Attendance light at superintendent public session, attendees raise questions on culture
By Mai Vang | Thu, 09/20/2012 - 3:00pm
Only the first few rows of the auditorium were occupied. Many more rows of electric orange chairs remained empty at the community input meeting concerning the superintendent search held on September 19, at Madison East High School.
The plan was simple. The consultants would pose eight questions. Community members would answer the questions.
However, the public session seemed to generate more questions than available answers Wednesday night, when only ten community members -- three of whom were hired language translators -- appeared at the meeting.
The meeting was organized by Ray and Associates, Inc., a school executive search firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and hired by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board (MMSD) to assist with the superintendent search. The goal of the public session was to get input from the stakeholders about what qualities they expected the superintendent to have.
“We invited teachers. We invited teacher assistants. We invited bus drivers,” Karen Stinson, a Ray and Associates consultant, told the small group. “We truly are trying to be as inclusive as possible.”
As in previous discussions and coverage around MMSD, the achievement gap quickly became the main topic of conversation. And a couple of the community members began to discuss the needs of the community at large.
One parent, an East High School alumni, asked why the school board was not present at the meeting. Another attendee wondered whether his input at the meeting would mean anything.
But all attendees agreed on one thing, the new superintendent should be able to work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds.
“We need to strengthen our knowledge of cultural relevance in education, and really provide [an] increased professional program for that,” said Nicole Doughtery, a parent from the community, during the meeting. “I think that’s going to be critical.”
Irene Erwin, an attendee and tutor at the Juvenile Detention Center of Dane County, said the solution is to prepare the right resources to deal with students from different cultures.
Doughtery mentioned the implementation of the Wisconsin Response to Intervention (RTI), a multi-level system of support to provide the structures to increase success for all students, in the MMSD. “A large piece of [the RTI] is knowing the culture of the child that you’re educating so that you can provide the proper education to them,” Doughtery said.
The meeting lasted less than an hour. The group quietly filed out of the auditorium, and some continued their conversations in the hall.
Another meeting will be held at Memorial High School on September 20, 2012 at 7 p.m.
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