YWCA denies Sun Prairie Schools’ claim about partnership

Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 11:49 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -The YWCA Madison CEO said a formal partnership with the Sun Prairie school district does not exist, after board members announced a collaborative effort with the non-profit at a Monday meeting.

“We’ve also been working in consultation with the YWCA,” Sarah Chaja-Clardy, Sun Prairie director of secondary teaching, learning and equity said Monday in a school board meeting.

In the meeting, Sun Prairie school district officials addressed the controversial history lesson for the first time and steps to heal and engage the community, which included a partnership with the YWCA.

Vanessa McDowell, YWCA Madison CEO, said she found out about the partnership secondhand. McDowell tuned into the school board meeting Monday night. She said that’s when she learned of a partnership aimed at rebuilding community trust for the first time.

“I was very shocked to hear that we were listed as a partner or being in collaboration working with the Sun Prairie school district,” she said. “I’m confused like huh? That’s not true.”

The Sun Prairie school district spokesperson, Patti Lux, released 10 pages of documents filled with screenshots of text conversations and emails sharing the district’s perspective step by step.

One of the documents was an email thread between McDowell and Chaja-Clardy.

McDowell sent an open letter Monday to the district expressing outrage about the controversial homework assignment.

“She [Chaja-Clardy] let me know she had spoken with one of our people that is on our staff, as her friend,” McDowell said. “Whatever conversations they had was between two adults that have a professional friendship.”

McDowell explained this was not a chain of command issue.

She said none of the emails or text messages, provided by the school district, confirmed a formal partnership.

“This is a district that made a huge mistake and has yet to fully take ownership for it,” she said. “All they had to say was, ‘we look forward to possibly partnering with the YWCA’ that would have been accurate.”

The Sun Prairie school district spokesperson said in a statement, “We would like to make room for the idea that all partners involved in this situation may have a position of being partially correct.” The district added, “For all of us, this dialogue represents a distraction from our shared goal for racial equity.”

“The misrepresentation that they are putting out in regards to the organization that I lead, as well as me, it’s very hurtful. I’m waiting for an apology,” McDowell said. “I honestly don’t think from what I’m hearing and how they’re responding as a district that they’re serious about change.”

McDowell said because of the way the situation was handled, partnering with the school district is not in the cards at this time.

“This is a signal of the work, just an inkling of the work, we need to do in this community around race and gender equity issues,” she said.

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