Pastor Melvin Hargrove, 44, of 2130 Racine St., Mount Pleasant, is seeking a second term on the Racine Unified School District Board of Education.
Appointed to fill an unexpired term on the School Board in 2007 and elected to a full term in 2008, Hargrove wants to continue the initiatives that are under way to improve education. He is founder and pastor of Zoe Outreach Ministries and a member of Concerned Black Men of Racine.
The Racine Unified School District has long struggled with an achievement gap between its white students and its students of color. What do you believe can be done to improve the learning of all RUSD students?
There needs to be a continued focus on some of the things that (RUSD Superintendent) Dr. Jim Shaw has brought forward. One is data-driven instruction. Our teachers are being given the ability to see the data on their students’ progress and then act accordingly. Another is culturally relevant pedagogy—some teaching styles need to be modified to better connect with the students. It’s another tool that teachers can use to reach students at their level.
To succeed, there has to be a community wide approach. It involves teachers, parents, the School Board, businesses, nonprofits, churches, all of our communities. We have to leave a legacy of learning to our children.
I think we’re starting. We still have a long way to go. I’d say we’re at the crawling stage
RUSD currently has a building maintenance backlog in excess of $80 million. What should be done to address this?
All we can do is take the money we have available to us through the past referendum and continue to follow the scheduled maintenance (projects.) Unfortunately, these needs are compounding. The community wants us to fix the buildings, but we only have so much money that we’re given. We need to be transparent with the community about this.
At some point, we’ll have to go back to the community and explain what’s going on and ask for more money.
In your opinion, does the general public have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Racine’s public schools? Why?
I think the impression has improved somewhat, but it’s still unfavorable overall. We still get more negative than positive press. As a district, we have such a myriad of problems that even as we deal with some of them, it looks like we’re not getting much done.
And, we still have to live down some years when the Board and the administration left a bad taste in people’s mouths. So, even though you address the problems, sometimes it’s hard to see the good schools making progress, the good teachers and the good programs. Each school now has its own school improvement program—that’s huge.