Only a few days remain until the Madison school board primary on Feb. 20. Just one of the three spring races -- for Seat 3 -- will be on the ballot as voters narrow the three-person field of Beth Moss, Pam Cross-Leone and Rick Thomas to two finalists on the April 3 ballot. In his final pre-primary query, we ask the school board candidates how they work with others, when it's appropriate to compromise and when it's best to dissent.
Serving on the school board will require you to work collectively with six other board members. Tell us how you operate in a group setting. How much value to you put on consensus? When is it appropriate to be the lonely voice of dissent? What role so you see yourself playing on the board?
Johnny Winston, Jr.
In group settings, I operate as a team player. I am more likely to listen first then respond. However, I am more than able to take the lead when necessary. I am capable of disagreeing on a matter without being disagreeable in order to accomplish group goals. My ability to work effectively in groups is evidenced by my success in several roles in my professional life, such as the President of the Madison school board, board member for non-profit organizations; referee for high school and college basketball and as a firefighter for the City of Madison.
Consensus is important but not always attainable. In any group, there should be robust discussion, critical analysis and differing points of view. Everyone does not have to agree completely on a particular issue. Accordingly, it is always appropriate for anyone in an elected position to be the lonely voice of dissent. We have seen great tragedies in our nation's history because people were afraid to go against the leadership. Examples of this are the Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Bay of Pigs in the 1960s. In the end, decisions made will be better because the issue was examined from all sides.
As current Board President, my own role has been one of consensus building. The decisions that the Madison school board is making are very difficult and as a board we are not always going to see eye to eye on various issues. I have focused and will continue to focus on facilitating board members' reflective and vigorous discussions that are respectful and that lead to eventual decisions that are sound. In the end, my role on the board is to encourage board members to integrate their personal perspectives on voting matters without taking the results of votes personally.
I like to listen to all sides of the debate before I come to a conclusion. I ask questions on how and why a person believes the way they do on any given issue. How do you support your conclusion to a problem or idea and what facts do you have to support your point of view.
I will ask questions of other board members and staff as to their point of view and why they feel that way and how they support their point of view. I am looking to find out what is best for the students and how we can improve the educational opportunities of the students in an affordable way. I will advocate at looking at all ideas to improve the educational resources of the district.