Swan Creek Petitions to Leave the MMSD

Fitchburg’s Swan Creek subdivision petitioned recently to leave the Madison School District. [Map] A reader emails that Swan Creek currently has 21 students in the MMSD. Links:

5 pages from the petition [1.1mb pdf] Wisconsin Statutes: [106K PDF]
UPDATE: A reader wondered recently what the mileage differences might be between Swan Creek and schools in the MMSD or Oregon*.

  • High Schools: Madison West 7 miles [map] or Oregon High School 7 miles [map]
  • Middle Schools: Cherokee 7.2 miles [map], Oregon’s Rome Corner’s Intermediate 7.7 miles [map] or Oregon Middle School 8.3 miles [map]
  • Elementary Schools: Leopold 3.5 miles [map], Lincoln 4 miles [map], Midvale 8.2 miles [map]. Oregon: Prairie View Elementary 6.7 miles [map] Netherwood Elementary 6.7 miles [map] Brooklyn Elementary School 13 miles [map]

* Obviously, the pickup route and traffic conditions determine the actual travel time, given similar distances.

10 thoughts on “Swan Creek Petitions to Leave the MMSD”

  1. Can someone post the process for responding to the petition? Who even responds? The MMSD? How?

  2. What district does the Swan Creek neighborhood seek to join? Has there ever been a secession from a school district in Wisconsin? And, most importantly, if they are successful, will that reduce overcrowding at Leopold?

  3. See Wisc. Statutes 117.11, 117.12, and 117.13 for information on “detachment and attachment” of territory from one district to another. There are various scenarios for how this is done; suffice to say it’s not an easy process, particularly if a neighborhood initiates the proceeding.
    It’s not unprecedented — the small Stockbridge district went through this in the mid-1990s, and Waukesha and Elmbrook had a case in the recent past involving a similar situation (subdivision wanting out of one district and into another) — but it’s too common, either.
    On the other hand, board-approved realignment of school boundaries — while not easy either — happens a bit more often, which is what I believe happened in the Blackhawk subdivision discussions between MMSD and Middleton-Cross Plains. DeForest and Sun Prairie school districts have also had discussions re. new subdivisions in the city of Sun Prairie but in the DeForest district.
    The key consideration it seems is who initiates the effort. If two school boards get together and agree on new boundaries, the process seems pretty straightforward. If it’s a neighborhood wanting out, the school board can make it pretty hard for that to happen, if it so chooses.

  4. I can answer one question. Swan Creek has currently 20 -25 students, however it is projected to be about 70 students. It does help as the total number at Leopold currently over enrollment is about 60 students, but the 5 year projection is over by 90-100. It would help solve Leopold problems if we shifted the two apartment buildings east of Leopold to M/L or Thoreau, that would be about 30 more students. So I say if they want to go by all mean let’s let them go. This neighborhood will send their students to private school before they would expose their children to racial and economic diverse surroundings..and after reading their note to the task force/school board (their first two complaints were racial and economic status of other students) I say let them go, because we will lose them anyway and they clearly do not want to attend school with MMSD. I guess through this whole process I still can’t figure out why an intelligent parent with means would buy a house in an area with a projected school capacity over 100%, with great growth issues. It seems as if they purchased a house, and where their children will attend school is an after thought. Then they complain that the school they thought their children would attend is no longer true. Is Leopold all that different than Midvale/Lincoln? If you look at the data, student to student (white upper income child vs white upper income child) the testing is actually better at M/L than Leopold.

  5. Some background – Swan Creek area became part of MMSD in 2002 as a result of an agreement between MMSD and the Oregon School District; Oregon got other land (non-residential) from MMSD. Oregon approached Madison about making the trade. The agreement includes a provision that neither district will support a petition to change this.
    At the time that Swan Creek became part of MMSD we had in place a unanimously adopted long range plan which included first an addition and then a second school at Leopold. (As an aside, the problem with a long range plan is sometimes maintaining the political support for it.) Even without the children from Swan Creek, Leopold is overcrowded.
    I agree with Mary Kay – Midvale/Lincoln has come in for unfortunate, and inaccurate, attacks. As Jerry Eykholt has said in various posts – the pair provide great education.
    However, to be a bit more charitable, the Swan Creek residents want to keep their children at Leopold (which has a poverty level of about 53%). They are no different than the Maple Bluff parents I am hearing from who want their children to stay at Lakeview rather than be moved to Mendota.

  6. I don’t know if this is the exchange Ms. Carstensen is writing about, but there was an exchange of land approved by the MMSD School Board on October 7, 2005 – http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/boe/minutes/regular/2002-10-07.htm.
    There was one public appearance that evening speaking against the transfer of property, and was written in the minutes,
    “Jay Allen, Council President for the City of Fitchburg and member of the Lacy Road Neighborhood Association, objected to the transfer of property between Madison and Oregon as recommended in the resolution under Item X-A of this agenda. Their concern was that the Oregon School District surrounds their neighborhood on all four sides and how allowing the Madison School District to control a small portion of the land would result in a lack of continuity and loss of neighborhood identity. Stated that the Fitchburg City Council passed a resolution back in May unanimously asking that the property stay in the Oregon School District (a copy was distributed and is attached to the original of these minutes). The Board was asked to vote down the proposal.”
    I did not see any reference in the minutes of attaching a long-range plan for Leopold to this transfer as a binding legal commitment on the part of the School Board as a condition of the property transfer. Perhaps a decision may have taken place elsewhere by the full board, or be in other board approved documents regarding this transfer, but I do not know where.
    Based upon the unanimous School Board vote, no board member supported Fitchburg’s request. I have no other knowledge of this transfer than what’s in the minutes. For example, I don’t know any of the financial and educational issues that precipitated this. Perhaps Ms. Carstensen does.
    The next time Leopold comes up in a Long-Range Planning Meeting on April 26, 2004 – http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/boe/minutes/longrange/2004-04-26.htm
    Leopold was part of a general discussion on space, but no mention/presentation of Leopold’s long-term plan, or I guess that would be a westside long-term plan(?) was made by the Superintendent. From the minutes of that meeting.
    “4. School Building Capacities for Students
    (Packets included policies and procedures; physical plant capacity methodology and current analysis; enrollment projections; and a list of current issues. Copies are attached to the original of these minutes).
    The Superintendent reported that within the next five years the district will have to build three new elementary schools. The first would probably be at the Leopold site, and within that same time frame, one on the southwest side, then the east side. The district has land for two. Long-term planning issues will include the issue of the last year of the maintenance referendum next year and possibly renewing that next spring. This meeting was informational to review Board policies and processes used in the past. Mary Gulbrandsen reviewed the contents of the packet. Roger Price explained the district’s performance on the enrollment report as very good districtwide, pretty good by grade, but more difficult at the school and grade level because of movement, etc. Enrollment numbers are certified in December. Numbers of Latino population have been adjusted based on trends and community changes; no longer doing a five year rolling average. The committee will be revisiting the policies both statutory and those at the discretion of the Board. It was confirmed that open enrollment capacity is allocation and not the building. Mr. Price briefly reviewed the current status of subdivisions in the city.
    Discussion: General theme is growth on the perimeter and a decline in the interior; Kennedy and Elvehjem are seeing a decline. Monitoring is very difficult but the district tries to pick up on a trend. Current calculations for a single family home use .4 children; .2 elementary, .1 middle school, and .1 high school. Work will take place over the summer with decisions in the fall. There was some discussion about having to deal with declining enrollment vs. overcrowding, building additions vs. new schools, going to referendum or getting loans, east side site and Leopold site, ongoing negotiations for a west side location, time on a bus, diversity, and inclusionary zoning, etc.”

  7. Two readers emailed some additional information on this matter: several pages from the petition, the relevant Wisconsin Statutes and a look at the distance between Swan Creek and individual Madison and Oregon schools.

  8. As a parent who had children in Leopold back in 2002, there was discussions back 5 years ago (2000) about Leopold’s population. The parents and staff shook their heads when the district approved Swan Creek addition to MMSD. We all new that they would end up at Leopold due to location. Now, Swan Creek is mixed housing, both homes and apartments so don’t assume it is Maple Bluff.
    People get attached to where there children are. I feel that it is less which school was chosen but the change. Families have become familiar staff and the way Leopold does things. I know of families who live in Leopold neighborhood who have moved to Swan Creek because the children are still in the same schools.
    It isn’t the schools that people are afraid of but the history of the area Lincoln is in. It is just off Park Street, and years ago, the neighborhood had shootings, robberies, drug problems, etc. I even remember a child who was kidnapped and murdered 20+ years ago in that neighborhood. It had a bad stigma for people who have been in the Madison area for any period of time. Families who have lived in the Madison area, remember these things and this is what I feel the families of Swan Creek are afraid of with having there children at Midvale/Lincoln. I know that Sommerset and other areas have changed for the better, but with the stigma from the past, people are scared. This is also the reason alot of older families who live in the Midvale area don’t have their children to the public schools for K-5. People who don’t have the historical memories are the people who will change the stigma certain neighborhoods around the city have. The old families (which I am one) who has lived in the city forever, know the history of a lot of areas. There are certain ones I will stay out of even if they are cleaned up, due to my experiences and memories of things that have happened in those areas.
    Just some food for thought.

  9. Greetings, Midvale, Lincoln, and Leopold are great schools! They have wonderful teaming concepts, collaborative resources, and a dedicated staff and parent community. The learning environments and climates of these schools are top notch compared to others within the district.
    Regarding the comment a writer made about Kennedy and Elvehjem–Kennedy is growing and will continue to do so. Elvehjem has declined and will continue to do so until Grandview Commons grows (this is a huge development). We live across from the land the district owns in the Door Creek/Sprecher neighborhood. Our children attend Kennedy. I do not believe that we will see a school built for a long time due to the budget issues and difficulty with projections/changes. The issues facing the West/Memorial side are far more taxing as far as space goes than the LaF area.
    There continue to be developments popping up on the LaF perimeter and they are large thus prompting the East area task force to look at the possibility of moving some of these areas to the East area. It does take a few years to get kids and families settled within subdivisions according to the build out dates. What is most frustrating is seeing yards filled with kids and not having that recognized as part of the scientific projections. My recommendation is to keep the board posted on the “real kids” within a development/area instead of the projections you mentioned. Kennedy is way over what was projected 4 years ago and Elvehjem is down. Neighborhoods need to get involved and work through parent groups. Projections are best guesses at what may be out there.
    Take care, Karen M.

  10. I was the President of the East Fitchburg Neighborhood Association when the Swan Creek property (and some nearby property) was traded to The MMSD and representing the Association I spoke out against the trade.
    This was opposed by the area residents at the time and was also opposed by the developers of Swan Creek (though not too vocally as Phil Sveum didn’t seem to want to rock the boat).
    However, Oregon desperately wanted to get rid of the area because they were concerned that with the development planned for Oregon they would get such an influx of students that they would have to build another school.
    Unless things have changed markedly in Oregon it seems very unlikely that the change will go through.

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