With the unique perspective of being an MMSD graduate with three children currently in the Madison schools, I am heavily invested and engaged in our school district. I am running for the School Board because I believe in the power of education to open doors for students to a world of vast opportunities.
Madison’s economic, racial and cultural diversity creates an environment in which not all students learn in the same way. My Spanish-speaking, bilingual, bicultural background, and growing up in poverty with parents unequipped to be supportive or involved in my educational experience, gives me a firsthand understanding of the struggles and frustrations that many of our students experience. Working for the community as a firefighter/paramedic, I see the gamut of issues that many of our students face: poverty, hunger, homelessness, domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc.
Having overcome the challenges of my formative years inspired me to encourage young people to embrace education, which will help prepare them to lead successful, productive lives. My volunteer experiences include coaching youth wrestling, reading at schools, participating in career fairs, and teaching fire safety and CPR. As I volunteer, I provide information to youth about community, educational and employment opportunities to help students develop confidence for their futures.
The achievement gap and providing services to a wide range of students with a shrinking budget are two pervasive issues. We continue to see gaps in academic achievement and behavior data for students of color, special education students and students living in poverty. Our district struggles with an overrepresentation of students of color in special education and behavior referrals, and an underrepresentation of those same groups in Talented and Gifted identification and advanced programming.
Understanding our students’ needs and working with the greater community to provide wraparound services to holistically support individuals, schools and neighborhoods is one way to help ensure that all students are available for learning.
As a board member, I will also encourage diversity in hiring school staff (e.g., “grow your own” programs), emphasize maintaining safe yet welcoming schools, and encourage restorative justice practices for students who are trying to overcome past mistakes, as well as support the expansion of successful programs like AVID/TOPS, Dual Language Immersion, TAG, and a wisely implemented technology improvement plan.
We need to continue and strengthen enrichment opportunity offerings that attract families to the district in the arts, music and youth athletics, which are critical to a well-rounded educational experience and promote academic and social engagement.
There are many things MMSD is doing right and of which we should be proud. We have excellent teachers, staff and administration that work at maintaining high standards and reaching all students in our district, because they know there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to educating children with different backgrounds and needs. Our School Board must create an environment in which students, families, teachers, staff and administrators work collaboratively toward high achievement.
As your board member, I want to form a bridge from all parents, children and residents of the Madison school district to the Board of Education. We need a voice to unify the community across racial, socio-economic, cultural and linguistic lines. I hope to be that voice for our community.
Michael Flores is a candidate for Seat 6 on the Madison School Board.