High School Small Communities

I noticed the district is applying for a grant to the BOE in relation to the High School Small Communities. I have a couple of thoughts relating to this issue.
First of all, I applaud your effort in making our large high school more intimate. It seem in an emotional way logical that the high school would be divided into smaller communities to allow for connectiveness.
The funny thing is, as I celebrate my 25th year since I was in high school this year, I look back and see this same thing occurred back in my day. It was called clubs, athletics, and band.
High schools have been a breeding ground for fun, involvement, participation and community building. MMSD has been cutting this very foundation you are asking for a grant to “Create through artificial means” since I moved here in 2000. The non-academic athletics, the non-essential music, the unnecessary theater and arts have been cut, cut and cut some more. I understand the need for cutting and you can’t cut curriculum, but now we are going to create the “connectivity” artificially.
My son loves sports. He matriculates to others like him. He has met kids from Toki, Hamilton, Spring Harbor and even private school from sports. If you ask him where he wants to go to High School next year he will tell you Memorial to play BB or some other sport. He has a strong since of community based on his interest.
My daughter loves the arts. Drawing, acting, and especially singing. If you ask her where she wants to go to high school she will tell you Memorial because she has seen several plays there and want to participate in the drama club. She is also a pretty good swimmer and has senior role models on Memorial Swim Team.
Neither will say Memorial because the Math is great! They already have established a type of community through their interest, as we did as kids. It is so sad that NONE of the MMSD schools have a marching band, as that club can involve hundreds of students and attach them to a community of students of all ages and interest through music. Instead we are trying to create the communities randomly, via what a computer, that does not account for interest.
It is also sad we are cutting our athletics slowly but surely. This year it is the AD at the High School Level. I heard the BOE at MMSD was unwilling to raise the fees to allow these actives that provide a community for low, middle and high income students. Since many of you do not have children participating in sports let me clue you in on a few things.

Dane County Youth Football League: $160 per student, includes cost to cover scholarships. Run, coached and executed by parent volunteers.
West Madison Little League: $150 per player, includes cost to cover scholarship, parents provide transportation, pictures, snack for needy, and executed and run by parents.
Magic Soccer: $150 per player. Covers all fees and scholarships, coaching and organization provided by parents.
56er Soccer: $700 plus. Also parent run with paid coaches. No scholarships I know of because it is an Elite Club.
Tri County Basketball: $150, scholarships provided and coaches provide transportation for needy. Parents coach, volunteer, organize and run.
Summer swim leagues: I pay $600 plus $35 per 3 kids to have them swim in the summer. No scholarships provided. Parent run and organized.
Badger Aquatics: I pay an outrageous amount close to $500 for one session for one child. If there are scholarships available I would be amazed.
Swing Basketball: UAA basketball, $700, plus, travel competitive basketball for 4 – 12 grade. No scholarship provided as this is an Elite club.

I spend my summer/fall/winter/spring coaching, volunteering, driving and donating an enormous amount of time, money and energy to all of the above for not only my children but several that live in the Wexford and Allied Drive area. These kids LIVE for these activities and there are Black, Asian, and White children that participate on the non-elite clubs. These activities cost money to run but are run very effectively and efficiently by so many parents.
The district clearly wants the community to take over these activities and they are. You will see more 56’er teams for the elite, swim team for the elite, UAA teams for the elite, Private swim teams for the elite and WEALTHY.
As you are concerned for the poor and borderline families and you eliminate High School Sports, you are pushing parents that volunteer and families and students that are interested to private clubs and such. Those families you are concerned about will be excluded and the activities left at the high school level will be a joke. (At the Jr. High level it is already a huge joke and none of the students find it remotely interesting to participate when there is no coach, team, practice, etc for the so called basketball and volleyball teams) I already see this with swimming and UAA basketball.
Fee based, coaches paid, activities will take over this community. A few sports will survive but the others will become elite clubs and the HIGH SCHOOL COMMUNITY building will be lost to these private clubs.
I remember my high school years of pep club, tennis, basketball, going to watch my friends play sports and the half time band. I did One Act Plays, debate club and even took part in a community volunteer club. All supported by my high school. I learned a LOT through those activities and I built a since of community. Our town would participate and watch, and the whole community supported us. I have never been to a 56ers game but I have seen Memorial Football, Basketball, Soccer and Cross Country. I would never go see a UAA basketball game but I will go see the Spartans.
Too bad. We have an easy way to build a community through sports, bands, arts, but we just keep cutting and cutting. Instead we will build the community through an artificial raffle of names. The data is obviously out on the effectiveness of the small learning communities at Memorial because no data is available to clarify if it’s reached it’s established goals. I on the other hand have the e-mail address of all my basketball buddies from high school! That’s a community. I wonder if the Memorial small learning communities have each others email address’s after they graduate?

2 thoughts on “High School Small Communities”

  1. Mary,
    Your children are making their own choices on the groups they’ll join based on their passions and pleasures. With the SLC model, kids will be randomized to one of four subsets based on their last name.
    The guiding belief behind this movement is if kids are forced together, they’ll become friends and colleagues. It’s a myth. Just ask the kids.

  2. I am bringing this to the top of the comments section because of Maya’s recent blog and my current Freshman at Memorial experience. He enjoys eating donuts with his “backyard” group. However, he sits with two buddies from Jefferson, and while there are older students in the group he feels everyone just sits with who they know. Perhaps as the year continues it will improve and it is not a negative, I just continue to wonder if the effort and grant request could be directed into another direction. I received a response to my letter (post) from Pam Nash and she was not happy with my letter. She let me know research shows students that participate and feel connected do better in school. What a statement. She supported my point completely and she/they don’t realize unless you PROVE the SLC, where students are randomly placed together, is the same as students gathering based on interest, you can’t use it to support your grant! You have to have data to support your proposed goal.
    Maya’s post
    Mary’s recent comment:

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