As I complete six years of service on the Madison School Board and look forward to three more, I am pleased to report that these are exciting times for our Madison schools. Since the School Board hired Jen Cheatham as superintendent a year ago, our work has been marked by high energy and high expectations.
As it should be, because we are aiming high. We expect to be a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partners and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
To get there, we all have to step up our game. Expectations have been raised and accountability increased for everyone in the organization — teachers and staff, principals, administrators, right up to the superintendent.
We should also demand high performance from our School Board. We seven board members shape the policies that guide the school district’s efforts to meet our challenges and achieve our goals. We need to get our policies right, and we need to be consistently supportive partners with our superintendent in implementing the policies we adopt.
Our top challenge is providing all our students with a rigorous and engaging curriculum appropriate to their level of learning. This implies both making significant progress on our troubling achievement gap (our biggest challenge) as well as appropriately meeting the needs of advanced learners and everyone in between.
I support our Strategic Framework as a smart and broad-gauged strategy for enhanced student learning. The framework calls for providing every student with well-rounded, culturally responsive and coherent instruction keyed to the Common Core State Standards; engaging students in charting personalized pathways toward achieving their goals; effectively enlisting families and community members as partners; cultivating a work environment that attracts, develops and retains top talent; and ensuring accountability at every level.
While our No. 1 issue is instructional, No. 2 is financial. In a time of diminished state support to education, where do we find the resources to fund adequately our learning, technology and facilities needs while paying our teachers and staff something close to what they are worth, all balanced against the need to restrain increases in our property taxes?
We need to be smart and prudent in our spending, prioritizing classroom needs; take aggressive steps to eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies; and energetically seek out grants, donations and other non-tax sources of funds.
While there are exciting efforts afoot in the school district, our challenges remain daunting and complex. This underscores the critical importance of electing School Board members with skills and experience commensurate with our responsibilities to impose an annual property tax levy of more than a quarter billion dollars, authorize annual expenditures of about a third of a billion dollars, oversee more than 4,000 employees and, most important, educate more than 27,000 students.
I think I have demonstrated during my six years of service that I have the skills and disposition to be an effective School Board member. I am grateful for the support I’ve received and I look forward to three more years working with Superintendent Cheatham and my colleagues on the board to ensure that each of our Madison schools is a thriving school that prepares each of our students to graduate from high school college, career and community ready.
Ed Hughes is unopposed in his bid for re-election to Madison School Board Seat 7.