The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

IV. The Rollout of the Plan: The Plotlines Converge
I first heard indirectly about this new high school plan in the works sometime around the start of the school year in September. While the work on the development of the plan continued, the District’s responses to the various sides interested in the issue of accelerated classes for 9th and 10th grade students at West was pretty much put on hold.
This was frustrating for everyone. The West parents decided they had waited long enough for a definitive response from the District and filed a complaint with DPI, charging that the lack of 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes at West violated state educational standards. I imagine the teachers at West most interested in this issue were frustrated as well. An additional complication was that West’s Small Learning Communities grant coordinator, Heather Lott, moved from West to an administrative position in the Doyle building, which couldn’t have helped communication with the West teachers.
The administration finally decided they had developed the Dual Pathways plan sufficiently that they could share it publicly. (Individual School Board members were provided an opportunity to meet individually with Dan Nerad and Pam Nash for a preview of the plan before it was publicly announced, and most of us took advantage of the opportunity.) Last Wednesday, October 13, the administration presented the plan at a meeting of high school department chairs, and described it later in the day at a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee. On the administration side, the sense was that those meetings went pretty well.
Then came Thursday, and the issue blew up at West. I don’t know how it happened, but some number of teachers were very upset about what they heard about the plan, and somehow or another they started telling students about how awful it was. I would like to learn of a reason why I shouldn’t think that this was appallingly unprofessional behavior on the part of whatever West teachers took it upon themselves to stir up their students on the basis of erroneous and inflammatory information, but I haven’t found such a reason yet.

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One thought on “The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest”

  1. This post and others make me wonder if real problem isn’t between the teachers and the principal. I have never set foot in West but everyone is always rilled up about something there. It seems like the teachers pit the students and their parents against “the administration.” I think that in this case “the administration” they are talking about is the school administrator, Mr Holmes. I don’t know anything about West or Mr Holmes but I wonder if these unhappy teachers (and therefore unhappy parents and students) feel like he is not standing up for them by preserving the things that make West unique. I know that at other schools, when the teachers have been unhappy, they have manipulated the parents to pressure the Superintendent and his staff to “fix” things – sometimes nonspecific things. Mr. Holmes may be doing exactly what the administration has asked him to do and doing it well. It’s just that the teachers don’t like the changes. And their reasons might be valid.
    Prehaps an objective internal survey of the school is needed. This may be a personnel issue rather than a curriculum issue – or maybe it is both.

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