Kaleem Caire and Cristiana Carusi each see advantages they bring to their respective races for Seat 3 on the Madison School Board.
Caire, founder and CEO of independent Madison charter One City Schools, has worked in the district as an educational assistant, tutored, consulted for the Department of Public Instruction and been involved with national education initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
“There’s no one in the history of Madison schools that has my professional record,” he said.
Carusi has reviewed budgets and policies during 12 years of attending School Board meetings and has actively served in parent leadership roles, which puts her in a “unique position of someone who’s not been on the board but really has been watching the board and knows what’s going on.”
The district needs to explore new teaching methods and school models, such as a school dedicated to performing arts, Caire said, along with increasing access to early childhood education and making the district attractive to retain families and draw in new ones.
“I also want (students) to have the type of education that’s going to prepare them to be problem-solvers in the future,” he said. “I don’t think any of our kids are getting that by a large measure, white kids, black kids. It’s the same old 13 years of liberal arts education that’s boring.”
Carusi, an associate communications director at the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, emphasized smaller class sizes, more counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists, and partnerships with the city and county as ways to reduce academic achievement gaps, adding she would support studying different ways of teaching like piloting the Montessori model in a 4K program.
“Every child in our district deserves a world-class education at their local public school, and we’re not there yet,” she said.
Carusi received 49 percent of the vote in the February primary and Caire received 44 percent. A third candidate who had dropped out but was still on the ballot received 7 percent.
Caire lost a School Board contest in the 1998 spring election, and Carusi placed third in the 2017 primary.
In 2011, the School Board voted against establishing Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school geared to low-income minority students, that was being spearheaded by Caire, who was then-president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. The school would have had uniforms and single-sex education for boys and girls.
Caire and Carusi said they would support a continuation of the school-based police officer program in the four main high schools. Although, both would like to see it eventually phased out if progress is made in improving the social climate in schools.
To hire and retain more teachers of color, Carusi wants to see the district expand its “Grow Our Own” program that pays for tuition for non-teaching staff in the district to get credentialed. Caire suggested a mentoring program where recently retired teachers could support newly hired educators.
While continuing to maintain curriculum consistency across schools, Carusi would like teachers to have more say on what goes on in the classroom.
“I think Madison could learn a lot by going to our teachers and saying, ‘We have these problems. How do we solve them?’” she said.
There should be an initiative the creates a common purpose among schools, Caire said, such as something like UW-Madison’s Go Big Read campaign where students read the same book during a school year.
“Happy adults produce happy children, that’s the secret sauce,” he said. “A lot of people in this community are comfortable. They fear change.”