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A school board vet steps down, firefighter takes her spot

Michael Flores is voted onto Madison's school board; predecessor advises, 'keep an open mind'

A school board vet steps down, firefighter takes her spot

MADISON, Wis. - Michael Flores will take over as one of the new school board members for the Madison school district following his election Tuesday. The race between the firefighter/EMS and retired police officer Wayne Strong was the only contested school board race for the Madison Metropolitan School District.

The race wasn't close. Flores got 63 percent of the vote, winning 15,425 to 9,183.

The vote makes Flores the only Hispanic board member.

"I've heard from the community that it is a representation that is wanted and needed, so I look forward to doing so, but I look forward to serving everyone in our community," Flores said.

Flores said he wants to focus on bringing students services in school and opportunities out of school that they might need to succeed.

"We need to be proactive, so we need to give our kids enrichment opportunities.  Those are arts, music, athletics, the outdoors," Flores said.  "Those are positive ways our kids can express themselves and really connect what they're doing in their education."

Flores takes the place of Marjorie Passman, a six-year school board veteran with decades of teaching in Madison under her belt.  

"Life has changed dramatically, even in the six years," Passman said.

Passman said the board's biggest accomplishments in that time was the establishment of 4K programs, executing the strategic and achievement gap plans, and selecting Jen Cheatham as the new superintendent. 

Passman said Cheatham's leadership and staff have brought on a new energy and laser-focused approach the board needed to follow through with certain initiatives.

"There is a focus on every single thing that is done in this district and a follow-up," Passman said. "As you can see from the money that was allocated last night, there will be funding for programs too."

Monday night, Passman and the board passed a new behavior plan, which replaces the district's "zero tolerance" rules.  Passman said that change was one of the most significant overhauls of her time in education, and Flores and the other board members will have to push through the transition.

"Is it going to happen overnight?  No. The first couple of years are going to be messy. They really are, but I think with support from downtown, and they will have support, slowly each school developing a process that works for them and works for the student, they will achieve this," Passman said. "But it's not going to be easy and it's not going to be quick."

Despite the upcoming challenges with implementing common core, closing the achievement gap, dealing with an increasingly diverse student body, and more, Passman is optimistic that the district's best years are to come.

"I think more hopeful than I've ever felt before," Passman said. "I think there are things going on in this district now that are bringing us into this century."

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