Former assistant fire chief looking to tackle MPS ‘fires’ as school board member
After 28 years as a firefighter running into burning buildings and saving lives, you’d think retired Milwaukee Assistant Fire Chief and school board candidate Mark Sain wouldn’t want any part of the inferno that is Milwaukee Public Schools.
What with pending cuts in shared revenue from the state totaling $74 million to go along with a prohibition on raising property taxes to make up for the loss state revenue.
Then there’s the possible expansion of parental choice by lifting the caps on enrollment and income limits on parents who participate, the removal of residency requirements for teachers, not to mention the pre-existing funding flaw between the public and private schools.
All the aforementioned (including low test scores and a high drop-out rates) makes fighting a five alarm fire with a glass of water a lot more desirable. But in a recent interview, Sain seemed unfazed by the challenges that would confront him if he’s elected April 5 over incumbent Tim Peterson.
As a mentor/tutor in the public schools who has spent time with students in the classroom, Sain said he saw first hand the challenges facing educators in the school district.
“I said to myself, ‘maybe there’s something I can add to move things (in the district) forward.’ So I decided to run for the school board.”
Asked what changes he’d work to have implemented in MPS, Sain said he’d improve the interaction between parents and teachers. In his conversations with teachers as a tutor and candidate, Sain said one of the key components missing from the equation of quality education is parents.
Sain agreed with teachers who told him that parents must take more interests in the education of their children; making sure they do their homework and attend parent/teacher conferences.
Another component Sain says is missing is a solid grounding in the “Three R’s”: “Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmatic.”
The former fireman said it’s imperative that children focus on those three disciplines early, especially between kindergarten and third grade.
“Students need to be competent in reading, writing and math to help them navigate through school, especially through high school as they look towards college.”
Sain strongly believes Milwaukee will go as far as its education system. “If we don’t do well with education, the city will hurt.”
While there are a number of great things going on in the district that have given rise to a sense of hope, especially with MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton establishing a set curriculum that is consistent, Sain laments Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget will severely set the district back.
Sain believes the educational criteria and standards should be the same for public and private schools. “I think choice and charters are great; they are educating children. But the jury is still out on how well.”
But regardless in what system a child is educated, Sain said what’s important is that children are learning so that they are able to compete in the global marketplace.
While many observers and educators have expressed skepticism towards the private sector’s (business) involvement in education, Sain sees government as the problem, especially with Walker’s budget calling for the expansion of school choice and cutting funding to public schools.
“With another governor, I don’t think we would see the sweeping changes (in education proposed by Walker),” Sain said, adding the governor has adopted a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude towards public schools and spending, instead of exploring all funding options.
Sain believes the governor could have used his proposed budget to resolve the funding flaw that exists between public and private schools. “But the governor decided not to do anything.
“If politicians really cared, they would even the playing field in education,” Sain continued.
With the possible closing of schools due to the state budget, Sain sees transportation as a critical piece in the educational paradigm. If a way could be found to save money on transportation and still meet students transit needs, Sain says, then the saved dollars could be put back into the classroom.
Sain says he knows of resources in the public and private sectors that he’d like to connect MPS with.
“I don’t know if MPS is reaching out to those resources. But if I’m elected to the board, I can help build a partnership between MPS and those resources.”
The school board candidate also stressed a need to celebrate the district’s academic accomplishments of its students. He’d like to see the district take advantage of events such as Juneteenth and African World Festival to showcase the achievements of its students.
“It would let the community know there are children getting it done in our schools”