The Madison School Board is facing some of the biggest challenges that a school district can face. These challenges include three referenda on the ballot on May 24th. One of the most unique challenges is the potential boundary changes throughout the district. These situations are very complex, political, frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. They’re complex because it affects so many people. It is political because of the many parent organizations it involves. It is frustrating because it takes so much work and time. Finally, in the case of Hawthorne and Lakeview it is exhilarating because the school board took action.
Being a member of the school board for one year, I have learned that no one really likes change. Unless that change has something to do with someone’s school or program that doesn’t affect them. This is especially true when it involves parent’s own children. The board has been inundated with e-mails from concerned parents regarding the proposed boundary changes. All of them are very compelling regarding the effect that it will have on their children or their own involvement in parent leadership groups and organizations. But let’s be honest, families move, teachers transfer and friends change. My personal priorities in this process are to: First, alleviate overcrowded schools. Second, make efficient use of space that will lead to substantial savings (without breaking the law as in the case of our paired schools) that can be used for our operating budget. Lastly, listening to the needs of communities that are under represented at board meetings and gauging their needs and concerns and balancing them with the needs of the district and effected schools. Unfortunately, my own personal second priority won’t be realized this year, but I feel confident that the school board will address this in the future.
As we address the issue of space, I have learned about the concept of neighborhood schools. People buy homes and settle down in a particular neighborhood because of a school. It is obvious that this concept is in the “eye of the beholder.” A neighborhood school means much more than just being able to walk to it as I did at Lindbergh Elementary school kindergarten through fourth grade many years ago. School is a place where students and family call their own.
In conclusion, a communication was sent to board members very early in our process that really struck me. It suggested that the administration was changing boundaries “to make the map look pretty.” If you have ever seen a district map (www.mmsd.org – click on boundary change options), I can see why they would believe that. I believe that the administration has done what the board asked them to do. Present viable options and begin the process of working with community groups such as parent organizations, neighborhood parents, students and the Long Range Planning Committee to narrow the choices until one can be made. Be assured that I won’t support “just making the map look pretty.” I’ll be listening to parents, organizations and students with the other members of the Board of Education and make decisions that take everyone’s view point into consideration. By doing this, we will all be part of a process to help students achieve in a healthy environment, wherever they call their neighborhood school.