Diversity will be an important issue in Racine Unified’s School Board election this spring.
Pastor Melvin Hargrove, who was appointed to the board in November, is seeking a full-term on the nine-member board. He’s joined by the Rev. Karen Norton, who is also seeking one of the three open seats.
In all, seven candidates are competing for the three-year terms. Incumbents Brian Dey, Randy Bangs and Russ Carlsen are not seeking re-election. That paves the way for new faces on the board, which will select a new superintendent and address several key issues in the coming year.
Norton said she was running to “open lines of communication” between the School Board and the community. In particular, she said the board lacks the diversity needed to reach out to the families and students who are struggling the most in Racine’s schools.
“It’s known one of the issues facing the district is African Americans poor showing in schools,” said Norton, who has had three children graduate from Unified and has two more children in school now. “The people who are struggling are coming from the community where I live.”
She added that while most School Board members and candidates would agree it’s important to reach out to the community, few understand how to connect with minority families.
“I see there’s a disconnect from the community,” Norton said. “I would bring a very different perspective to the board.”
Hargrove said he’s learned how the School Board works in first months on the job. He was appointed to replace Dey, who resigned for personal reasons.
The School Board adopted a “policy governance” system that has the board oversee the superintendent, who is responsible for running the district. The system removes the board from day-today decisions in the schools, but Hargrove said there is still an opportunity for board members to get involved at a fundamental level. He’s toured schools and asked questions, which gives him the insight needed to work on Unified’s issues.
“If we really do this right, we’ll see some changes,” Hargrove said. But, he added, no one candidate will be able to come in and help everyone.
“I don’t have a John Wayne or Superman attitude to change things,” he said. “I’m joining a group of leaders on the School Board that's going to meld together.”
This article first appeared in the Insider News.