Meet the Candidates: Racine Unified District No. 8

Election 2018

Incumbent and board President Melvin Hargrove is seeking re-election to the Racine Unified Board of Education against challenger Matthew Hanser. The new district No. 8 in the Racine Unified School District is comprised of both City of Racine and Caledonia neighborhoods and was created after the state legislature passed a law dividing the district into nine districts.

Both candidates agree that increased communication with district residents is key and both like the idea of block scheduling and the Academies of Racine. Where they differ is in the timing; Hargrove supports implementation for the upcoming school year, and Hanser would rather slow down to be sure planning is complete and training is in place.

Click here to see a map of district No. 8 boundaries. The general election is April 5.

Melvin Hargrove
Melvin Hargrove

(i) Melvin Hargrove, 49
4144 LaSalle Street
Pastor, Graduate of UW-Parkside

Why do you want to serve as a member of the Racine Unified Board of Education?

Dr. King said “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.” I believe these words with all of my being and want to be an intricate part of making this happen for our students of RUSD. I believe we have started some great work as a Board of Education and I want to continue this work because I know it will lead to our students success in life.

What do you think Racine Unified is doing right that you want to build on?

I believe we have seen the graduation rate increase for all our students, our math and reading scores have improved and in some cases better than the national average. We are currently building three new schools that will allow our children to have much better equipment and access to 21st century technology. We are moving toward an academy model for our High Schools that focuses on students being career ready just as much as them being college ready.

What do you think Racine Unified can do better and how would you tackle this challenge?

I believe we still need to get a better handle on our student behavior in our schools. We must continue our focus on parental engagement. We need to look at how we are addressing our Special Ed needs. Dr. Gallien has put forth a plan to deal with student behavior and the overall improvement of the climate in our schools. As a board member I would focus my lenses on these areas to make sure the district is doing all it can to ensure success in these areas.

How can we encourage our community to better support our students?

We as a Board of Education must continue discussion with all municipalities in RUSD. This has been currently implemented under my leadership as board president. We must also communicate better and with all transparency the successes and challenges in RUSD. We have to find a way to let the community know they are investing in the future not only of the student but also in that of the community when they support our students.

Do you support block scheduling? Why or why not?

Yes I support block scheduling. according to the districts that implemented High School Transformation this is a necessary tool for success in this model. I also support the proper Professional Development that must happen with the implementation of block scheduling.

Do you support the Academies of Racine concept? Why or why not?

Yes I support the Academies of Racine. I believe the academy structure gives equal preparation for a student who decides to work after high school as well as the one who chooses college. This model puts a focus on soft skill development as well as academic development for success in whatever career our student would choose. This model also engages our business community and puts them in a place to hire the students who choose to go to work after high school.

What idea would you like to see come to life – no matter how impossible it might seem?

I would like to see stronger parental involvement. I would like to see a more culturally and racially diverse staff for RUSD. I would also like to see all schools properly equipped to prepare our students for success in the 21st century.

Matthew Hanser
Matthew Hanser

Matthew Hanser, 45
4740 Conlaine Dr.
Unified Services Director­ at Illinois Education Association, Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership, ­Cardinal Stritch University, 2003 UW-Whitewater, Bachelor’s of Science in Education, 1993 Pius XI High School, Milwaukee

Why do you want to serve as a member of the Racine Unified Board of Education?

My aspiration to serve as a member of the RUSD board stems from the concern that the voices of parents, students, staff, and the community at large are not being taken into consideration when decisions are made. As a community member and parent of 2 students who attend RUSD schools, I have a vested interest in making certain that the children of Racine have a high quality education program available to them.

What do you think Racine Unified is doing right that you want to build on?

I am excited about the community school program that is going to be implemented at Knapp Elementary. This school program demonstrates to the community that we are stronger together and we that we can and will provide opportunities for our families to be more engaged in the education of their children.

What do you think Racine Unified can do better and how would you tackle this challenge?

I think RUSD can do a better job of reaching out to the community as a whole. As a Board member I would tackle that challenge by having regular community forums regarding our schools. What we learn from those forums can then help the guide the board’s decisions regarding design, development and implementation of policies that support high quality education programs for our students.

How can we encourage our community to better support our students?

RUSD schools have a rich history of high expectations for students. Students should be encouraged to continue the outstanding work they are doing and in order for that to happen, the community needs to be informed. The community needs to celebrate the schools in our district. The Board of Education can help support this endeavor. We need to have a systematic approach to reaching out to our community and letting them know the positive attributes our schools have, the challenges we may face and how are going to continue to address both.

Do you support block scheduling? Why or why not?

I do support block scheduling. However, I do not support implementing block scheduling as early as the 2016 – 2017 school year. There is a lot of professional development that goes into modifying curriculum, writing schedules and researching best practices for block scheduling. I think it is in the best interest of all stakeholders that those implementing the block scheduling have the proper training, knowledge and comfort level to bring about this change effectively.

Do you support the Academies of Racine concept? Why or why not?

I support the concept of the academies; I believe it is important for students to be college or career ready. Experiential learning, which exposes students to community members currently serving in a profession, is a phenomenal way for students to learn what the future can bring. As with any new concept, I surmise there will be questions and discussions that need to happen. One of the first concepts I would want to dissect further is the idea that student pathways are established early in the student’s academic career. I would want to ensure that the Academies of Racine are fluid enough for students to have the opportunity to make a change, if necessary, instead of continuing down a path that is unsuitable.

What idea would you like to see come to life – no matter how impossible it might seem?

The idea that I would like to see come to life is a plan to have RUSD schools run on renewable energy. In an ideal world, this would be a large community based effort. All constituent groups would have a part to play in making this idea grow and prosper.