Yolanda Santos Adams is seeking her second three-year term on the school board. She also was a member of the KUSD school board in the early 2000s.
Ms. Adams has demonstrated sound leadership over the past three years, during difficult times. She was born in Kenosha, is a KUSD graduate herself, with two advanced degrees in Accounting from Kenosha area colleges. Those degrees and her background have helped her make fiscally sound decisions for our school district. She was instrumental in balancing KUSDs budget once again this year. She understands our district and is prepared for the challenges our district faces in the future.
Her opponent, Lamar Madison, is a recent transplant to the Kenosha area. He lists his qualifications to serve on the KUSD school board as having served as a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay and a Chief of Police, while in the military. He does not have previous volunteer service to any organization, any school board, or any committee prior to running for KUSD school board.
Recently Lamar Madison and Yolanda Santos Adams, despite being ill, participated in the youth-led Building Our Future forum. You can watch the entire forum here.
Below we have selected some key questions from the forum and have included an analysis of Madison Lamar's responses in a note following each set of answers. It should be noted Lamar Madison has lived in Kenosha for less than a year and has never served on a committee or school board. He is being funded by two Republican Super PACs. You can read more about them here.
We can find our analysis of the forum here, but we urge everyone to watch it in its entirety. His answers about children who are food insecure, about LGBTQ+ students, bullying and more are available here.
In addition, Yolanda Santos Adams and Lamar Madison participated in a virtual forum hosted by WGTD. You can listen to that full forum here.
You can listen to an exert of that forum here.
There is one clear choice for KUSD schools: Yolanda Santos Adams.
HOW HAVE YOUR CAREER AND LIFE EXPERIENCE PREPARED YOU FOR SCHOOL BOARD?
CEO for the Urban League, CFO, Product of Kenosha schools. Community Service. Masters in accounting
I am product of Columbus , Mississippi. This is my community now. I served in military, civilian job brought me here. I have been police chief, prison warden at Guantanamo Bay.
** Note: Madison is new to our district and community and appears to have lived in the community for less than year. He has never served on a school board, school board committee or any other public service that he has reported. He is somewhat familiar with one school in our district, Nash, because that’s where his children attend. He admitted he hasn’t walked the halls of schools in our district, a low bar for serving on the school bar that he hasn’t met. The rest of his experience is military, prison and law enforcement.
HOW WOULD YOU SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF TEACHERS AND STAFF?
You have to know what they want. You have to sit down with teachers and find out why they are leaving. What staff development do they want? Plan to keep teachers employed here. People leave a job because of poor management. Not every teacher wants professional development. It has to fit the teacher and what they want.
We need to continue to allocate the funds and allow the time that teachers need for professional development.
**NOTE: Professional development ensures educators remain updated with things like the latest technology, curriculum development, and classroom management to ensure they are providing their students with the best learning experience. Madison failed to answer the question or suggest a plan. “Plan to keep teachers employed here” is not a plan. He showed no awareness or understanding of what the district already has in place so offered no plan to improve upon it.
HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS THE DISTRICT’S FUTURE DEFICIT?
Real talk, there is no addressing this. Either we get a bailout from the state, or there's going to be a tax levy (and) a referendum is going to have to happen to ask you for more money. You do have a third option, which no one wants to do: you're going to have to cut very deep to get out of this hole. Cutting deep and getting rid of teachers' jobs is not good for anyone. Yolanda has been on this school board for 20 years. With 23,000 students from 2010, we've been in a decline every cent, and they have never cut spending.
First of all, let me clarify that I was not on the board for 20 years. I was on the board 20 years ago. The other good news is, he's wrong. We balanced the budget. We just did, and this is how we did it: we're going to close Wilson School, we did away with the HSA contributions, attrition and then we reduced some ESC staff. It's proposed we're at a balanced budget right now and we did not raise your taxes, and we did not do all the things he said. We worked with our community and had community sessions and we worked with our Budget and Finance Committee to come to these solutions for that deficit.
**NOTE: Madison again doesn’t articulate a plan. He indicates he is unwilling to make cuts, he indicates says taxpayers are unwilling to raise taxes, and asking the state for a bailout isn’t a plan because the answer could be no. He also misrepresents what has happened in the district. The deficit that the district is facing is the result of the declining enrollment (declining birth rate) and the failure of the GOP in Madison to adequately fund schools. The school funding from the state has declined but costs continue to go up. In regards to the HSA- the district switched insurance about 4 years ago and saved $$ by increasing the deductible. In order to make it easier on the employees, they gave some of the money back in by putting money in a Health Savings account. Last year, the KUSD contributions to the HSA were cut in ½. As of June, the employees will get their last payment to the HSA, but it has not been eliminated. All of this has been in response to the increase in the cost of insurance. KUSD staff still has insurance, it is the contributions to the Health Savings accounts that has been eliminated. He also appeared unaware that the district just balanced the budget. As a candidate, he is poorly prepared in his understanding of the district because he hasn’t done his homework.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON SCHOOL CHOICE?
I will support an instrumentality charter school, which is one that is controlled by our school board. I will not support vouchers for independent charter schools that take resources from our district to a different school. Choice programs are OK as long as they're in our choice schools.
I don't know what government agency or what person that's part of the government can tell you they don't want you taking your kids to a private school. Choice school means private school — let's get it right. You have a right to take your kids wherever they want; wherever you want them to go. I'm for the state paying everyone money to take their kids where they want to go ... You should have the right to leave a school that is not meeting the criteria or the educational standards for your child. I love charter schools, but not the ones controlled by this board.
**NOTE: Anyone reading this article or watching the forum should be asking themselves 'WHY is Madison running to sit on a public school board?'-more about that later.
Madison offered no plan and no solution other than defunding public education. His only plan was to hand students vouchers to private schools, which further hurts our public schools. Part of the reason that public schools are facing deficits is due to the increase in voucher schools. The voucher program continues to siphon money away from the public schools, without much accountability. We’ve seen voucher schools across the country, take people’s money and then close down without warning. Those students and their families are left without option except to be re-absorbed back into the public school district, although now the district doesn’t have funding for those students and classes/teacher loads have to be adjusted.
Test scores in vouchers schools have proven to be no higher than in public schools. You can read more about that here. And Madison is new to Kenosha but exactly how many private schools does he believe there ARE in Kenosha? Very few. On top of that, vouchers don’t cover the full cost of tuition. Vouchers are like a coupon, they give a discount on private school tuition but typically don’t come close to covering the full cost, so families have to make up the difference. Poor families, about which Madison was asked in this question, are the least able to make up that difference. His solution in a non-solution. Additionally, most private schools require families to provide transportation to and from, once again leaving out some families who are unable to to do that. Finally, private schools get to pick and choose who they accept - it isn’t a parent’s choice-it’s the private school’s choice. Low-income students, students of color, and physical/medically fragile students are often least likely to be accepted and retained in private schools. Lamar Madison’s solutions are not solution.
The KUSD Instrumentality charters (Lakeview Tech, Brompton, KTEC, ITA Academy, etc) are top notch AND they have accountability and accept students with special needs. They are under control of the KUSD school board.
So again, if you’re asking yourself: Why is Lamar Madison running for a PUBLIC school board? You are asking an excellent question. Understanding WHO is funding Madison’s campaign will help you to understand exactly why he is eager to defund our public schools. You can read more about the organizations who are funding Madison’s campaign here.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO INCREASE COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS?
I'm sorry but these kids are not ready for college. We're testing the bottom 50%. These kids are aging out, they're not graduating. They will not be prepared for school. The best they can do is try to go to Gateway Technical College in between school, but they're not ready for prime time -- most of them not. They can't even read, can't do math and can't write ... Let's get the standard up, let's be a school system in a district people want to come to. We should demand nothing but educational excellence.
I'm brown. My eight siblings and I all graduated. My three kids all graduated 10 years ago, so brown students are graduating from high school. We need to do better, though, and Kenosha Unified has just implemented a new pathways program. It is a career-based learning experience where students, teachers and employers get together. It's a one year or two year program and students, when they complete it, receive a certificate from the state. This is one of the things that our current board and our school district is doing to prepare students for careers.
**NOTE: Low test scores and poverty rates go hand in hand. It isn’t surprising that schools all over the nation with high poverty rates also have lower test scores. But what test scores are we talking about here? Standardized test scores are not the best indicator of student progress. Some students aren’t good test takers, some don’t really care and blow off the test. The MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) scores are much more indicative of the student skills. These tests are done with the teacher, on the computer, and the results come back right away. The students set goals and take ownership over the results. The MAP tests are done in the fall, winter and spring and the teachers use these tests to guide instruction.
In regards to college prep- Madison is correct, some students aren’t ready for college. And they may never be. But KUSD has a variety of programs to help with career readiness:
Career-Based Learning Experiences (CBLE) programs are opportunities whereby students can achieve academic competence while focusing upon becoming career and college ready. The program is coordinated and supervised by school district staff so that there is a strong connection between classroom learning and the work experience.
Students, employers, and teachers are held accountable to the learning experience by the student’s goal of completing a portfolio of industry competencies (tasks) and basic employability skills. Upon successful completion of the experience, the student is awarded a certificate from a state agency.
KUSD participates in the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program, which integrates school-based and work-based learning. There are a variety of youth apprenticeship choices offered through the district. Discussion with a Youth Apprenticeship Specialist helps a student choose an option that best meets his or her needs and career goals. Programs are a one- or two-year program that integrates required classroom instruction with a paid work experience. Programs are available in eleven career cluster areas. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development administers the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program.
Benefits to Students
Explore careers and determine if it is a fit for a future pathway
Build a resume for career portfolio, college and scholarship applications
Receive a paycheck
Develop employability and career skills
Earn credit for working
Receive a skills certificate of occupational proficiency from the Department of Workforce Development
Build a network of professionals
KUSD has also developed various Career Pathways: gives student the opportunity to attain education, training, certification and college credit towards a specific career/industry.
We’d like to point out again, Lamar Madison offered zero plan to address career and college readiness. He failed to mention and is likely unaware about current district efforts to improve test scores because he has not been here long and it seems obvious he has not done any homework on the district. “Let’s get test scores up” is not a plan.
WHAT ROLE SHOULD THE KEA PLAY IN EDUCATIONAL POLICY?
I strongly believe that the Kenosha Education Association, the teacher's union, should be a partner with our district in setting our educational policy. (The KEA) is our advocates for our students. They're the ones that go up to Madison and advocate for funding and the needs of our classrooms. The teachers are the one that know what's needed in the classroom to ensure our students are learning in a safe environment so they can achieve.
I believe the KEA is an interest group just like any other interest group. If the KEA was that important, I don't know why only 30% of teachers-- maybe 25% of teachers-- are a part of that union. If it was that important, I would think you would have 100% participation. The school board's prime focus is the parents. Parents come talk to us, we talk to the administration. If KEA went away tomorrow, I don't think the teachers would shed a tear.
**NOTE: KEA cannot influence policy through collective bargaining, because collective bargaining rights for teachers' unions in Wisconsin were stripped away after Act 10 over a decade ago, with the exception of bargaining base wages. Teachers continue to recertify their union every year during the annual recertification elections required by state law under Act 10. For the 2022 election, 71% of KUSD educators participated in the election with just 40 individuals voting no. In any fair election, in which only those who vote are counted (those who did not vote are counted as automatic no votes by the state), our union would have 96% support, a clear indication that teachers continue to recertify their union so their concerns around compensation and working conditions can be represented.
Any teaching and learning matters that are addressed and brought to KUSD leadership and the School Board by KEA are done so based on priority concerns identified through 1:1 conversations that happen between educators; these are the concerns teachers and education support professionals feel must be addressed in order for them to be the best educator possible for their students. Items like a professional school day for educators; adequately resourced classrooms for every student, equitable and inclusive teaching and learning practices; and comprehensive professional compensation are all challenges facing Kenosha public schools and can be best met through a mutually respectful and cooperative approach between the Kenosha Education Association and the KUSD School Board and Administration.
Also, notice that Madison does not mention the right-wing special interest groups that are funding his campaign. The goals of those two groups are not goals that benefit KUSD and its students. You can read more about them here.
HOW WILL YOU ENSURE ALL CHILDREN HAVE ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION?
We need to treat all students the same and we need to make sure all students feel welcome in our schools. We have to make sure that we have the resources available to them to graduate from high school. How do we ensure that? By allocating the proper resources to our students and to our teachers. We do have ways to help parents who are facing financial setbacks, and teachers are good about identifying resources for those parents.
I think, if you want to ensure that all students have access to quality education, regardless of economic background, I say give every student that's fallen into this category a voucher and pay for them to go to school. Give them the credit and let them go to the school of their choice. If they're not getting the access to education currently, then I think we should take some of those funds and give them to parents, so they can take their kids where they want.
**NOTE: Once again Madison’s only answer was to defund our public schools by giving students vouchers (see Note to question 4 above.) He offered no solution and no plan to IMPROVE our schools. He offered no solutions to funding challenges the district faces, especially for special needs students.
HOW WOULD YOU ADDRESS STUDENT SAFETY AND WELL-BEING
Esser I, II, III money from the Federal government has been used to help deal with mental health issues. We have added counselors and social workers. We make sure we are doing the ALICE training for safety. We have looked at measures to make our school buildings more safe. We have been working on ways to improve student safety and well being and we will continue to do so.
I think we have about 6 buildings in our district that don’t have security doors. And we are talking about putting gym floors. Someone on the board for 15 years, how we gonna retain teachers- Oh lets take away health benefits. Talk about safety and you still need schools that need upgrading for safety. Money we get from the governor is a band aid. What happens when that money is gone? We still not physically responsible here. (We think he means fiscally). Make schools more safe instead of fixing gym floors. You can sand it down, paint it, whatever.
**NOTE: ESSER Funds are one-time, restricted, limited funds. While some additional staff were able to be hired, it nowhere near filled the staffing gaps in our schools. We will need a sustainable financial solution to retain the new staff that were hired and to continue working towards improving student to teacher ratios.
According to Public School Review, Numerous experts have landed on 18:1 as the ideal student-teacher ratio. This ratio allows teachers to facilitate a healthy learning environment that provides individualized help. Lower ratio classrooms are also more task-focused, disciplined, and engaged. When the money from ESSER Funds runs out what will Madison's solution be to retain staff?
Candidate Report Card
The non-partisan Kenosha Education Justice Coalition prepared this report card on the two candidates based on public responses and comments at candidate forums, school board meetings, on campaign social media accounts and direct responses.
The Choice is Clear
Yolanda Santos Adams is the best candidate for KUSD School Board
There is a reason that the members of the Democratic Party of Kenosha County unanimously voted to endorse Yolanda Santos Adams for KUSD school board. She has provided steady, commonsense leadership for our district, including balancing the budget during financially challenging times. She has put the safety, well-being and education of our children first and has risen above the culture wars and divisive behavior her opponent encourages.
We hope all voters will take the time to watch this youth-led Building Our Future forum between the two candidates.
Election Day is April 4th!
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If you have any trouble registering or voting, call the Voter Protection Hotline at 608-336-3232.
Vote for common sense. Vote for our kids.
Vote Yolanda Santos Adams for KUSD School Board.