Board members tussled over dozens of suggestions to try to find money to return various programs and services to the district that had been cut by the administration in an effort to balance the $339.6 million budget.
The administration had originally proposed about $8 million in cuts, including $2 million from special education aimed at helping students with speech or language problems, increased class size at the elementary level and closing Lindbergh Elementary and Black Hawk Middle School, and consolidating Marquette and Lapham.
The board also approved a district proposal to eliminate busing for five Catholic schools in the district, and offer parents a $450 subsidy to transport their children themselves, to save about $230,000. State statutes require that public schools provide transportation for all students in their district. Parents of students at other area private schools take the subsidy in lieu of busing.
Board member Lucy Mathiak and Superintendent Art Rainwater had several testy exchanges as Mathiak grilled administrators on their programs and expenses.
“I’m trying to understand why our district requires so many more people in teaching and learning than other districts,” Mathiak said.
“Our priorities since I’ve been superintendent are highly trained, highly skilled teachers in a small class. After that, we believe in highly trained, highly skilled teachers in front of a large class. We don’t believe in poorly trained teachers in small classes,” Rainwater said sharply as he defended the Madison district’s focus on professional development.
Board members also disagreed on how aggressively to use projected salary savings, an accounting method that predicts how many teachers will leave the district. Any shortfall would have to come out of the district’s equity fund, which some board members feel is dangerously low.
In a six-plus-hour meeting punctuated by flaring tempers, the board also found ways to stave off most proposed increases in elementary class sizes by raising fees and increasing projected savings in salaries for the 2007-08 school year.
The board also spared the district’s fifth-grade strings program from elimination.
The moves came as the board balanced the district’s $339.6 million budget by cutting $7.9 million from existing services and programs.
The budget finally was approved just after midnight on a 6-1 vote. Lucy Mathiak was the lone dissenter.
Board members voted 4-3 to consolidate Marquette and Lapham at Lapham, 1045 E. Dayton St., into a kindergarten through fifth-grade school, while rejecting a proposal from Superintendent Art Rainwater to close Lindbergh, 4500 Kennedy Road. Currently, Lapham hosts K-2 students while Marquette hosts grades three through five.
Rainwater also had proposed consolidating Black Hawk Middle School into Sherman and O’Keeffe middle schools, but that proposal wasn’t adopted.
Voting for the consolidation of Marquette and Lapham, to save $522,000, were Lawrie Kobza, Arlene Silveira, Beth Moss and Maya Cole. Opposing the measure were Johnny Winston Jr., Carol Carstensen and Mathiak.
The Madison school board approved the consolidation of Marquette and Lapham elementary schools under next year’s budget. The two schools will combine under Lapham’s roof, reported WISC-TV.
Under the budget, Marquette will be used for alternative education programs.
The school board also approved combining all high school boys golf teams into two and elminated bussing to Wright and Spring Harbor charter schools.
The moves are all a part of cutting the budget by more than $7 million.
Many of those linked to affected schools have loudly spoken out in opposition to the closings, and Monday was no exception. Parents and students put their concerns in writing outside the Doyle Administration Building — children writing in chalk on the ground — hoping to catch the eye of board members before the meeting inside.
“From the debate, the motions and the votes, it seems that all of the rancor over ideological splits in the Madison Metropolitan School Board is irrelevant” given the vote to consolidate Marquette and Lapham schools
I think the current diversity of viewpoints on the Madison School Board is healthy. Rewind the clock three years and imagine how some of these issues might have played out. Would there have been a public discussion? Would the vote have been 6 – 1, or ? One of the reasons the “spending gap” in the MMSD’s $339.6M+ budget was larger this year is due to the Board and Administration’s public recognition of the structural deficit. The MMSD’s “equity” has declined by half over the past 7 years. More from Channel3000.com.