Open Forum: Questions the Community Would Like to See the School Board Asking the Superintendent

I�m beginning a list of questions I�d like to see the School Board discuss and use to direct the Superintendent when the District�s budget is developed using this blog as a public forum. The state and federal governments are not holding up their end of school financing, yet our school board members need to develop a budget and to make preliminary operating decisions by June 30, 2005.
I�ve left the comments open for this blog and would like to hear what questions others might like to see the board discuss and provide further direction to the Superintendent during the budget process so that we develop a budget that puts children�s learning, academic excellence and achievement as the highest priority for our children this year and in succeeding years. I think our attention locally needs to be on how can we develop the best budget for these priorities so that we know what our funding challenges are for next year and will have better information for a referendum.

“New Revenues”
What are the expected amounts of new revenues forecasted for next year from general state fund, property taxes, lowered salaries from retirees, special education � state and federal, English as a second language � state and federal, NCLB grant monies, etc.? How is the Superintendent proposing to allocate these resources? How does the board want these resources allocated?

Costs of School Board Priorities

What are the costs of the school board�s priorities � third grade reading, algebra 9th grade, 10th grade geometry, 94% attendance? How are those dollars allocated across all children and what dollars are spent on services for children who need help reaching these priorities and children who need resources, because they exceed these basic priorities.

Consider Alternative Planning/Budget Scenarios

What other budget scenarios make sense for the school board to review in the current fiscal situation so that children�s learning is not the Plan B that is put at risk? Let�s start by seeing a budget that puts all new revenue into elementary and secondary schools and the support for children � curriculum, special ed, English as a second language. Yes, this means the cuts will be deeper in other areas � but let�s have the specifics and let�s have an open, public discussion about our options/priorities for allocating resources.
Why Did the Superintendent Without Board Discussion Not Pursue Further Reading First – What Are Our Results With Kids at Risk Learning With Different Reading Curricula – What’s Lapham Telling Us?
What was the process the administration and the school board went through to decide why the district did not need the Reading First money? What do our results show for our reading curricula for low income children at risk of not reaching the reading goal? What does this cost? Are we effectively reaching the children who need the most help? What results are we seeing with direct instruction at Lapham elementary school? What are the costs? Are more children at risk for reading reached more academically effectively and cost effectively with direct instruction ?

What Is the Board Doing About Developing Partnerships and Pursuing Alternative Funding Sources for the Arts and Extracurricular Sports?

What steps has the board taken to seek alternative approaches and to secure funding for what Madison values � sports, fine arts, ropes challenge, other? What has the board done to determine the costs of extracurricular activities and what the district can afford to pay?
What are Your Questions? Log onto Comments and share them.

7 thoughts on “Open Forum: Questions the Community Would Like to See the School Board Asking the Superintendent”

  1. Barb,
    Thank you for beginning this discussion.
    I’d like the Board and Superintendent to tell the community more about why the Superintendent choose not to use the Reading First funds ($2 million approximately) to expand Read 180 which is currently used and supported by the district.
    Here’s what was reported in the newspaper about Reading 180: “Read 180 has expanded from a pilot program at Wright Middle School in the 2001-02 school year to 15 schools serving 1,100 students, said Sharyn Stumpf, secondary language arts resource teacher. The district wants to add 150 more students and upgrade materials, which would cost about $154,400.”
    Read 180 is a highly scripted program, but the district said it didn’t want the Reading First funds because they would have to be used for a highly scripted reading program. Read 180 is so highly scripted that the students work on a computer. What could be more scripted?
    The district rejected the money because the scripted Reading First programs would take the teacher out of the learning process, so the Superintendent said. Yet, Read 180 takes the teacher completely out of the teaching process when the student works at a computer.
    The Superintendent said the district didn’t want the Reading First funds because the federal government has no place in directing the education of Madison children. If that’s true, will the Superintendent and school board return ALL federal money that requires the district to meet certain standards or provide certain programs?
    There have to be other reasons for why the Superintendent decided not to pursue $2 million in federal funds. What were the REAL reasons? There’s more behind the decision than anyone has been told. I’d like parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers to press for answers.
    Ed Blume

  2. I would like the ask the board who developed the list of cuts and what role, if any, the Finance and Operation committee played in shaping the package.
    I also would like to ask the board how the cuts reflect the districts articulated priorities of academic achievement, particularly at the elementary level. It seems to me that the schools would be protected rather than targetted if academic achievement, closing the achievement gap, etc. are truly district priorities.

  3. At the last Partnership committee meeting on February 21st, Administration was directed to explore possible “partnerships with the business community” otherwise known as advertising to many board and community members.
    The current MMSD policy is very specific related to advertising (can’t do it/don’t do it), however, Madison School-Community Recreation is encouraged to pursue this endeavor.
    I am hopeful as the school board goes through the difficult budgeting process, that a majority of board members will see by exploring these options with the business community will result in additional revenue for the school district. This revenue could be used to fund extra-curricular activities.
    Johnny Winston, Jr.
    Madison School Board member

  4. Has there ever been any discussion as to seeking outside sponsors for extracurricular sports? Instead of squeezing the life out of music and art (particularly elementary), which is not extracurricular and is part of the curriculum, is it possible to discuss funding from other sources?

  5. (1) Have you done any study to determine the long-range budgetary impact of cutting elementary strings?
    (2) What is your estimate for the number of students each year who will not be participating in middle and high school strings/orchestra classes, as a result of not having the elementary strings program available? What data do you base this on?
    (3) What are the student/teacher ratios of middle and high school strings/orchestra programs compared to other courses?
    (4) Have you projected the need for alternative instruction and additional staffing to provide courses for those students you have estimated above who will not be in the middle and high school strings/orchestra courses? What are the budgetary costs you will incur for any such additional instruction or staffing?
    (5) Would the district be willing to contract for the services of Dr. John Benham (or other music education budget expert), in order to help the district, the public and the board fully understand the bugetary impacts of cutting elementary strings?

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