Community Educates MMSD

Click to view a larger aerial image
Crestwood elementary school has sat on top of a hill (aerial photo) for over 100 years. It’s geography is cartoonish as it is on the top of a hill while the playground, or as the students call it, the “battlefield” lays far below a slopping grassy hill and the street in front of the school drops below quickly to Old Middleton Road. During our Wisconsin winters with ice and snow the students rarely enjoy the playground or the “battlefield” as it is too slippery to return to class and muddy when not slippery. Therefore, the students spend most of the year playing on a tar surface blacktop that doubles as a parking lot for large events. CAPT, Crestwood Ass. Parents And Teachers, has had an ongoing discussion with the district for 10 years to resurface the blacktop, which is cracked and falling apart, and add a playset for the winter months but have been discouraged by the $50,000 to $60,000 estimate quoted to solve this problem.

Doug Pearson, director of building services, came to a CAPT meeting at the beginning of the year to let us know that while we are on the list to have this corrected, other needs of the district and the cost of resurfacing the blacktop is so great that it “just ain’t going to happen”. CAPT has been collecting excess money from our budget for about 10 – 15 years and we have accumulated about $30,000 to pay for a new playset once the blacktop is resurfaced. After that meeting we were all discouraged by the $50 to $60,000 dollars we were again quoted to resurface the area, and it seemed this was not going to happen within the time our children attended elementary school.
But with the spunk and energy educated parents can bring to the schools, one of our own parents, Marisue Horton, was able to research the blacktop issue and discovered that it would not require the
$50,000 previously believed. Instead, a company based in Middleton called DSR Ltd., has developed a new process that uses a mixture of asphalt, polyester filament, and recycled rubber, and gave her a quote of $15,800. This new product is layed directly on top of the old blacktop which greatly reduces the cost and time it takes to renew the surface. To be fair the $15,000 quote only resurfaces the play area and the districts quote included a parking space also. This company has resurfaced areas at U.W. and even a business owned by a Crestwood parent.
Doug Pearson was contacted about this option. He investigated the company and the product and discovered what Ms. Horton had already figured out. This is a GREAT cost saving product for the district. While he gave “approval” for this product he pointed out that our blacktop is still several years away from being done by the district. Nor would the district reimburse us in the future if CAPT elected to pay DRS the $15,000.
To top it off due to the large amount of money being spent the district requires that we give them the check and they then bid the project out to companies.
Is it me or is this the most ludicrous waste of time and energy?
This man is paid to maintain our schools efficiently and effectively. Neither, might I add, has he done. He should be able to research companies, local ones especially, that can keep maintenance spending at our schools lower and more effective. Again, that is his job.
Ms. Horton found the new method, CAPT voted to have half of our savings spent to do this project, and yet we are “giving the district the check” to have them oversee the project! Please! Like MMSD can do this efficiently or timely. How many other projects throughout the district are done the same old way without knowledge of new methods or products that could save the district money? It is an interesting question to ask when they need more money for maintenance. While I will vote for the referendum, I am concerned my tax dollars are again not spent as carefully as say CAPT money. I dare say I will be amazed if my first grader gets the opportunity to play on that playground if the district is in charge. Wish us luck.
Aerial photo from DCI Map

4 thoughts on “Community Educates MMSD”

  1. Thanks for taking the time and having the courage to explain in detail some of the problems that parent groups face in trying to help their schools as well as to illustrate the way that the school district responded. I am reminded of other situations that parents report.

  2. One of the problems that the East High Boosters Club has faced is the requirement that we go through central purchasing and distribution. We’ve had items purchased with Booster Club money get lost in the system, which means that we’ve ended up paying for the same items more than once. When the items have turned up, it was because the athletic secretary, who has other jobs at East, has done some very diligent detective work to try to trace the supplies.
    It ain’t over until the bills are paid and the purchases are in hand.

  3. I want to step in here and just share a different observation. I think this can be viewed as a negative experience but I’d like to play devils advocate, if you will.
    The frustration of parents who have been at Crestwood for many years (I’ve only been here for 3) is three-fold:
    1. Playground asphalt gets bumped because of higher priorities and building maintenance emergencies.
    2. Lack of creative financing from the district
    3. Building Services knowledge of a new product
    Part I:
    For the past 10 years Crestwood has been in need of a new asphalt surface for the playground area. As frustrating as this has been, I can understand the need to fix a leaking roof, air-handling system or fire-alarm/water sprinklers rather than a playground. These are higher priorities and have long-range affects if not maintained properly. All I’m saying is that as a taxpayer, I’m glad there is some flexibility in the maintenance budget to allow expenditures for higher priorities. As a homeowner, I can share the example of saving for a backyard play set, but instead using the money to fix the brakes on our van.
    Part II:
    As a parent, I was helping raise money for our playground fund (currently at $30K) with the intention that the playground included the asphalt. Not everyone shared that view. I knew the asphalt was a capital investment but I also knew of many other PTO efforts to purchase infrastructure that otherwise should be paid for using tax dollars. All I’m saying, is I wanted a new playground whether our CAPT money went to all new equipment (also a capital investment) or asphalt & equipment. That was my personal opinion while other parents had been raising money for equipment purchases only.
    I thought our staff representatives came up with a fabulous idea to ‘loan’ the money to the district and then reimburse CAPT when our playground was completed (2008 @ $64,800). This would have allowed us to get our asphalt AND to get our fundraising money returned for phase 3 of our playground plan. It also saved the district ~$49K. Unfortunately, I think it’s like having a gift certificate on your books for several years. It’s difficult to track and maintain proper bookkeeping.
    As a PTO we can also be viewed as a ‘special interest’ group and instead of a “loan”, we had to ‘gift’ the money directly to the district. I believe this is the process because there are many children who will use this area of the playground. Insurance and safety of all children using it next year and in the years to come (when our current PTO will be gone) has to be factored in by the district. Currently, we have a completed purchase order, a copy of our drafted check (with purpose in memo line) and hand-delivered directly to the district office.
    Part III:
    We could certainly discuss who is responsible for staying current on new products but I look at it as a community effort. To put myself in Doug Pearson’s shoes: It has to be hard to maintain 46 buildings, all of their needs and stay educated on new products. In this case, three things happened:
    1. I was in the right place at the right time. I got the information about DRS at a 40th birthday party for my neighbor.
    2. I called, educated myself by talking with the company owner and then called our school principal to entertain the idea of having them come to our school to provide a quote. I don’t think many parents would feel compelled to do the research themselves or have the nerve to present it as an option. My overt enthusiasm (spunk…thanks Mary Kay) can also be view by some as a bit overbearing! (yes…it’s true!)
    3. Doug Pearson, knew of the product and was quite excited that we had met.
    It didn’t stop there however; Doug knew we were serious and that we were able to fund the project; even if the maintenance referenda failed. In discussions with DRS, I made it perfectly clear that the money for doing this project was from our non-profit parent group. This was an opportunity for DRS to work with MMSD and basically, negotiated a good quotation. Doug toured Madison with DRS (instituted in 1973) to visit various sites and investigate the rubber asphalt. Doug actually helped our CAPT organization save an additional $900 by telling DRS the project would need to be bid out if it were more than $15K. They called to counter-offer their original bid ($15,877). Our check was for $14,952.
    Mr. Pearson also worked with the fire department to relocate our fire entrance from the schools rear parking lot, enabling a larger equipment area and I must say, better access to the building.
    Now I realize the saga continues, but our current status is to install the footings for the equipment area on June 12th and pour asphalt on June 15th.
    What would I like to see the board and administration discuss? I propose the following:
    1. Creative financing to allow PTO organizations to help the district with expenditures. It would seem many businesses understand the ‘non-profit’ status of a PTO and provide very competitive bids when working directly with parents rather than a public school district.
    2. Change in the status of considering a PTO a ‘special interest group’. I admit, we are…but for the betterment of our own schools! Of course, we have to understand the district has to do product research for insurance and safety reasons.
    3. Legalities to change the bidding process if no other comparable product is available to offer a competitive bid. I don’t know if there is another company with a similar product like DRS. The bidding process to wait for a total of 3 bids could turn into a lengthy process.
    4. Investigate the use of the DRS product into all pavement projects on the listed maintenance plan. The cost savings are absolutely incredible! I’ve done the cost comparison. (

  4. FYI…I just wanted to note, that these things I discussed were all transpiring this past week at school. So far we are lucky.
    Mary Kay was writing the facts as they happened at our last CAPT meeting. I DON’T want it to appear that I disagree with what Mary Kay had to say in the initial post. That was, as it was. I do hope our CAPT concerns are heard, shared and discussed by the board and administration.

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