With its new slate of officers, the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education has Black people in the top two spots for the first time ever.
Add that to the first Black superintendent — Dr. Carlton Jenkins took the helm in August — and the all-Black leadership team makes for what Ali Muldrow called “a pretty historic moment.”
Muldrow was elected board president and Savion Castro was elected board vice president at last night’s board meeting.
Muldrow also noted that as Maia Pearson was also sworn in as a new board member last night, the board has two Black women for the first time ever.
Muldrow and Castro both said the moment reflects a new commitment in the school district.
“Our community is coming together to prioritize Black children and to reconcile a history in which black children have been harmed by this district and this community and this country, and then denied education effectively,” she said. “It’s time to be honest about that. And I think that this community has selected people who could engage in that process of truth and reconciliation. I’m very proud of my board for coming together to elevate that work, because it’s part of the reason I ran for school board.”
“I think this means that we are being intentional about trying to correct the historical wrongs in terms of listening to communities that have been historically erased in our district,” Castro said. “And also try and be a model for the entire community in terms of listening to community, being bold in a vision, being bold about the issues we face in our district, whether it be racism or the way we speak, treat kids with special needs or English language learners. And being bold about dismantling those systems and trying to replace them with something better.”
In terms of policy specifics, Muldrow said her first priority is “to conduct a safe transition between virtual learning and in-person learning as we address the pandemic.” She also hopes to provide for support for arts education and opportunities for students to “express themselves artistically within their education.”
It’ll also be a top priority “to address the achievement gap, to make sure that the color of a child’s skin doesn’t determine whether or not they’re thought of as disruptive or intelligent in their classroom,” she said.
Castro said he hopes to expand to full-day 4K “for families that have been priced out of that.” He also cited last year’s vote to end the district’s contract with the Madison Police Department as an example of a successful policy change under the current board.
“And we really want to look at our exclusionary discipline policies,” he said, along with working to recruit and retain more Black and brown teachers.
“The research is really clear on what one single black teacher does,” he said.
Both said Jenkins has already proven himself as a leader.
“I think Dr. Jenkins is one of the best decisions we, as a board, have ever made,” Muldrow said. “I think he is a phenomenal leader, and I feel incredibly fortunate to get to work with him as a thought partner, as a leader within education. I’m incredibly honored to be serving at the same time that we have superintendent Dr. Jenkins.”
“He’s as bold as they come … the way that he has already leveraged partnerships with UW Madison, Madison College, folks in the community, and building and establishing that trust has been really important. And he’s able to meet people where they are,” Castro said.
Muldrow said the all-Black leadership team is an important example for young Black people to see.
“The impact it has to be able to see yourself at all levels of education, to see yourself celebrated intellectually in that way,” she said. “And once you see that, you can’t unsee it.”
But she also said “it’s not just the symbolism of all of us being able to work together. It’s how effectively you can work together, when you’re not isolated as a person of color, when you’re not the only one who cares about these issues. When you have a diverse group of people of color championing one another’s leadership and working towards a shared goal of reconciling the impact of racism.”
“Ali and myself and Dr. Jenkins all share a bold commitment and have a bold vision for anti-racism and for eliminating the exclusionary policies that impact a lot of our kids,” Castro said. “Whether they’re low income, English language learners, special ed. No matter what, we have a bold vision for every kid for every kid to succeed in Madison.”