Creating Opportunities for Madison’s Latinx Communities

Since it grew out of Madison’s Latino Family Resource Center in 2010, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development has provided general education, workforce training, and safety programs to a community hungry for learning opportunities. Before the Latino Academy’s inception, Latino Family Resource Center coordinators like Baltazar de Anda Santana provided basics like food and English classes to Madison’s Latinx population. But there was a growing desire among the LFRC’s clients for something more substantial. “There were the participants who were okay receiving the help, but there were other participants who were more interested in learning how to do things,” said de Anda Santana, now executive director of the Latino Academy. The effort to make clients self-sufficient came not from coordinators but from the clients themselves. “The participants wanted that, they wanted to be the ones to learn English, they wanted to learn computers,” de Anda Santana said.

School board members want a new leader to build on Cheatham’s strategic framework for MMSD

Less than two weeks after newly elected school board members were sworn into their positions, Dr. Jen Cheatham announced her resignation from her position as Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Her resignation came as a surprise to at least one of the new members. While this announcement gives the school board an unexpected challenge, it also gives them an opportunity to appoint a new leader of Madison schools. “I was definitely surprised by Jen’s announcement,” said Ananda Mirelli, who was among the new school board members sworn in at the April 29th meeting. “But this is a good opportunity for the school board and the community to re-think and recalibrate what type of leader we want.”

Cris Carusi, a new school board member agrees.

SSFP: Mental Health In College Students

Have you ever considered the stress the average college student goes through? Or the many difficulties they face while studying for their careers and the problems these mental health issues can lead to? Depression among college students is high with 36.4 percent reporting some kind of depression including feeling helplessness, overwhelmed, sadness, hopelessness, and powerless. A survey conducted by the Association of University and College Counseling Center directors in 2013 stated that depression is the main cause of college dropout students. If untreated, it can lead to serious problems later in life, including taking one’s own life.

Madison teachers incorporating mindfulness and self-care to instruction, see positive results

A movement has begun. While teachers across the US have made headlines for striking to protest their working conditions, there is also a growing movement among teachers to incorporate theories of mindfulness and self-care to generate social change in their classrooms.

This movement began in Madison. Before Ilana Nanking moved here from San Francisco to earn a Ph.D  in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she had worked as a pre-kindergarten teacher. To cope with the stress of her job, she took up yoga and mindfulness. When she incorporated those practices into her classroom, Nanking said she saw “profound academic and social emotional growth” among her students.

Meet the Candidates for Madison Board of Education

During the primary campaign we asked candidates running for the Madison Board of Education the same five questions to understand their vision for education in Madison. For the general election, we took a different route and asked the candidates a set of questions to understand where and how they would focus their energy if elected. The election for Madison Board of Education takes place Tuesday, April 2. Candidates responded to our questions through email or over the phone. We only publish direct quotes from candidates responding to the following questions:

What is the biggest challenge facing Madison schools?

Ad-hoc committee finds contract with Madison police fraught with challenges

Members of the ad-hoc committee tasked with evaluating the contract between the Madison Police Department and the Madison Metropolitan School District found a complex situation for which there was no obvious solution, according to committee members interviewed by Madison Commons. Nonetheless, the committee produced a list of recommended changes to the Educational Resource Officer contract that seek to address the problems of police presence in schools as comprehensively as possible, barring termination of the contract. Although some committee members believed that terminating the contract with Madison police should be the district’s long-term goal, the committee did not recommend doing so immediately in its final report to the Board of Education last December. “I was surprised how much [EROs] were built into the infrastructure of school functioning, and how much they were perceived [by staff] to be essential. And for me that raised concerns about a complete and abrupt removal,” said Abra Vigna, one of nine community members on the committee, which also included three MMSD school board members.

Police Chief Koval challenges the school-to-prison pipeline using statistics that show disproportionate arrests of black and brown youth in MMSD

The debate continues over the renewal of a contract between Madison Metropolitan School District and the Madison Police Department, which places police in schools. Proponents tend to argue that placing police in schools, known as Educational Resources Officers, make schools safer and allow officers to develop relationships with students, while opponents emphasize disproportionate negative outcomes of police presence on black and brown students. A recent Madison Commons article explored the debate in detail. Last week, Madison’s Police Chief Mike Koval wrote a blog post that challenged the validity of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a concept which is often invoked by those concerned about the impact of police presence in schools on minority students. Koval’s blog post listed statistical data which supported his perspective.

Do Police Officers Belong in Madison High Schools?

Sometimes the need to be safe intersects with the demand for justice. Controversies around a recent report to Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) regarding the existing contract with Madison Police Department (MPD) to employ an armed police officer, called Education Resource Officers (ERO), in each of MMSD’s four comprehensive high schools, highlights just how difficult it is to navigate the tension between safety and justice. “I think we never want to put safety at risk...And yet I want us to never sacrifice one student’s sense of safety for another,” Dr. Jen Cheatham Superintendent of MMSD said. “We are obligated to search so we can ensure that every child, no matter their background, feels safe.”
Debating the Presence of Police in Madison High Schools
In December 2016, the MMSD School Board established an ERO Ad Hoc Committee. The committee was tasked to review the existing contract with Madison Police Department.

Madison school board use new procedures to govern public comments in November meeting

New procedures for public comments at Madison Metropolitan School District board meetings were used last month following criticism from community members who allege their voices were disrespected and silenced in the past. In previous meetings, School Board President Mary Burke has announced the names of the participants as they approached the podium followed by the name of the person next in line to speak. Burke, according to complaints, has had trouble pronouncing names of participants in previous meetings. A seemingly annoying or frustrating occurrence for some, represents a long history of disrespect and discrimination for others. To avoid future insults, whether intentional or not, last month the board changed the way speakers are introduced during public comments.