That was ugly

Last night’s budget session can only be described as ugly.
Ugly on so many different levels:

– Art Rainwater bullying Lucy Mathiak for asking questions;
– Moss, Cole, and Winston voting contrary to what they stated on “consolidation” in the campaign;
– Nickle and diming programs while huge chunks of the budget never get even a casual review;
– Board members ignoring parents, staff, and taxpayers on issues like coaches in schools and damned near any other issue on the agenda.

Board members and administrators alike should feel nothing but shame.
Personally, I’m done. I’m going to do my best never to give the MMSD another serious thought.
I’m going to tackle easier issues — global warming, peace between Jews and Arabs, ending the war in Iraq, the end of cheap oil, and other issues where I might actually be able to make a difference.
As the MMSD heads to decay and dysfunction, I just don’t give a damn.

8 thoughts on “That was ugly”

  1. Two comments:
    First, Johnny voted against consolidation last night. Regardless of what he said or didn’t say during the campaign, people need to know that Johnny “just said no.”
    Second, I didn’t experience Art’s comments as bullying. I let my frustration and anger get in my way when I was questioning staff and responding to my colleagues on the board. Art’s comments were testy, but I went there first.
    It wasn’t my finest hour, and there are no excuses. I disagree with what the superintendent said, but I went unpleasant first and he reacted.

  2. Even maxima mea cuplas will save no one from the shame.
    The process was ugly.
    Everyone was ugly all around.
    It marked the ugliest public policy making I’ve ever seen in more than 40 years of watching and being a part of decision-making processes.
    I’m not letting you defend Johnny, Lucy. He clearly said that he’d vote FOR closing, and he voted AGAINST — a completely opportunistic and unprincipled pandering to public opinion.

  3. I think it’s interesting that you are critical of Johnny for changing his vote but not of Maya and Beth for doing the same thing. Too bad it was so ugly. The thing is, that’s politics. And the school board has become very political. Lucy, don’t feel bad for showing your frustration. Ed, don’t give up on our schools. Let’s just move on and do the best we can to change things.

  4. Momanonymous, I give up. I’m sad about it, but I’m done with the MMSD. The MTI-Carstensen-Rainwater faction are unstoppable in their rush to ruin. The public has no way to influence the board or the superintendent.
    I will discourage any and all from wasting time trying to improve the MMSD.
    I’ll discourage anyone from running for the board.
    I might post occassionally, but not regularly.

  5. Ed,
    I truly understand your frustrations and disgust with MMSD. Since, I’ve recently started reading this site, I don’t know if you have kids in school or not.(Or, at least, can’t remember what your postings have said.) You write with, such passion about our schools, it is obvious that you care deeply. I have kids in school, so I have to care. People in Madison that don’t have kids in our schools, should be concerned, as well. The quality of our schools is deteriorating. The education that my kids have had and are receiving is sometimes shameful. I wanted to have an anonymous name, so I could speak freely in my postings. I am very involved with the schools my kids attend and can’t risk offending the school staff. My kids are already suffering enough. Unfortunately there are too many parents that don’t seem to care or won’t find the time to get involved. As you said, the budget meeting was ugly! I didn’t get to see it myself, but heard from someone about how Johnny Winston changed his vote. Fifth Grade Strings was to be cut, but the spineless Board put that back in to! Politics is an ugly business. The sad part of all this is that the kids are the victims. Our community is, already suffering the consequences of gang activity and violence. Our kids need to feel that they have hope for a good future. This is being taken away in the classroom and outside of the classroom. It looks like athletics are going to be seriously harmed by combing school teams and cutting athletic directors. For many kids, playing sports is the only thing that keeps them out of trouble and in school. I know from people in surrounding communities and school districts that Madison, isn’t looked at too favorably. The loss of our sports teams will take away so much more. This is Art Rainwaters last year. With any luck, we will have better leadership with his replacement and in the meantime, we have to hope that the District doesn’t crumble!

  6. I hope you keep contributing Ed. You have a unique perspective and I love your raw jabs at the Administration. If you give up does Rainwater win one?

  7. I’m both unhappy and relieved I didn’t spend my nights at BoE meetings — too much to do at the home-front.
    I was hoping that the BoE meetings would be available from the MMSD website so I could vicariously “participate”. Alas, they don’t seem available.
    Do I think the BoE made all the right decisions, regardless of it’s beauty? I don’t know, but my gut says, that as usual, though with Lawrie pushing for a better understanding of the budget, the process and the ability to control the budget based on real educational priorities still was amiss.
    Both Beth Moss and Maya Cole said during their campaigns that closing schools (oops, wrong word — “consolidating” schools) was to be their last choice. Clearly, with their priorities the way they are, they believed the last resort was the best decision. Some strongly believe that was the wrong decision (it certainly was from the neighborhood’s view), but was it?
    Concerned Parent believes, perhaps, it would have been better to keep the schools separate and cut Strings, though the real effect on kids’ education would be substantially harmed by dropping of Strings over “consolidation”. That’s where his/her priorities lie — I differ.
    Let’s face the facts. Deficits of $7M-$10M per year will take its toll. The lack of transparency in the budget is taking its toll — even if everything in the budget is on the up-and-up.
    The lack of real data on what curricula is working and what is not for what set of kids is taking its toll. The lack of long-term budgeting is taking its toll. Next year’s budget will be the same — notice the talking points from this year’s budget process — half of them will be up for discussion next year, and there will be new items added.
    Is the BoE better constituted now to make better decisions? It really depends on whether the Board is able become independent of special interests (Administration, MTI, Republican, Democrats, Progessive Dane) and wants and is able to acquire the information it needs to make good decisions. Let’s be more personal. It’s not the Board; it depends on the character of the individual board members themselves on whether he/she can separate themselves from being driven by the politics; and it depends on whether those of us not on the Board have the character to separate ourselves from the politics (and extreme self-interest) to help the Board make the right decisions — point the way.
    What is lacking, it seems, is any coherent direction. There is an endless supply of opinions (mostly uninformed), data (mostly biased), reports (mostly bad), drawing conclusions (mostly non sequitors) from folks with agendas (follow the money) who want to win at all costs. And we have political leaders (mostly sycophants) whose knowledge is a mile-wide and inch deep, who seem to have an endless supply of ideas that curry favors from their powerful allies (follow the money).
    I’m not particularly discouraged; no more than before on MMSD and school issues. What I’m highly encouraged about — I need to highlight this — is that all persons on the Board, and who ran for the Board during this election, and I believe in the Administration are basically morally upstanding. Compare what we have with the Indiana school where a teacher was “fired” for allowing a student newspaper to argue gays should be treated with respect. I tell you, I’m forever grateful we don’t live in an area where psychopaths (oops, wrong word again “religious conversatives”) rule.
    Madison and the Schools need work, but it could be much worse.

  8. Larry,
    You are right when you say, ‘but it could be much worse.’ It could, also be much better and I’m fearful that the direction we are heading could be worse! Regarding your assumption about whether I thought Strings should be cut and the schools not consolidated, you are partially correct. I’m not sure if consolidation was the best decision. My indecision comes from reading this blog! It made me realize that there are many things that the public isn’t aware of and many areas of the budget that need to be scrutinized. I think it would be great if we could keep Strings, but when we are cutting maintenance, TAG, staff positions… I think Strings should be cut first. Playing an instrument is something that you can do on your own. I know the argument is that some families wouldn’t be able to afford to rent/buy the instrument or pay for the lessons. That’s too bad, but it’s reality. There are things that many of us would like to have, but can’t afford. Exposure to music, in any format, is great for kids. It just isn’t as important, as the 4’R’s. I don’t know what it would be, but I would think there is another way to provide an early exposure to these instruments. Possibly something in the regular music class, which could include other instruments, as well. My post wasn’t directed at Strings, itself, but that some on the Board are basically talking out of both sides of their mouths. I’ve met some of the people on the Board and as you say, “are morally upstanding people.” As I said before, “Politics is an ugly business.” It can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Your paragraph, “What is lacking…” is dead-on. One can only hope that the problems we are facing can get solved. Our children and our future are at stake!

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