No safe space for reformers at a Madison middle school?

“Teachers are very very afraid.”  former teacher*

Parents are mobilizing for a showdown at Madison’s Jefferson middle school, which they describe as ruled by virtue-signaling administrators and out-of-control students.

The flash point was on December 3 when a 13-year-old boy shot a girl with a BB gun outside from a bus window. The student had remained in school despite a history of transgressions, include threatening to shoot up the school “and kill everyone” three months earlier. 

* Former teacher Mauricio Escobedo told Blaska Policy Werkes that students at Jefferson, located on the same campus as James Madison Memorial high school on Madison’s far west side, must be bribed with candy and potato chips to follow instructions because there are no penalties for disobedience.  

School district spokesman Tim LeMonds seemed to acknowledge problems at Jefferson. He told the Werkes: “We’ve been reviewing the culture and climate of that school for a few months now and we are working with the leadership at that school.” 

Parents are targeting a scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, January 23 to address their concerns. In the meantime, parents are asked to contact to help Peter Anderson petition the Department of Public Instruction for an investigation into the school. Anderson is a Madison parent, grandparent and founder of Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (now Clean Wisconsin).

No safe spaces for whistle blowers

They are rallying around an ethnic hispanic who said he was dismissed from the faculty for calling out school administrators for covering up  disciplinary problems.

Tequila Kurth, principal Jefferson MS

Tequila Kurth, principal, Jefferson M.S.

“There was a staff meeting where this entire matter of racism was talked about. [Administrators] were talking about how important it was for students to feel safe and for us not to be racist. They even put on a video that said the white race was the single most toxic thing on earth,” Escobedo said. 

“I raised my hand and said, ‘Well, I don’t agree. I don’t have skin in the game. I’m not white.’ The educational philosophy of the school district is focused on feelings of safety not on discipline.”

Mr. Escobedo told this blog: “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

Escobedo feels that school administration blamed him for leaking the disciplinary file of the December 3 shooter to Channel 3000, which he denies. “Instead of focusing on safety policies, school principal Tequila Kurth wrote memos that threatened the school employee/s who divulged this public information.” Kurth is in her second school year as principal at Jefferson.

LeMonds, public information officer for the school district, told Blaska Policy Works no one has been accused of leaking the information. “That was federally protected information, so the district has been actively investigating the release of that record. We haven’t even narrowed it down to a point where we can interview folks.” 

Revolving door

Channel 3000 reported that the December 3 shooter had been written up for 25 disciplinary incidents this school year prior to being suspended in December for striking another student with a BB gun on a bus route.

Comment, respond, what do you thinkThe more than two dozen incidents range from leaving class without permission and refusing to return to class to using physical force against a staff member. On September 17, the student was accused of yelling a homophobic slur at a teacher and shoving a teacher in the chest. The student received an out-of-school suspension as a result, but was in school the next day when he was accused of disrupting a learning environment.

Police said the BB gun used by the student made its way into the school with another student, which was found in a student’s locker the next day. That 13-year-old was also arrested.

A must read: “Schools without discipline will fail,”
by Peter Anderson

In general, “Students are defiant and threaten teachers,” Escobedo maintains. One teacher left because after being “manhandled.” Her smart phone was stolen. Another staffer’s car windshield was smashed. A student was mugged. “Nothing happens to these students.” 

Escobedo says that in the month since December 7 five to six teachers have left Jefferson. He alleged that substitute teachers wary of the school’s atmosphere refuse to fill temporary vacancies there.

Put on a happy face

Escobedo said he moved to Madison in March 2019 from Los Angeles where he taught, among other places, at Compton. Before a 30-year teaching career he worked in banking. Escobedo says the reason given for being terminated was that he lacked a Wisconsin teacher’s license. He said he had several months remaining to get one.

Unable to comment on a specific employee, LeMonds said the district works with teachers coming in from other states. But the minimum requirement is to submit the DPI application by December. “In all of that category, there was only one who did not submit.”

Escobedo said: “I come from business and if you’re black or white, I don’t care what race, if you’re hired at McDonald’s and you burn the food, they’re going to fire you because you are not getting the job done. But here in this school, here in Madison WI and in the United States, schools are saying ‘alright students you are failing but we’re going to protect you from failure. We’re not going give you an F but draw you a happy face for effort.’”

Blaska’s Bottom LineThe problems are not confined to Jefferson middle school but are district wide. They stem from the identity politics promulgated by former superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and sanctioned by a left-liberal, virtue-signaling school board.

A Madison liberal activist says
“Schools without discipline will fail”

For Extra Credit:Two Madisons: The Education and Opportunity Gap in Wisconsin’s Fastest Growing City.” Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.


About David Blaska

Madison WI
This entry was posted in Madison schools, Progressives, Race, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to No safe space for reformers at a Madison middle school?

  1. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    Jefferson Middle School having problems? Say it ain’t so!

    A friend (couple of years older) with whom I played FB, later became a teacher at Jefferson MS. He said he retired because he was afraid he was going to get physical (“before I killed someone,” if memory serves) with some of his students. He could have, he was one tough SOB; played MLB with a certain…um…edge, if you know what I mean.

    They’d tell him to GET F****D he’d kick them out, they’d get sent to the Principal’s office, they’d be given candy (seems potato chips have been added to what’s available) and a time out, and were back shortly thereafter.

    Bear in mind, these are 6th through 8th graders AND he retired over 11 years ago!

    Have things have gotten better, stayed the same, or gotten worse?

    We spend our lifetimes teaching others how to treat us. Where do you think these kids learn how to act, where/how do they learn what they can do and get away with?

    I’d say can or CAN’T do or get away with, but thanks to coddling Lefty administrators & (mercifully!) former MMSD Superintendent Jenny (Cheat’em) from the CELL block, they’re in school without any semblance of proper, acceptable behavior because being told NO would bruise their self-esteem.

    Lefty just doesn’t get it; the permissive/hand’s off attitude guaran’damn’tees that the School-to-Prison pipeline is ALWAYS filled, and will remain so.

    12-15 year-olds don’t start out stealing cars and viciously attacking innocent citizens (as Madison’s Gang of 30 is wont to do), they graduate to it step-by-step.

    Guess where they’re doing their undergrad work?

    The Gotch

    Liked by 1 person

  2. George's Son says:

    This scoop S/B front page news AND noted in one of the famous/infamous letters to parents by the MMSD. An “I don’t often drop-my-jaw but when I do” meme describes my reaction. Just when we thought we’d seen/experienced it all. These SJW are not only making failure guaranteed, they are promoting it. PROUDLY….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. madisonexpat says:

    Let’s assemble staff and all stakeholders to have some awesome dialoguing so as to view diverse solutions based on the synergy of our BEP and a racial equality lens.Then, while rigorously avoiding our white privilege, we can identify the systemic racism that has caused all the acting out. Finally we’ll agree that diversity is our strength and demand more money by raising taxes and floating new bond issues…………. for the children…. they are our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kevin Wymore says:

    There’s a very good west-side Madison school that is blessedly free of Jefferson Middle School’s discipline problems. It’s straight down Mineral Point Road from Madison Memorial.

    It’s called Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic School. And the parents, the teachers and the students are on the same page. a page filled with academic rigor.

    It’s not the only private-school alternative around, but it’s a darned good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • grandparentgrumpy says:

      St James is diverse (40% non-white) and inspires the faith of kids. Does QP have both? Catholic schools need funds and need the poor so that they are actually Catholic, and not merely private.


      • Kevin Wymore says:

        While I am not speaking for the parish, I previously served on the QP Parish Council. I do know that QP has done its best to serve students and families regardless of economic circumstance — if enrollment vacancies exist. (There is a substantial QP endowment that serves to aid families in issues of financial need.)

        Moreover, Queen of Peace took over the Catholic Multicultural Center’s operation from the diocese about 10 years ago. So there should be no question about the parish’s commitment to persons of color, or to academic excellence.


  5. Concerned Parent says:

    Thank you Dave for beating the media to this. Why are they so quiet? What does Chris Gomez Schmidt have to say? Or other board members? Or Karen Kepler, who is Kuth’s supervisor?


    • grandparentgrumpy says:

      What will poor people do to attend? Blessed Sacrament needs people. St. james has openings, and that is diverse.


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  7. BOOM CHAKA LAKA!!!!! says:

    I am thankful every day that my kid goes to Queen of Peace, so that my kid will not have to celebrate things that make us different instead of celebrating things that we all have in common.
    Celebrating commonality is way more productive and less divisive. She will be able see beyond the bull crap leftism that so many things that public schools are teaching our young.


  8. Patty Hay-Chapman says:

    There are 2 kinds of identity politics: The helpful kind grants everyone the same rights regardless of their differences. The second kind of identity politics has been around strongly only for about 5 years and is all about pointing the finger of blame at others, mainly at “cis, white male supremacy culture” and remarkably that includes white teachers. This is what Obama called the “woke, call out culture” and he said they “better get over that quickly.” (October 2019) It is also called the “cancel culture” because they will ruin you if you disagree or aren’t “woke” enough for them.

    That is exactly the mentality that has been running MMSD in the last few years, the including the principals Cheatham brought in and why teachers were fired for the n-word with no warning or direction given last year and why MTI has supported the administration. It is not the progressive left- it is the regressive, authoritarian left and they are totally ruining the school system. Maybe it’s just an over-correction phase but it needs to be corrected so that common sense and decency, respect and responsibility can prevail. Let’s hope so.
    (32 year Madison teacher)

    Liked by 2 people

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