independent candidate whose only goal is to improve the safety and quality of education in the Madison Metropolitan School District. As such, I am not taking PAC money or aligning myself with any political party. If we wish to make our schools better, we can not let the political parties take over. Also, by being independent I will work with every other member of the board to create the best possible solution.
As in any discussion, both sides often have valid points that need to be incorporated into the final solution. I highly value consensus after discussion and compromise, but if I ever feel that the best interests of the students are being jeopardized, I am not afraid to be the lonely voice of dissent. As a member of the school board I vow to listen to all points of view and make an intelligent decision based on the facts presented. Political agendas have no place on our school board.
As far as my role on the board, I feel I can be a strong independent voice for the students and parents and help the two 'factions' create a results based school district that is responsive to the needs of our students. I bring a business background to the board that is sorely needed. In business, customer service is the number-one priority, and positive results are created by good planning and responsiveness to changes that are constantly occurring. I see myself as helping to change our district to one that serves the needs of our customers first, the students and their parents.
I believe that working in a group setting is one of my strongest attributes I bring to the table as a qualified school board candidate. I have many different experiences working with groups where team building was instrumental to the success of the organization.
During my 15 years as a strong parent advocate at my children's schools in Madison, I worked collectively with administration, staff, parents, students and community members within parent organizations to work toward common goals for the betterment of school. During these experiences it was important to understand that all the stakeholders wanted their concerns to be heard.
I have an extensive customer service background where I have developed excellent listening skills, and I am able to effectively respond to people's concerns as a strong communicator. As a union leader, I also developed strong negotiating skills. When bargaining for a contract it is imperative, as a chief steward, that you are constantly listening to and responding to member's concerns, while at the same time working toward consensus of the group to reach an agreement on the best possible contract.
As a Loaned Executive from Madison Gas & Electric for United Way, I worked with a group of over 25 people who, together, were responsible for working toward a common goal of reaching the targeted fund-raising dollar amount. This was really the ultimate teaming building experience; as an LE you had to rely on and trust others to have success.
I feel strongly that my broad community involvement has taught me how to work with others to reach consensus. Building partnerships with all stakeholders in the community is key to the success of a school board member.
There may be times when a board member may not be able to support an issue even when the majority of the members are recommending the passage of a motion. I believe it is important to be an independent minded board member and vote with your conscience after much research of the initiative and consideration of other board members points for view.
I always listen to and learn from the experiences and opinions of others. I have learned much from attending school board meetings, discussions with board and community members, working on last November's referendum campaign, and working in the schools. I have served on boards and committees with very different goals and dynamics. I have found that almost everyone understands the importance of the schools in extending opportunities and in bringing members of our diverse community together.
Everyone does not agree about how to accomplish these goals, but this common ground is a start. Sharing ideas from different perspectives often brings about the best solutions. It is important that all board members keep that in mind and treat each other, administrators, staff, parents and community members -- who also want the best for the schools -- with respect. I will approach each decision in this way.
The Board of Education faces difficult issues, the hardest being school financing. The state school finance structure has necessitated repeated cuts in essential and beloved programs and forced the board to confront the possibility of school closings. These are not matters with simple answers; the board members need to offer more than platitudes or proclamations that are unrealistic and unbalanced. The board must address the diverse needs of our community and represent the entire population.
Consensus is desirable, but not always possible. By respectfully listening I will seek ways to achieve consensus. However, when my beliefs and experience lead me to a different conclusion than those of the other board members, I will have the courage to stand alone if I must.
I will earn a reputation as a hard working board member who is open and respectful, who seeks creative solutions and always considers the needs of all families and students.