Diary of an Advisory Committee: the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board Reaches Out to Citizens

In the late spring of 2004, I had the idea that inviting a group of citizens to work with the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board might help the Committee ask better questions of the administration and explore more options during the next year. In 2004-05, the Committee will consider the possibility of another referendum to fund maintenance of the district’s buildings and try to solve overcrowding problems at Leopold Elementary School. It will also develope a 3-5 year long range plan for presentation to the Board by the end of the spring semester
In this log, I will relate our progress toward this goal.

May 2004
I proposed that the committee appoint nine non-voting citizens to help us: three who use our facilities, such as parents and staff; three from other local governments or the University of Wisconsin; and three from the general community, such as business or organization leaders. I thought that having a range of viewpoints and experience would improve our discussions and decisions.
I presented the proposal for an advisory committee to LRP Committee members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston, Jr. at a meeting. After discussion, the committee modified my proposal. In addition, the Committee decided against making its own appointments of citizens. Instead, the Committee voted that each Board member would submit names of three nominees by August 1. It also added the student Board representatives as advisory committee members. After the deadline, President Bill Keys and I, as Committee chair, were to choose nine citizens to recommend for approval by the Board.
June – July 2004
Over the summer I began to plan the twice-monthly LRP meetings so that the committee and citizens will receive information about issues and administrative proposals at the first meeting and the committee would take action at the second meeting. I met with Mary Gulbrandsen, Chief of Staff (deputy superintendent) to plan the meetings. We scheduled the first of the fall meetings and discussed the most efficient ways to get information to the Committee and its Advisory Citizen Committee. We hope to post all information relevant to our discussions on the MMSD web site, so that our citizen members and the public can review the same materials presented to LRP.
August 2004
By August 13, all Board members had made their nominations.
On Thursday, August 19 , President Bill Keys and I will meet to select the nine citizens whom we will recommend to the Board. He invited staff member Mary Gulbrandsen to join us to “interpreting where various qualifications, etc., fit”. I have objected to her participation because the Board specifically directed only the two elected members of the Board to make these recommendations. Especially when we are selecting a citizen group to help us review information and recommendations from the administration, it seems inappropriate to let the administration screen the citizens.
I hope to meet with Mr. Keys tomorrow and conclude this stage of the selection process.
Ruth Robarts, Chair of Long Range Planning Committee