Madison School Board Leopold Expansion and New West Side School Discussion

Watch or listen to the Madison School Board’s discussion and approval of expanding Leopold Elementary School and a new west side school. Though the Board did not vote on how to fund these schools. That decision will be taken at their April 10, 2006 meeting, according to Susan Troller. Video | MP3 Audio

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Many links, articles and videos regarding the Leopold discussion can be found here.

6 thoughts on “Madison School Board Leopold Expansion and New West Side School Discussion”

  1. Once again the needs of Leopold are put into the context that it will cost the district seven teachers to build the possible construction on the Leopold campus. This did not happen during the discussion about not closing an East-side school. Let me start by saying that I do not think that closing an east-side school will solve the budget problems in the district; I have two god-daughters who go to Emerson. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not recall the discussion that keeping the east-side school open would mean that we would have to cut strings, TAG, Special Education, etc. But, the minute that Leopold may actually get some relief to its over-crowding by building; it is at the expense of the other schools in the district. I am hoping that the people who read this blog can start to see what we have gone through for years. Cutting TAG, Strings (our strings teacher actually teaches in the foyer of the school), ESL education, etc, affects all of us. We also have the added burden of overcrowding. So, when I hear Maya Cole stating that we do not want to happen to the other schools in the district what has happened to Leopold, I get a little upset. We don’t want it to happen to any other school either, and we are not too happy that it has happen to our school. The article in the Isthmus last week demonstrated how fed-up we are. I can see no stronger endorsement for Arlene Silviera than her opponent’s own words.

  2. Troy – I don’t want what’s happened at Leopold to happen elsewhere either. I’m not intimately familiar with the details of Leopold’s overcrowding situation, but I heard enough as part of the Long Range Planning committee last year to believe that something needed to be done to alleviate the problem, so I voted for the referendum. Unfortunately, the referendum didn’t pass.
    From my observation, I think the Board (at that time all the current members except Lawrie Kobza) did a disservice to Leopold by promising something that they couldn’t necessarily deliver and then waiting too long to seriously address the issue. I’m glad the Board has come up with a new approach for Leopold. And I’d support just borrowing the money because I’m afraid a referendum won’t pass….especially if the pro-referendum folks use the same tactics and public relations approach as last time around.

  3. I personally feel that all discussions on most any topic that comes before the school board that has financial/resource allocation implications need to be discussed in the context of the budget. Far too often, I feel our school board makes decisions that have major financial implications outside of the context of the entire budget. Seven teachers are important. It’s the 700+ students who are learning under those teachers who we need to remember when making various decisions. What happens to their learning environment, which in turn affects the learning environment of many more children.
    I do not agree with the comment that doing this or that won’t solve our budget problems. There is no silver bullet that will address an $8 million annual budget cut. I don’t believe that’s the point, and I don’t believe that’s Maya’s point, which she discusses on her website. Further, I also don’t believe the state will be getting its act together too soon or that referendums will be all we need to “solve the problem” if we can even get them passed (and I support referendums), so every bit of money we save does help as does every idea that helps us do that. We need those ideas, and we need to work together on those ideas.
    Regarding the building / boundary task forces, I had wanted to see two task forces and one joint task force during last fall’s east/west boundary task forces. I was concerned about the possibility of an eastside vs. westside decisionmaking process. I also heard from task force members that members were working on boundary/building issues out of context of the entire budget, basically working on specific tasks regarding different areas of the city – not knowing what the tradeoffs of different options might be across the district nor having that information to present with your reports to the school board. If I’m understanding the process that took place, different options were looked at with costs, among other non-financial variables, associated with each option.
    What you may have missed in some of Maya Cole’s and Lucy Mathiak’s independent comments re space in regards to the east side is that they support neighborhood schools and that they feel those spaces need to more fully utilized and want to work on ways to do that – working with the community. I feel we must do this to save whatever money we can to protect instruction. This makes sense to me,and seems practical and responsible to me.
    I know as Lucy’s campaign treasurer she is looking at options to increase space utilization and would continue to do this as a school board member. I also know from conversations with Maya Cole that to preserve our neighborhood schools we have to consider their utilization in the context of the entire budget. If we don’t do this, I feel we risk not putting all children first.
    I believe Lucy’s and Maya’s ideas and approaches are those that are needed in the current financial times, and I believe as school board members they will engage the community in these discussions and help us to understand / to know what tradeoffs are being made.
    If I’m not mistaken, the previous addition to Leopold was done with a loan from the state with debt service taken from the operating budget. That was several years ago. We are in an even tighter financial situation now than we were then.
    Financing the Leopold addition with the debt service of approximately $350,000 added to the operating budget will be on top of $8 million in cuts and a reduced budget that the school board will not discuss until late April/early May. As part of those discussions, decisions may very well have to be made that increase the utilization of east side schools to help with the budget crunch. We don’t know, because the budget discussions won’t take place until late April/May, allowing for little time to have public discussions, understand tradeoffs before an operating budget is approved in June. I feel these discussions need to be done year round. Considering where we are now, I think any decision that would make a $350,000 additional cut in the budget cannot be made in isolation of the entire budget. I simply feel it would be irresponsible to all children, including Leopold children.
    I have written elsewhere about my concern with not having budget discussions earlier or considering the entire budget when major decisions affecting the operating budget are decided. I am especially concerned that allocations (with reductions) will go out April 3rd and these allocations will include reductions in staffing, because they have to be made to meet a balanced budget (layoff and surplus notices go out in May and the administration needs this time to work that process and meet the deadlines.
    I sincerely empathize with your frustrations about years of working on this project. Arlene has walked shoulder to shoulder with Leopold parents as a former Leopold parent herself. I respect that as someone who has worked passionately on a number of school issues with elementary strings being the most noticable over the years.
    However, I believe our school board must look at any/all issues in the context of the entire budget; and if additional cuts will need to be made because of these decisions, then the school board needs to have the big financial picture before them.
    For example, on Monday, the Performance and Achievement Committee received a status report on the elementary strings program – simply a status report on the course as currently structured. After five years of advocating for this course, I would like to see the school board looking at the bigger picture – assessment of music education, standards and different options in the context of finances. What can we make work to give our children a strong music education. I suggested an ongoing working community committee composed of professionals and advocates to work on K-5 music education and to develop a multi-year fine arts education strategic plan in the context of the district’s strategic plan. Shwaw Vang and other committee members want to work with him on moving this forward. I think this is a necessary next step. Although it may have appeared over the years that I was advocating for elementary strings at the expense of other courses, that is not correct. It’s understandable that might be the impression, because issues at the school board level are not taken in context of the entire budget. I did want the school board to look at issues differently and develop different approaches – I think we can move in that direction for this issue and do so positively, yet knowing there are financial considerations that are districtwide.
    That’s what I feel Lucy and May will bring to the table as board members. They won’t lose sight of the bigger picture and financial constraints when making decisions, setting up task forces, exploring options.
    These are indeed complicated issues in complicated times. If we continue to “isolate” issues, I think we will continue to be frustrated, angry and not working together on what we need to be working toward – excellent education and achievement for all children who attend Madison’s wonderful public schools.
    Lastly, for your information, my husband taught elementary strings in Leopold’s cafeteria when he was there. At Lincoln Elementary he taught on the stage behind a drawn curtain, because gym classes were often taking place at the same time. And, at Thoreau he teaches in an open activity area.

  4. One more thing. I feel that not assessing and redesigning our K-5 music educaiton curriculum cost MMSD incredibly talented teachers – Pat Kukes taught elementary strings at Leopold and turned that course around in that school and Jack Young, who taught elementary strings at Randall Elementary School. Both were laid off.
    I believe multi-year planning, begun 6 years ago would resulted in these two teachers still teaching in MMSD.

  5. Actually Barb, I feel that Leopold has struggled for years with their strings program (before Kukes) is because their principal doesn’t support fine arts. The school has lost a number of fine music teachers over the years due to,in my opinion, the lack of respect for anyone not teaching reading. (Which happens to be the principal’s background).

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