A look at the taxpayer referendum at Madison West High School

Scott Girard: The one that stands out to Findorff Senior Project Manager Peter Saindon, who is overseeing the project, was a pack of cigarettes stuck in concrete from the original construction. “I don’t know if the cigarettes (are) in it or not but just we’re looking at it like, ‘That had to have been 100 … Continue reading A look at the taxpayer referendum at Madison West High School

Madison West high school fight: 25 students and a strong-arm robbery in which police recovered marijuana, fake IDs, fake currency and a spent shell casing.

Chris Rickert: Officers searching the vehicle the suspects arrived in found the marijuana and other items, the blog said. Lisko said that while no charges have been filed, a detective has been assigned to the matter. Principal Dan Kigeya said in an email home to parents Thursday afternoon that “staff responded to the incident quickly, … Continue reading Madison West high school fight: 25 students and a strong-arm robbery in which police recovered marijuana, fake IDs, fake currency and a spent shell casing.

Madison West high School Curriculum Practice Notes

“CRT is not taught in schools.” West High School in Madison is teaching the basics of CRT once a month to their entire student body. Called “Regent Pride,” the slides explore the basic tenets of CRT. Multiple concerned parents have contacted me. Thread below: pic.twitter.com/qrsRTe65oU — Dan Lennington (@DanLennington) April 8, 2022 Mandates, closed schools and … Continue reading Madison West high School Curriculum Practice Notes

Eliminating Latin at Madison West high school amidst enrollment declines and taxpayer supported district budget growth

Scott Girard: MMSD spokesman Tim LeMonds wrote in an email that the 6.1 FTE cut is a combination of two years of enrollment losses. Last year, enrollment decreased such that West lost three positions, LeMonds wrote, but the school was “allowed to retain those positions due to COVID.” Based on projections for next year, enrollment … Continue reading Eliminating Latin at Madison West high school amidst enrollment declines and taxpayer supported district budget growth

Potential lawsuit over Madison West High Racial Segregation Policies

WILL: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter, Monday, to Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent, Dr. Carlton Jenkins, urging the school district to address the racial segregation employed at Madison West High School for Zoom conversations on current events. This is the second occasion in the last year where WILL has warned … Continue reading Potential lawsuit over Madison West High Racial Segregation Policies

WILL questions racially separated Madison west high school meetings on race

Benjamin Yount: “It is head-spinning that a public school in Wisconsin would adopt racial segregation as a tool to confront racism in the twenty-first century. It is an affront to the hard-fought progress our country has made,” Esenberg said.  The letter explained further: “By associating racial segregation with ’emotional safety and security,’ the school communicated … Continue reading WILL questions racially separated Madison west high school meetings on race

WILL Urges Madison West High School to Reconsider Racially Segregated Group Discussions

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, via a kind email: Madison West High School students were separated by race for group discussions The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter to administrators at Madison West High School urging the school to reconsider a series of school-sponsored racially segregated Zoom discussions. … Continue reading WILL Urges Madison West High School to Reconsider Racially Segregated Group Discussions

Civics & Bureaucracy: Parent handcuffed while playing catch with daughter; Madison West Football Coach

Rob Low: In an interview with the Problem Solvers, Wallin said, “I find it hard to believe with all the things going on in our communities, the only way to resolve a situation like this was to handcuff a father in front of his daughter.” The sign at Donelson Park said “Closed” but in smaller … Continue reading Civics & Bureaucracy: Parent handcuffed while playing catch with daughter; Madison West Football Coach

Madison West High’s microschool shows attendance, credit improvements for students

Scott Girard: A Madison Metropolitan School District microschool for West High School students at risk of not graduating has shown improved attendance and credit achievement for its participants, according to a presentation to the School Board Monday. The microschool opened in November at the Taft Street Boys and Girls Club of Dane County location with 22 girls … Continue reading Madison West High’s microschool shows attendance, credit improvements for students

Complaint: Gun found at Madison West High School last week followed armed robbery on Saturday

Scott Girard: Williams then provided the backpack to Creech, and told one of the other officers there was a gun inside. The complaint states Creech found a semi-automatic firearm in the laptop compartment of the backpack. The magazine was loaded but no rounds were housed within the chamber when the gun was found. Williams faces … Continue reading Complaint: Gun found at Madison West High School last week followed armed robbery on Saturday

Madison West High School student found with loaded handgun in school, police say

Logan Wroge: West High School student was arrested Tuesday after he brought a loaded handgun to the Near West Side school, Madison police said. Tyrese T. Williams, 18, was arrested on a tentative felony charge of possession of a firearm in a school zone, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said. West High’s school resource officer … Continue reading Madison West High School student found with loaded handgun in school, police say

Madison West High School to test ‘grading floor’ as part of district examination of freshman grading

Logan Wroge: In an effort to keep students who fail early in their high school careers from falling completely out of school, ninth grade teachers at Madison’s West High School are planning to assign classroom grades of no less than 40%, eliminate extra credit and allow up to 90% credit for late work in required … Continue reading Madison West High School to test ‘grading floor’ as part of district examination of freshman grading

Madison West High School pauses Personalized Pathways as model expands at 3 Madison high schools

Logan Wroge: The school is hitting the pause button as it looks to address concerns that the program has not shown an improvement in student outcomes. Pathways is billed as an interconnected, experiential approach where learning is centered around a career field; students form tight-knit communities with classmates and teachers within the pathway; and material … Continue reading Madison West High School pauses Personalized Pathways as model expands at 3 Madison high schools

Madison West High School students to compete in international rocketry competition

Logan Wroge: A month before Americans celebrate the 50th anniversary of landing a man on the moon, a group of West High School students will demonstrate their own rocketry skill on an international level — ideally by sending three eggs 856 feet in the air to safely land uncracked on French soil. The nearly all-freshmen … Continue reading Madison West High School students to compete in international rocketry competition

Madison West High School student found with BB gun, principal says

Logan Wroge: A Madison West High School student was found with a BB gun Thursday, principal Karen Boran said in an email to parents. Police received information in the morning that a student might be in possession of a BB gun, Boran said. The student was found by police off school property, and a search … Continue reading Madison West High School student found with BB gun, principal says

Two Madison West High students arrested, one with BB gun outside school, police say

Brianna Reilly: Two West High School students were arrested Thursday afternoon after an officer stationed at the school took a BB gun from one of them, Madison police said. The students, both 14-year-old boys, were outside the school on Regent Street at 1:25 p.m. when the officer took the gun away from them, Madison police … Continue reading Two Madison West High students arrested, one with BB gun outside school, police say

Deja vu: Madison West High electives vs one size fits all?

Pat Schnieder:

The rumor that a national school reform effort moving through Madison would wipe out treasured class electives at West High School has been buzzing in that community for years.
Parents and students got a chance to bring their concerns about the implementation of Common Core standards to the top Thursday evening, during a conversation with new Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, held in the school library after her day-long visit to West High.
It was the second in a series of four public meetings being held at the city’s public high schools this spring to allow Cheatham, who started work in the district on April 1, to hear community concerns.
Cheatham told the crowd of 150 or more that she had heard a lot that day from students and staff about the “amazing potpourri” of elective courses at West.
“They think they are a major asset of the school. I think so too,” she said.
West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students that speculation the Common Core standards would be their death knell fueled a sit-in of some 500 students in fall 2010, the year the state adopted the standards. Today, many of Madison’s public schools are still figuring out a way to incorporate the standards, about which confusion reigns among students, parents and teachers.
Lynn Glueck, a school improvement coordinator at Memorial High School, said this week that Common Core focuses on developing key skills needed for college and career readiness. The standards related to English language arts, for example, are about “close reading, critical thinking and argumentative writing where students pull evidence out of the text,” Glueck said.
In the instances where Common Core has been used at Memorial, which some say is leading the district in implementing the standards, “students are really engaging in it,” she said.

Fascinating. 2006: The movement toward one size fits all via English 10. 2013: “West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students”.
Additional and informative background here.

Madison West High School Named State Science Olympiad Champions

The Madison School District:

The team from West High School won at the Wisconsin Science Olympiad State Tournament on Saturday April 13th at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The team competed against high school teams from across the state. West High performed at a high level, winning many individual medals (8 first place medals) and the overall team championship. West followed up last year’s win with back to back titles. They also won the honor to represent the state of Wisconsin at the national tournament where the top Math and Science high schools will compete for national honors. Hamilton Middle School will also attend the national tournament.


Madison West Student Wins Siemens Award

Madison School District:

Amy Hua (left) from West High School is the 2012 Wisconsin Winner of the prestigious Siemens Award for Advanced Placement, making her one of the nation’s top achievers in AP science and mathematics courses and a future leader in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Amy is the first student at West High to receive this honor. The annual award honors up to 100 of the nation’s top performers in AP science and math courses (Biology, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Computer Science A, Environmental Science, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, and Statistics) with a $2,000 scholarship from the Siemens Foundation to one male and one female student in each state.
Amy has taken 11 AP courses during her high school years and lists calculus among her favorite such classes. Her initiative to enroll and excel in AP courses reflects potential to be a future leader in math and science and a role model for others. She advises to other students, “Collaborating with peers is a great way to learn new material since you can share ideas and synergistically approach complex problems.”

Madison West High Student’s Logo Chosen by Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers


The Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association (WCTPA) announces the winner of its Logo Design Contest as Lisa Feigl, a junior from Madison West High School in Madison. Her entry received the highest number of votes by Christmas tree growers at the WCTPA summer convention. The contest was open to Wisconsin high school students, giving them an opportunity to use their skills in a real life situation.

Madison West High team soars to 2nd in International Rocketry Challenge

Matthew DeFour:

Madison West High School’s rocketry team finished second behind the French team in the International Rocketry Challenge in London on Friday.
The four-student team won the national Team America Rocketry Challenge competition in May to qualify for the international competition. It’s the second time a West team has represented the United States in the five-year history of the event, which took place this year at the Farnborough International Air Show.


Madison West High activists form Students for Wisconsin political action committee to take on Walker; Paul Vallas Visit

Dean Robbins

We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).

Matthew DeFour:

United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.

Madison West team wins championship at Team America Rocketry Challenge

Dee Hall:

A team from Madison West High School blew away its rivals Saturday, winning first place — and a free trip to London — in the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
The four-member team beat 99 others in the finals at the national competition held in The Plains, Va. The winning team gets an expenses-paid trip to London courtesy of Raytheon Company to compete in the July 15 Farnborough International Air Show.
Contestants must design, build and launch a rocket that reaches exactly 800 feet during a 43- to 47-second flight. The payload, two raw eggs, must parachute to the ground undamaged.
The West team earned a score of 12; a perfect score is zero. The next lowest score was 22. Two other West teams competed Saturday, with one placing 16th and the other 75th.

Madison West High School UW System Freshman Enrollment 1983-2011

From time to time, friends have pondered the path of Madison area students after graduation. I’ve begun to compile Freshman enrollment data from the UW-Madison and UW-System. These charts illustrate Madison West High School graduates first year UW enrollment from 1983 to 2011. This is of course, just part of the picture. I hope to address other paths over the next few months.
I have been unable to obtain senior class high school enrollments. The Wisconsin DPI website only mentions the total high school population.

Annual “Souper Bowl” Attracts Hundreds to Madison West High School


A day before the Super Bowl, hundreds of people lined up for an altogether different, though similarly named, event.
The annual “Souper Bowl” event is now in its 16th year raising money for Habitat for Humanity.
This year’s “Souper Bowl” was held at Madison West High School where attendees bought bowls made by members of the community.

26 National Merit Semifinalists from Madison West High School

Susan Troller:

It’s not supposed to be a competition among schools or states, or anything beyond the recognition of individual academic excellence. But the numbers of students from West High School ranking as semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program are always impressive, and this year is no exception.
Twenty-six West students are on the list, announced Wednesday. Other Madison students who will be now eligible to continue in the quest for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $34 million, include 10 students from Memorial, six from Edgewood, five from East, one from St. Ambrose Academy and one home-schooled student. Winning National Merit scholars will be announced in the spring of 2012.
Other area semifinalists include 20 additional students from around Dane County, including seven students from Middleton High School, four from Stoughton High School, three from Mount Horeb High School and one student each from Belleville High School, DeForest High School, Monona Grove High School, Sun Prairie High School, Waunakee High School and a Verona student who is home-schooled.

Much more on national merit scholars, here.
A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

Qualifying Scores for the Class of 2011 National Merit Semifinalists:

Illinois 214
Minnesota 213
Iowa 209
Massachusetts 223
Michigan 209
Texas 215
Wisconsin 209

Madison West High School Sexual Assault

via a kind reader’s email:

Please read attached letter with information about an assault at West High today. (The body of the letter is below, for anyone unable to open the attachment.)
Dear Students, Parents/Legal Guardians:
We want to make you aware of an alleged serious sexual assault that happened at West High School on Monday, May 16. A female student reported being forcibly sexually assaulted in a stairwell by a student acquaintance. The female student first contacted the Fitchburg Police Department which then notified the school.
West High School administrators and our education resource officer are working with Fitchburg Police on the investigation. An individual has been arrested for 2nd degree sexual assault and has been taken into custody.
As we continually evaluate our safety and security procedures at West High, this incident requires staff and students to be extra vigilant in all areas of the school. West High staff will work with the district’s security coordinator and Building Services staff to examine access to all hallways, corridors, stairwells and elevators. Lighting, security cameras and building supervision are being reviewed and if changes are needed, they will be made.
This incident is deeply disturbing to us. We want to assure you that the staff at West High School will do all they can to make certain the school is safe. We are also prepared to help any student and family needing assistance as a result of this incident. They should contact any administrative staff at West HS.
If you wish to discuss safety at West High in greater detail, please contact the Superintendent.

Hip Hop Studies at Madison West High School

The Wisconsin State Journal, via several kind reader emails:

Students in a new Hip Hop Studies class at West finished a unit on hip-hop history by writing verses. A few excerpts:
“‘Why do you study hip-hop?
Isn’t it just rappers that never ever stop?’
That right there’s the problem,
People think it’s just angry pop.
And even though they don’t know
They go and talk about the videos
And go and slam it on their shows

One reader notes: “Is this the fabulous programming that we may lose if West (gasp) has real honors classes? “.
Much more, here.

Race to Nowhere Plays @ Madison West High School 2/8/2011

via a kind reader’s email:

A concerned mother turned filmmaker aims her camera at the high-stakes, high-pressure culture that has invaded our schools and our children’s lives, creating unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people in all types of communities who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace; students are disengaged; stress-related illness and depression are rampant; and many young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change, hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the national dialogue on education and galvanizing change.”
Join us for a screening of this new documentary
on February 8 at 7:30 PM at the Madison West Auditorium
TICKETS: $10 ONLINE AND $15 AT THE DOOR http://rtnmadisonwest.eventbrite.com
Want more info?

A rebellion at Madison West High School over new curriculum

Lynn Welch

When Paul Radspinner’s 15-year-old son Mitchell wanted to participate in a student sit-in last October outside West High School, he called his dad to ask permission.
“He said he was going to protest, and wanted to make sure I had no problem with it. I thought, ‘It’s not the ’60s anymore,'” recalls Radspinner. The students, he learned, were upset about planned curriculum changes, which they fear will eliminate elective class choices, a big part of the West culture.
“It was a real issue at the school,” notes Radspinner. “The kids found out about it, but the parents didn’t.”
This lack of communication is a main reason Radspinner and 60 other parents recently formed a group called West Cares. Calling itself the “silent majority,” the group this month opposed the new English and social studies honors classes the district is adding next fall at West, as well as Memorial. (East and La Follette High Schools already offer these classes for freshmen and sophomores.)
The parents fear separating smarter kids from others at the ninth-grade level will deepen the achievement gap by pushing some college-bound students into advanced-level coursework sooner. They also believe it will eviscerate West’s culture, where all freshmen and sophomores learn main subjects in core classes together regardless of achievement level.
“It’s a big cultural paradigm shift,” says parent Jan O’Neil. “That’s what we’re struggling with in the West community.”

Lots of related links:

Response to Madison West High Parents’ Open Letter

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As to the first point, I wish people were a bit less concerned about what will inconvenience or irritate our teachers and a bit more concerned about what’s best for our students. I think it is absolutely correct that the alignment plan will reduce the autonomy of teachers. Classes will have to be designed and taught against an overriding structure of curricular standards that will need to be addressed. I think that is a good thing.
We’d all like the freedom and autonomy to be able to define our own job responsibilities so that we could spend our time exclusively on the parts of our jobs that we particularly like and are good at, but that is certainly not the way that effective organizations work. I believe that teachers need to be held accountable for covering a specific, consistent, coherent and rigorous curriculum, because that is what’s best for their students. I don’t see how holding teachers to curriculum standards should inhibit their skills, creativity or engagement in the classroom.
The second point concerns 9th and 10th grade accelerated class options and the accusation that this will result in “segregation.” This line of argument has consistently bothered me.
We don’t hear much from African-American parents who are upset about the possibility of accelerated classes because, as the open letter puts it, they will result in “more segregation.” On the contrary, we on the Board have heard a number of times from middle class African-American parents who are dissatisfied, sometimes to the point of pulling their kids from our schools, because their kids regularly experience situations where well-meaning teachers and staff assume that because the kids are African-American, they’ll need special help or won’t be able to keep up with advanced class work. I think that frustration with this essentially patronizing attitude has contributed to community support for the Madison Prep proposal. It seems to me that the open letter suggests the same attitude.

It will be interesting to see how the course options play out. I suspect this will be a marathon, as it has been since the grant driven small learning community initiative and the launch of English 10 some years ago.
I very much appreciate Ed’s comments, including this “a bit more concerned about what’s best for our students”.
Lots of related links:

More here.

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.

Lots of related links:

Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High’s 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city’s high schools.
The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.
Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for “talented and gifted” ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:

Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don’t forget to read.
A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.
Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don’t think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.
Lots of related links:

Madison West Students To Protest Proposed School Changes

channel3000.com, via a kind reader’s email:

Lots of related links:

Madison West High’s (alcohol) test success: Attending dances there means submitting to random screening

Bill Lueders:

Tanya Lawler was taken aback. Her daughter, returning from West High’s homecoming dance on Sept. 25, mentioned that students were randomly selected to take a breath test as they arrived, to see if they’d been drinking.
While her daughter was not tested, Lawler considers this a “violation of Fourth Amendment rights” because officials lacked probable cause to suspect the people being tested. Her son attended La Follette’s homecoming dance, held the same night, and reported that no testing was done there.
In fact, West is the only high school in Madison that has a formal written policy (PDF) regarding student dances, and the only one that randomly tests students as they enter using “a passive alcohol detection device.” Students and a parent must sign a form agreeing to these rules.
Lawler, who doesn’t remember this form, advised her daughter to refuse this test. “I would rather forfeit the price of the ticket and have her call me. I’d say, ‘No, they’re not going to violate your rights.'”

Letter to Madison West High School Families, Staff and Students

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash and West High Principal Ed Holmes, via a kind reader’s email:

October 14, 2010
West Families, West Students, and West Staff;
We are writing today to clarify the proposal for high school course offerings in the Madison Metropolitan School District. While discussion and questioning should be part of any change process, the discussion needs to center on factual information.
We have proposed that Advanced Placement offerings be increased in all of our high schools. We have also focused on making an embedded honors option available in 9th and 10th grade English and Social Studies next year and Math and Science the following year at all four high schools. We have also proposed increasing support to students who may not traditionally have participated in an honors or AP course so that rigorous opportunities can become part of every high school student’s transcript.
What we have NOT proposed is the elimination of any electives at any of the high schools. Our current high school offerings vary quite widely across the district and we are striving to make good things available across all attendance areas. Nothing in the proposal prohibits a dynamite elective course from being shared and adopted across the city, in fact, some consistency of elective offerings would be welcomed.
The two pathways are groupings of courses. They are NOT a way to group students. Student and family choice is wide open. We are also proposing a set of assessments that will start in middle school to help inform families, students, and teachers about skills that students have that are strong and skills that need to be supported and improved. Those assessments will be given every year and are meant to be used to inform students and families about student progress and growth and to allow students and families to make informed decisions about future courses.
Please understand that students will still have choices. If they chose not to take an Advanced Placement course and wish to take an elective instead, that option remains.
We regret that incomplete information was used to make students and families upset. The proposal had, and still has the word “draft” on it. We look forward to productive conversations with all of you about ways in which we can now move forward.

The Mess with Madison West (Updated)

TJ Mertz, via email:

[Update: I just got emailed this letter as West parent. Crisis communication is happening. Not much new here, but some clarity}

The first steps with the “High School Curricular Reform, Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” are a mess, a big mess of the administration’s own making.

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal. One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years: open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place. These need to go. I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

This is in four sections: The Mess; What Next?; The Plan: Unanswered Questions and Causes for Concern; and Final Thought.

Lots of related links:

Madison West High School student is arrested for possessing a handgun

Wisconsin State Journal

A 15-year-old student at West High School was arrested Friday for possession of a handgun, according to the Madison Police Department.
A letter sent to parents from principal Ed Holmes said a staff member received information that the student might be in possession of a gun, and contacted the Educational Resource Officer in the building. Police were called at about 11:45 a.m., and with their assistance, the officer located the student on Ash Street with the loaded .22 caliber handgun in his pocket and arrested him.

Search 53726 on crimereports.com.
September, 2010 message from West High School’s principal.

Madison West High gang incident raises specter of retaliation

Sandy Cullen:

An armed altercation Friday outside West High School involving known and suspected members of two street gangs involved in an April homicide heightened concerns of possible retaliation, police and school officials said Tuesday.
Sgt. Amy Schwartz, who leads the Madison Police Department’s Crime Prevention Gang Unit, said it is not known if members of the South Side Carnales gang went to the high school looking for members of the rival Clanton 14, or C-14 gang.
But staff at West and the city’s three other main high schools and two middle schools were told Tuesday to determine if safety plans are needed for any students who might be at risk, said Luis Yudice, security coordinator for the Madison School District.
Police have not notified the School District of a specific threat against any student, Yudice said.
But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison’s C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student. Five people, who police say are associated with the South Side Carnales and MS-13 gangs, are charged in Perez’s slaying. Two of them remain at large.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.
A kind reader noted this quote from the article:

“But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison’s C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student.”

Much more here.
Sgt. Amy Schwartz, who leads the Madison Police Department’s Crime Prevention Gang Unit, said it is not known if members of the South Side Carnales gang went to the high school looking for members of the rival Clanton 14, or C-14 gang.
But staff at West and the city’s three other main high schools and two middle schools were told Tuesday to determine if safety plans are needed for any students who might be at risk, said Luis Yudice, security coordinator for the Madison School District.
Police have not notified the School District of a specific threat against any student, Yudice said.
But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison’s C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student. Five people, who police say are associated with the South Side Carnales and MS-13 gangs, are charged in Perez’s slaying. Two of them remain at large.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.
A kind reader noted this quote from the article:

“But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison’s C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student.”

Bathroom Fire at Madison West High School

via a kind reader:

At 12:03:50 on 05/10/10 firefighters were dispatched for fire alarm at West high school.
On location, students had evacuated. Staff directed firefighters to a bathroom on the 3rd floor of the building where rolls of toilet paper had been burned.
Strobes were operating; alarm had been silenced. Firefighters found a moderate haze of smoke in the area and there was an odor of burned plastics. The fire was out, the toilet roll dispenser was smoldering and melted.
A fan was used from Engine 4 to start clearing the smoke.
The fire had been reported to a staff member by a student. The staff member used an extinguisher to put the fire out. Another student had been attempting to extinguish the fire with water from the sink.
The scene was turned over to a fire investigator.

Several readers noted that there have been a number of recent incidents in and around West High School:

April 26
1 Block Ash St.
Identifier: 201000110451
Time: 15:00
Battery (under general heading “Assault”)
The fight outside the school last week was:
April 28
Chadbourne Av and Ash St
Identifier: 201000112346
Time: 12:47 (lunchtime)
Fight Call (under general heading “Disorder”)
April 20
1 Block Ash St. (looks like this one was in the school)
Identifier: 201000104558
Time: 13:31
Battery (Assault)
April 28
Chadbourne and Allen
Identifier: 201000112447
Time: 14:35
Battery (Assault)
April 22
2100 Block Regent
Identifier: 201000106686
Time: 15:11
Battery (Assault)

User’s may wish to search local high school addresses on the crimereports.com website. The site supports date range searching. You must enter an address and enter a date range (see below) as the site only links to zip code area searches. The data is provided by the City of Madison, UW-Madison and the Madison Police Department. I don’t know if all incidents are provided to this site.
Madison East High
2222 E. Washington Ave.
Madison WI 53704
Madison Edgewood High School
2219 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711-1999
Madison LaFollette High School
702 Pflaum Rd.
Madison WI 53716
Madison Memorial High School
201 S. Gammon Rd
Madison, WI 53717
Madison West High School
30 Ash Street
Madison, WI 53726

Accused 21 Year Old Attended Middleton and Madison West High Schools

Gayle Worland & Gena Kittner:

Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, the man Madison police say shot and killed a gang rival last week, is known to local authorities as a 21-year-old illegal immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico, who worked as an area roofer in 2008.
Middleton High School officials thought he was an 18-year-old junior named Arain Gutierrez who had previously attended West High School in Madison.
So how did the man police still have not captured enroll in area schools?
Criteria for enrollment
The Madison School District requires the parents or guardians of a student present a utility bill, a mortgage document or a lease with their address to enroll their child in school. Under district policy, school officials are directed to “verify age and name” of a student using a birth certificate or “other documentation provided by parent.”
The policy states that if a student’s previous school was in a foreign country, school officials should ask to see a visa. If the student doesn’t have a visa, the student is still enrolled and given an “undocumented visa notice.”
Middleton-Cross Plains also requires a parent or guardian to show residency through a utility bill, lease or mortgage document, said district spokeswoman Michelle Larson. The district requires proof of age and identification through a birth certificate or passport when a student enrolls in kindergarten, but does not require it for later grades, she said.

A “Fight Club” at Madison West High School

Joe Tarr:

Cassie Frankel seems an unlikely martial arts warrior.
The sophomore at West High heard about the Mixed Martial Arts Club from her chemistry teacher and decided to give it a try. The group meets Thursdays at noon, learning and practicing a variety of fighting styles, including boxing, wrestling, judo and jujutsu.
“I like that it’s an individual sport because I’m not that athletic,” Frankel says during a break in practice. “It’s more about how your body works.” She likes boxing best: “I feel really tough with the boxing gloves, even though they’re pink.”
Frankel acknowledges the controversy over teaching kids to fight. But, she says, “I think it’s a good idea because if you know how to fight you’re less likely to get hurt.”

Madison West High School Principal Update, November, 2009

112K PDF from West Principal Ed Holmes:

This update will address some of the concerns that have been raised since the beginning of the year as well as review many of the major initiatives, events and programs at West during the 2009-10 school year.
District Concerns
High school pupil/teacher ratios for allocation purposes have remained static or been reduced. All four high schools struggle with allocation issues and every school but Lafollette has classes above 30.
In a system where we are working with a finite allocation and have to respond to a set number of required courses first, electives may have to be capped so that required courses can be staffed. As a result we guarantee that all students will have access to the required courses needed to graduate within their four-year high school career.
West High School Concerns
The first issue I would like to address is the misinformation reported to the West High School Community regarding our enrollment numbers here at West. I would like to clarify what our enrollment numbers are, and then explain how that mistake was made. The second issue involves our scheduling practices. Concerns related to scheduling were raised by numerous students and parents this Fall, and there were questions and concerns at grade level meetings as well.
I take full responsibility for the manner and content of the information that was shared with the West community regarding enrollment numbers this Fall. This was a human error, not a computer error. Infinite Campus has the ability to generate enrollment numbers in two ways. One screen calculates and displays all students linked to West, including those in alternative programs. For example, a student attending Shabazz is still listed on that screen as a West Student. A second screen does not include all students linked to West; instead, only students physically attending West, and serviced through our site based allocation. Simply put, I relied on information from the incorrect screen generated on Infinite Campus. I apologize for the frustration this mistake regarding enrollment numbers caused.
Each year we closely plan our scheduling procedures and attempt to implement a process that is equally efficient and effective. This Fall particularly, we have heard concerns from a number of students and parents; primarily dissatisfaction with the availability of certain course offerings. Here are some of the challenges and issues related to scheduling,

Student arrested for allegedly bringing gun into Madison West High School

Bill Novak:

A West High School student was arrested Monday afternoon after allegedly having a .22 caliber revolver in the waistband of his pants inside the school.
The incident is considered the first time in at least a decade that a student has been discovered with a firearm inside a Madison Metropolitan School District facility, said Luis Yudice, coordinator of school safety for the district.
The 16-year-old student, a sophomore at West, was tentatively charged with possession of a firearm in a school zone.
The incident was reported at about 3:30 p.m. at the school, 30 Ash St.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the revolver was missing its cylinder (which holds the bullets) and the student had no ammunition.
“He didn’t threaten anyone with the firearm,” DeSpain said. “He told the officer he was simply holding onto the gun for someone else.”

Related: Police Calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006 and the 2005 Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Join the Fall Madison West High Drama Club Production of “The Miracle Worker” at 7:30 on November 6, 7, 13 and 14.

via a kind reader’s email:

Purchase your tickets in advance online to ease congestion at the box office on show nights. Tickets will also be available at the box office while they last..($10/adult, $5/student)
Ticket Website:https://tix.seatyourself.biz/webstore/webstore.html?domain=mwhs&event.
Director Holly Walker and Stage Manager Catherine Althaus have created a fantastic production. Immortalized on stage and screen by Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, this classic tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. Helen, trapped in her secret world, is violent, spoiled and almost subhuman–and treated as such by her family. Only Annie realizes that there is a mind and spirit waiting to be rescued from the dark tortured silence. Following scenes of intense physical and emotional dynamism, Annie’s success with Helen finally comes with the utterance of a single word: “water”.
The Cast: David Aeschlimann (doctor), Eleana Bastian (Aunt Ev), Andrea DeVriendt (Little Annie), Kevin Erdman (Keller), Sam Gee (Jimmie), Emma Geer (Helen), Denzel Irby (Percy), Simon Henriques (Anagnos), Sarah Maslin(Annie), James Romney (James), Sasha Sigel (Kate), Bayaan Thomas (Viney), and Claire Wegert(Martha); plus Sam Barrows, Khadijah Bishop, Allison Burdick-Evenson, Heather Chun, Sophia Connelly, Molly Czech, Ryan Eykholt, Ellen Ferencek, Henry Fuguitt, Maddie Gibson, Erendira Giron-Cruz, Maddie Hoeppner, Emily Hou, Janie Killips, Elena Livorni, Marianne Oeygard, Frankie Pobar-Lay, Ari Pollack, Kaivahn Sarkaratpour, and Laura Young.
The Crew Heads: Sound: Bryna Godar, Sasha Sigel, Sam Factor, David Aeschlimann Lighting: Catherine Althaus, Zander Steichen Stage: Laura Young, Lindsey Conklin Costumes: Heather Chun, Leah Garner Administrative: Charmaine Branch, Nina Pressman, Thalia Skaleris Props: Jenny Apfelbach, Jamie Kolden Makeup: Margie Ostby
Cookies, Candy, Water and Fan-Grams will be for sale! Proceeds go to Friends of Madison West High Drama.

Ineligible Players on Madison High School’s Basketball Teams, Madison West High’s Coach and Athletic Director is Out

Rob Schultz:

Last March, the Regents forfeited a WIAA tournament upset victory over Baraboo for using a player who had an unexcused absence prior to the game.
Hodge, 46, who was the boys basketball coach, athletic director and minority service coordinator at his alma mater, claimed West principal Ed Holmes and school district administrators used that instance to railroad him out of West. He said it was a retaliatory move for rebutting the district’s stance during a controversial arbitration hearing in 2008.
“It had nothing to do with my coaching,” said Hodge, who took the Regents to the WIAA state tournament twice, won six WIAA regional titles and two Big Eight Conference titles during his tenure. He had a 121-149 overall record.
“It was all about the theory of retaliating against me because I went public about how the district treats its employees if they have an issue.”
Data provided to The Capital Times and Hodge from an anonymous source showed there were 82 unexcused absences logged by players from his team that went unpunished.
Madison East had 117 unexcused absences that would have forced the Purgolders to relinquish 15 victories and a regional title, while Madison La Follette had 73 unexcused absences and Madison Memorial 12, according to the source’s data.
According to the data, Memorial — which won the WIAA Division 1 state title — had only one case of an ineligible player scoring in a game.
The source also has data that claimed that some of East’s unexcused absences were changed to excused absences after Hodge lodged a complaint about all the schools’ unexcused absences with the WIAA March 9.
Hodge gave the data he received before and after he lodged the complaint with the WIAA to John Matthews, the executive director of Madison Teachers, Inc. He said Matthews brought the data to the attention of MMSD superintendent Dan Nerad.
The district then investigated Hodge’s assertions and recently sent its conclusions to the WIAA, according to the WIAA’s Dave Anderson, “Their findings did not reveal substance to the allegations that were made,” said Anderson, who will begin duties as the WIAA’s executive director Monday.

2008-2009 Madison West High School ReaLGrant Initiave update

57K PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

The School Improvement Committee has spent this year investigating academic support models in other schools to begin to develop an effective model for West High School. The committee visited Memorial High School, Evanston High School, Wheeling High School, and New Trier High School, in IL. Some of the common themes that were discovered, especially in the Illinois schools, were as follows:

  • Many schools have an identified academic team who intervene with struggling students. These teams of support people have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The students are regularly monitored, they develop both short and long term goals and the students develop meaningful relationships with an adult in the building. The academic support team has regular communication with teaching staff and makes recommendations for student support.
  • There are mandatory study tables in each academic content areas where students are directed to go if they are receiving a D or F in any given course.
  • Students who are skill deficient are identified in 8th grade and are provided with a summer program designed to prepare them for high school, enhanced English and Math instruction in 9th grade, and creative scheduling that allows for students to catch up to grade level.
  • Some schools have a family liaison person who is able to make meaningful connections in the community and with parents. After school homework centers are thriving.
  • Social privileges are used as incentives for students to keep their grades up.

Recommendations from the SIP Committee

  • Design more creative use of academic support allocation to better meet the needs of struggling students.
  • Create an intervention team with specific role definition for each team member.
  • Design and implement an after school homework center that will be available for all students, not just those struggling academically.
  • Design and implement student centers and tables that meet specific academic and time needs (after school, lunch, etc.)
  • Identify a key staff person to serve in a specialized family liaison role.
  • Develop a clear intervention scaffold that is easy for staff to interpret and use.
  • Design and implement enhanced Math and English interventions for skill deficient students.

Related topics:

A Madison West High School Team Won the American Rocketry Challenge

Team America Rocketry Challenge:

A team from Madison West High School in Madison, Wi., took first place at the Seventh Annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Saturday, taking on the title of national champion.
“Hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and custom electronics are the reasons our rocket performed well today,” said Ben Winokur, team member.
The team, one of three from Madison West High School, logged the winning score of 20.54. The team won an opportunity to fly against the champions of UKayRoC in the Second Annual Transatlantic Rocket Fly-Off.


Written Bomb Threat at Madison West High School: Letter to Parents

Principal Ed Holmes [9K PDF] via a kind reader’s email:

When Madison Schools receive any information that jeopardizes or threatens the safety of our schools, we immediately report the incident to Madison Police and consult with them to determine what the best course of action should be.
The Madison School District has well-defined protocols that are implemented anytime a threat is made against schools. The decisions regarding a response to safety situations are always made in close consultation with the Madison Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
The safest place for students is in school where we provide structure and supervision. Therefore any decision to remove students from that environment has to be weighed carefully with a potential for placing them in a less structured environment that potentially raises other safety concerns.
These procedures were followed today at West High in response to a written bomb threat.
After consulting with District Administration, the building was searched at 6:00 a.m. using trained Madison Metropolitan School district engineers, architects and custodial supervisors. This procedure has been used in other schools under similar circumstances. Our goal is to maintain a safe educational environment for all students and staff. We have an excellent relationship with our students and encourage them to talk with us about possible issues. We ask you, as families, to help keep our lines of communication open by encouraging your students to talk about their concerns.
West High continues to be a safe place. We pledge that we will continue to focus our time, attention, and resources to keep it so.
Ed Holmes, Principal
Madison West High School [Map]

Related: Police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006 and recent Madison police calls (the event referenced in the letter above is not present on the police call map as of this morning (3/13/2009)).

A New Indoor Pool/Parking Complex at Madison West High School?

A proposed $17,624,450 eight lane indoor pool, diving well, fitness center, community activity/wellness pool and a two-level parking deck for Madison West High School was on Monday evening’s Madison School Board agenda [441K PDF].
I found this interesting and wondered if funding might come from an earmark (McCain / Feingold on earmarks), or possibly the Obama stimulus (the “splurge”, or borrowing on our grandkids credit cards).
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s wishlist (it includes $14,000,000 for “public pools at Warner Park and Reindahl”, but no funds for this, as far as I can see).
I have not seen the details of Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s “stimulus” list.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, in light of the District’s strategic plan, academic priorities, other high school facilities and how the operating costs are covered.
Listen to the discussion: 23MB mp3 audio fileDoug Erickson.

Madison West’s Natalia Thompson earns top Girl Scout honors

The Capital Times:

Awards continue for Natalia Thompson of Madison, who was named as one of the Girl Scouts of USA top 10 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients, which makes her one of the nation’s 2008 Young Women of Distinction for extraordinary leadership through the recipients’ remarkable community action projects.
Only 5 percent to 6 percent of girls involved in the Scouts receive the award, considered the organization’s highest achievement. Thompson and the other nine winners were honored at the 2008 Girl Scout National Council Session in Indianapolis.
Kathy Cloninger, who heads the Girl Scouts of USA, said Thompson and the other award winners are “outstanding examples of the kind of leadership Girl Scouts are capable of.”

Madison West senior nearly wins reality show

Gayle Worland:

Madison West High School senior Tierney Chamberlain nearly made it to the top of the class Monday night in the ABC reality TV series “High School Musical: Get in the Picture.”
Chamberlain, 17, was runner-up to first-place winner Stan Carrizosa of Visalia, Calif., in the show, a prime-time spinoff to Disney’s phenomenally successful “High School Musical” film series. The TV finale was taped late this summer in Los Angeles; Chamberlain watched it at home in Madison with her family and a few friends, she said after the broadcast.
In her first solo performance on Monday’s show, Chamberlain, wearing a red full-length dress, sang a jazzy rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” — a performance she was happy with, she told show host Nick Lachey after the song.
“I think I made my mom cry,” she said, as cameras briefly cut away to shots of her family in the audience.

“Legendary Madison West Girls Soccer Coach Retiring”

Dennis Semrau:

While the administrative headaches he has endured this year have played a huge factor in his decision to retire from coaching, Kaehler preferred to talk about why he enjoyed coaching a sport with which he didn’t become involved until he was an adult.
“I was a four-sport athlete. I played football, basketball and baseball and I ran track at Delavan-Darien High School. I’ve been involved in sports all my life and I played semi-pro basketball in Europe, in Grenoble, France,” he said. “I picked up the game of soccer in France. I was there six years and it took me about two years to appreciate the game. What I’ve always said is that soccer is a player’s sport. It’s not a coach’s sport.

Madison West Rocketry Club Travels to the Team America Rocketry Challenge

TARC website:

The scores are in, and all the hard work has paid off for the 100 finalists for the Team America Rocketry Challenge. Those teams will face one another during the exciting final fly-off on Saturday, May 17 in The Plains, Va. for the title of national TARC champion. After a full day of launches, held at the Great Meadows facility, the winners will be crowned and $60,000 in scholarships will be divided up among the top finishers.

West Rocketry website.

More on Saying Goodbye to Madison West High School’s Writing Lab

Susan Troller:

A venerable and valued West High School academic institution has been cut from next year’s schedule, and this time the immediate blame lies with dwindling enrollment projections for Madison high schools and middle schools, not the perennial budget cuts caused by state-imposed revenue caps.
The Writing Lab, a 30-year tradition at West which provides students with one-on-one help for writing papers and college essays, will be cut next year, Principal Ed Holmes confirmed.
John Howe, chair of West’s English department, said the Writing Lab gets about 900 visits a year from students seeking help for everything from developing early ideas or themes to preparing final drafts.
Students get help, he said, with English papers, but also with writing assignments from virtually every other class that has a written component.
“Every year, we have students who have graduated that come back to West, telling us how well they were prepared for college writing assignments because of the Writing Lab,” Howe said.

Much more on the demise of West’s writing lab here.

Madison West High Bids Adieu to Their Writing Lab

Reuben Henriques:

Today, my English teacher shared with our class the quite saddening news that the West High Writing Lab [Ask | clusty | google | Live | Yahoo], a venerable institution of many years, is slated to be cut next year as part of the annual round of budgeting. For those on this listserv who don’t know, the Writing Lab provides a place for students of all grades and abilities to conference one-on-one with an English teacher about their work. Everyone — from the freshman completely lost on how to write his first literary analysis to the AWW alum who wants to run her college application essay by someone — is welcome to stop by during three or four hours of the day as well as before school, during lunch, and after school. I know that in my four years at West, I’ve found this an immeasurably useful resource, not only to help me polish papers for my classes, but also as a way to get editing help on college essays and other extracurricular writing. And judging by the reaction in my English class, I’m far from alone.
Which is why I am so distressed by this development. I’ve always considered the English department, by and large, as one of West’s finest. The array of classes at every ability level is wonderful, and the fact that I’ve been able to take IWW and AWW — two classes designed solely to improve my writing itself — has been great. These classes do a fabulous job of teaching students to write — but an important part of writing well is being able to receive feedback on that writing, being able to dialogue with someone about it, and then being able to “have another swing at things.” But of course, it’s simply impossible for a teacher in any English class to meet, one-on-one, with every student. The Writing Lab has provided a great way for students to ensure that they will have this valuable opportunity.

It would be interesting to find out what’s happening with the high school budget allocations. The only information I’ve found on the 2008-2009 MMSD Budget is this timeline, which mentions that “Allocations & Formula $ to Buildings” occurred on March 5, 2008. The School Board is not scheduled to see the balanced budget until April 3, 2008.

Madison West High Drama Benefit

via a Cyndie Spencer email:

Once again, excuse the duplicates… this is another great cause for West High School. Denny and i are planning to attend….
Please join Friends of West High Drama Friday March 7, 2008 at 7 PM at the Madison Club for a fundraiser to upgrade the sound system in the West High Auditorium. (see attached invite). We’ve planned a fun, welcoming and relaxing evening to celebrate the amazing student talent at West. We very much hope you can attend!
Meet the cast of West’s spring musical “A Chorus Line”. Hear them sing selections from the show as well as entertain you with some of the best “Singing Valentines” from West’s celebration of Valentine’s Day.
Enjoy delicious appetizers/dessert & bid on a few select auction items (condo in Myrtle Beach; theater tickets & dinner). Cash bar available.
Tickets are $35/person ($25 tax deductible). While tickets will be available at the door, your advance purchase helps us enormously in our planning. If you cannot attend but would like to contribute, please send your contribution made out to FMPS-Friends of West High Drama to Kay Plantes, 3432 Sunset Dr, Madison WI 53705.
We thank you in advance for your support. Your attendance and/or contribution are very much needed to improve the quality of life at West H.S. for all students.
Questions or to unsubscribe from this email, please reply to the address above or call Ruth Saecker (608-233-6943).

Washington County 4-H and Madison West Rocket Club Selected for NASA Event


Four Washington County teens are among 18 groups in the nation invited to display their rocket-building skills to NASA space shuttle engineers this spring.
The challenge for the team, all members of the county’s 4-H rocketry club, was to design and build a reusable rocket. It had to be capable of carrying a science payload to one mile above the surface and returning safely to the ground.
Their 7-foot rocket will be launched in late April at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama as part of NASA’s Student Launch Initiative.
A rocket club from Madison West High School in Madison also was selected this year.

Donald Behm has more:

With spring deadlines looming, four Washington County teens are working weekends to build a high-powered rocket to launch in front of NASA space shuttle engineers.
Their challenge: Design and build a reusable rocket capable of carrying a science payload to one mile above the surface and returning safely to the ground.
The team, all members of the county’s 4-H rocketry club, is one of only 18 groups in the United States invited to display their skills this year as part of NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. Their rocket will be launched in late April at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“It cannot be wrecked,” said Katlin Wagner, 15, a freshman at Slinger High School and the defending rocketry champ among 4-H youth in the county. “We must be able to put it back together and use it again.”

More on Madison West Side Boundary Changes


Parents on the west side are speaking out about proposed plans that would change school boundaries for more than 100 children.
The Madison School Board drew up four possible plans that would affect students attending Falk, Stephens and Crestwood elementary schools, and all possibilities drew a lot of criticism.
The school board said their “plan A” would divide 151 students living in the Valley Ridge neighborhood between Crestwood and Falk elementary schools. That plan, released in December, garnered strong opposition, leading the board to propose three new plans.
Their “plan B” would call for Valley Ridge students to stay at Stephens Elementary and move students from other neighborhoods, including Spring Harbor and Junction Road.
Their “plan C” calls for the pairing of Stephens and Crestwood schools and “plan D” would call for Crestwood and Falk pairing up.
School board officials said if any of the schools were paired, students would attend one school from kindergarten through second grade, and then move to the other school for grades three through five.

Much more, here.

Notes from UW-Madison and Madison West High on AP Standards

Danielle Repshas: “Still, there is not an absolute guarantee that a course [called] one thing someplace has the same rigor somewhere else,” Reason said. Part of the challenge is judging the standards of one AP class from another at different high schools, and Reason said the level of trust colleges and secondary schools have with … Continue reading Notes from UW-Madison and Madison West High on AP Standards

Student Madison School Board meeting at West High School

Scott Girard: Safety and sustainability are on the minds of West High School students. A Madison School Board panel, organized by the school’s Sifting and Winnowing Club, featured student-generated questions that repeatedly focused on those two subjects, with a few others mixed in. More than 400 students attended the two sessions Friday afternoon in the … Continue reading Student Madison School Board meeting at West High School

“LeMonds said the victim’s parents called police while at the school, but “it is likely (Madison) West staff would have also.”

Chris Rickert: 16-year-old charged in beating outside Madison West High School A 16-year-old boy was tentatively charged with substantial battery after he punched another boy in the head outside Madison West High School Monday, police said. Police said the mother of the victim called them just before 3:30 p.m. to report the attack, which the victim did … Continue reading “LeMonds said the victim’s parents called police while at the school, but “it is likely (Madison) West staff would have also.”

(some) Madison School board COmmentary on Planned West High School Grading Changes

So in a district where this was previously implemented, um, failure went down, but so did rates of students earning A’s and B’s and our level classes, um, and teachers found that it had eroded some students’ motivations. So I was wondering if that’s a concern at all in how the district might address that. … Continue reading (some) Madison School board COmmentary on Planned West High School Grading Changes

Grading inconsistencies ‘not new’ with West ‘grading floor,’ Madison School District officials say

Scott Girard: With no Madison Metropolitan School District policy on grading at the four comprehensive high schools, administrators and teachers have room to implement their own practices. Bottom-up decisions can help get buy-in from the teachers and staff carrying out any changes, but also mean that changes happen on different timelines, like the recent change … Continue reading Grading inconsistencies ‘not new’ with West ‘grading floor,’ Madison School District officials say

Madison West High parents express concerns about new Personalized Pathways curriculum at meeting

Amber Walker: Isabel Rameker, a sophomore at West, addressed the elephant in the room with her question about representation. “From what I’ve heard, a big goal of this is to close the achievement gap, specifically for African-Americans and students with disabilities. Looking around, it doesn’t look like this is a super diverse group of parents,” … Continue reading Madison West High parents express concerns about new Personalized Pathways curriculum at meeting

Madison has the lowest student to licensed staff ratio among the five largest Wisconsin school districts

Madison School District Administration (PDF): Some of the ways in which MMSD has invested in people include: Increased the number of PK-12 staff from 3,497 in 2008-09 to 4,027 in 2013-14. This effectively grew the district’s total employees by 15% over 5 years (largely due to 4K implementation during this time), while maintaining a student … Continue reading Madison has the lowest student to licensed staff ratio among the five largest Wisconsin school districts

Madison Governance Status Quo: Teacher “Collective Bargaining” Continues; West Athens Parent Union “Bargains Like any other Union” in Los Angeles

Ben Austin, via a kind email: Last week was an important moment in the Parent Power movement. On Friday, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy came to West Athens Elementary School in South LA to sign a groundbreaking Partnership Agreement with the leadership of the West Athens Parents Union, called the “Aguilas de West Athens” (AWA) – … Continue reading Madison Governance Status Quo: Teacher “Collective Bargaining” Continues; West Athens Parent Union “Bargains Like any other Union” in Los Angeles

Madison’s ACT scores lowest since 1995, still above average

Matthew DeFour:

Madison’s average ACT score dipped last year to the lowest level since 1995, according to state and district records.
Madison’s average score of 23.7 out of 36 was still well above the state average of 22.1 and national average of 21.1 among 2012 graduates.
State records go back to 1996 and differ slightly from Madison records, but show last year’s average score was the lowest during that period. Madison records go back to 1995 when the average score was 23.5.
Madison’s scores once again highlight the achievement gap — white students scored 7.4 points higher than black students and 4.8 points higher than Hispanic students, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Madison Prep Academy would open in former church on Near West Side

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy would open next fall in a former church on the city’s Near West Side if the School Board approves a contract for the controversial charter school.
The non-profit organization that would run the school has signed a letter of intent to lease the former Mount Olive Lutheran Church at 4018 Mineral Point Road, according to a business plan for the school released Saturday morning.
The site is on a Metro bus route and includes a 32,000-square-foot facility and 1,200-square-foot house. It also achieves the school’s goal of being located near the Downtown, said Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire.
“It’s a good neighborhood,” Caire said. “We would hope the neighbors would want to get involved with the kids in the school.”
The business plan lays out several other new details including a daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 90-minute classes, report cards for parents and performance bonuses for staff.

Meanwhile, Progressive Dane announces its opposition to the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school.

Arrests, citations reach lowest level in 10 years at Madison high schools

Matthew DeFour:

The number of arrests and citations for incidents at Madison’s four main high schools dropped last year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to police data.
But arrests and citations at West and Memorial were twice the number at East and La Follette — a reversal of the situation 10 years earlier when there were more than twice as many at the city’s East Side high schools.
West was the only school with an increase from the previous year.
The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Madison Police Department amid a debate over whether the Madison School District should use drug-sniffing police dogs in random sweeps of high schools. The School Board was to consider the issue Monday but delayed a vote until late September — in part to review the arrest and citation data.
District officials say an increase in drug-related disciplinary referrals in recent years, and the use of drug dogs in area school districts, support the use of police dogs. Community surveys also have showed strong support.
Luis Yudice, the School District’s security coordinator, who introduced the drug-sniffing dog proposal with the support of Madison police, is concerned drugs in schools can lead to more gang activity, fights and weapons in schools as students arm themselves in self-defense. He views the police dog policy as a possible deterrent that could prevent a crisis.

Related: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006.
Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio/Video.

Uproar at West High over Madison School District’s Curricular Reform Proposal

Lorie Raihala:

There’s been a great deal of misinformation and angry speculation flying around West High regarding the District’s High School Curricular Reform proposal.
On Tuesday, District administrators unveiled their plan for high school curricular reform at meeting with nearly 200 educators from all four high schools. Several parents attended the subsequent TAG Advisory Committee meeting, during which they also revealed an overview of the plan to this group.
I attended the TAG Advisory meeting. As I understand it, this plan involves increasing the number of accelerated and AP courses and expanding access to these options.
When teachers at West got news of this plan, many were enraged at not being included in its development. Further, many concluded that the District plans to replace West’s electives with AP courses. They’ve expressed their concerns to students in their classes, and kids are riled up. Students plan to stage a walk-out on Friday, during which they will walk down to the Doyle Building and deliver a petition to Superintendent Nerad protesting the proposed reforms.

Lots of related links:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Highest & Lowest States for Property Taxes: Dane County, WI (Madison) is ranked 53rd as a % of Income

AOL Real Estate:

Hoping for lower property taxes? Head south. A 2009 Tax Foundation ranking shows that the 10 states with the lowest property taxes are all in the South. The homeowners there pay, on average, less than $1,000 a year in property taxes, while those in the East can pay more than six times as much.
A Tax Foundation map of states (pictured) shows 16 states, highlighted in blue, where residents pay in property taxes 1.2% or greater of their home’s value. The 19 white states fall between 0.65% and 1.20%, while the 15 yellow states pay the least.a

A Southwest Area Madison Meeting on Crime, Including A Number of Madison School Officials

David Blaska:

While the mayor and his staff were conspicuously absent, other government institutions were well represented: Madison School Board president Arlene Silveira (middle aged white female) and members Beth Moss, Maya Cole, Marge Passman, Ed Hughes, and three school principals (all middle aged, white, of varying genders). Police Captain Jay Lengfeld (middle aged, white, male) and neighborhood officers Justine Harris (young white female) and John Amos (middle aged white male) attended. So did County Sheriff Dave Mahoney (middle aged white male), which impressed me greatly. As well as a number of alders and county board members, including Ald. Jed Sanborn and Supv. Diane Hesselbein (young white male and female, respectively), who told me she danced with my brother Mike (older white male) at a function in the Dells. (Ald. Pham-Remmele [older asian female] was called away to visit her seriously ill and aging mother [even older asian female] in California.) Did not see The Kathleen. Here’s who else wasn’t there: Bicycle Boy (young, white and stupid)!
The people speak
The very first “citizen” to speak was an Orchard Ridge older white male whom I did not recognize. The fellow bordered on racism when he said “the complexion” of the neighborhood had changed. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate choice of words. “Put the problem people somewhere else,” he demanded. But he was the only person who spoke that way Wednesday night at Falk.
On the other extreme was Lisa Kass (older white female) who (wouldn’t you know it?) is a school teacher. “Just because someone is different doesn’t mean people are bad,” she said, demonstrating a flair for tautologies. Other than the first speaker (arguably), no one alleged different.
Here is the most racist thing your host can say: Let’s have two sets of behavior, one for one race and a lesser standard for another race. That is separate but unequal!
Then Kass (she teaches our children?) committed the sin of moral equivalence. One of the Bill of Rights prohibits loud noise after 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends.
“Where is the prohibition against leaf blowers at 7:30 in the morning?” she demanded.
Hey, for my money, add it to the list. Pisses me off, too. Still, it is hard to see 200 people taking an hour and a half out of a weekday evening to bitch about leaf blowers and lawn mowers — either in Green Tree or Allied Drive. Hey, at least the blowers and mowers are keeping their properties tidy! Or, is “neat” now prima facie evidence of racism?
Yes, leaf-blowing in the early morning is inconsiderate and annoying but yelling the M-F word is inconsiderate, annoying, obscene, morally offensive, and disturbing.
Then Ms. Kass hand-slapped her seatmate Florenzo Cribbs (young black male), president of Allied Drive-Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood. Prior to the event Cribbs encouraged his e-mail list to attend the meeting. “DON’T LET THE PROWER STRUCTOR THAT ALLOWED THE PROBLEWS CREAT THE RULES FOR TRY TO FIX THE PROBLEMS.”

Notes and Links on Last Week’s Southwest Madison Student Murder

David Blaska mentions that Madison’s Mayor is holding a meeting this morning. The meeting includes Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Several landlords have invited the mayor to take up residence on our troubled streets so that he can experience firsthand what many of our neighbors must put up with in their daily lives. Some of them extended the invitation/challenge even before — hours before — the murder. [Let the Mayor come to Meadowood.]
In the meantime, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has made good on his promise to convene a meeting to deal with the “Lord of the Flies” chaos in certain sections of southwest Madison.
The mayor’s meeting will be held Wednesday morning — exactly one week after Madison woke up to the news that a 17-year-old boy had been shot to death at Leland and Balsam Roads the previous evening, June 9, on the troubled southwest side. Shortly afterward, three 16-year-olds boys were apprehended and charged in connection with his murder — two of them as adults for first degree intentional homicide.
Some of us, including Ald. Pham-Remmele, saw the trouble coming long agI blogged on May 20, quoting a neighbor, “Unless the police are able to get a handle on the roaming gangs, this summer is going to be bloody.” [Going to be a long, hot summer]

A previous post mentioned this:

Police officer Amos said the principal of Toki Middle School will not permit him to arrest children in the school, even though some of them are chronic drug users.
“These people know how to work the system,” said another. Yes, they know their rights but not their responsibilities.

Nearly four years ago, Rafael Gomez organized a Gangs & School Violence forum. The conversation, which included local high school principals, police personnel and Luis Yudice, among others, is worth revisiting.
Related: Police calls near local high schools 1996-2006 and more recent police calls via a map.

Madison School Board Approves West Side Boundary Change


ome disappointed Madison parents said they will try to find the words to tell their children that they’ll be moving to another school next year.
In a unanimous decision, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education voted to approve Plan F, which will move dozens of students from Chavez Elementary School to Falk Elementary next year. The affected area is referred to by the district officials as the “Channel 3 area,” which is the neighborhood that basically surrounds WISC-TV studios on the West Side of the city.
The district’s Long Range Planning Committee recommended Plan F, which will move 65 children in those neighborhoods to another elementary school for the fourth time in the last 15 years.

Andy Hall:

After hearing from about 30 speakers, a few of whom were moved to tears, the Madison School Board on Monday night approved controversial plans to redraw elementary and middle school attendance boundaries on the West Side.
Two hours of public testimony and 90 minutes of discussion by board members resulted in six unanimous decisions to approve changes in the Memorial High School attendance area to accommodate population changes and an elementary school that will open in the fall on the Far West Side.
Several speakers said the changes, which also affected Jefferson and Toki middle schools, will cause them to consider enrolling their children in private school.

Susan Troller also covered Monday’s meeting.

Madison School Board Committee Recommends Far West Side Boundary Changes

Susan Troller:

A Madison School Board committee recommended Monday night that students at Madison’s newest elementary school now under construction should attend Toki Middle School, not Jefferson Middle School as originally planned.
Members of the board’s long range planning committee also recommended final boundary Plan F for elementary school students in the Memorial High School attendance area that would send children in the neighborhood around Channel 3 to Falk Elementary School instead of Chavez Elementary or the new school, located west of Highway M.
The full School Board plans to vote on the recommendations March 3 at its regular meeting at the Doyle Administration Building at 7 p.m. There will be an opportunity for public commentary before the vote.
Among some west side parents, the most controversial part of planning the changes to accommodate the new school has been deciding which children and neighborhoods will attend Falk Elementary School, which has the west side’s highest percentage of low income students.
Numbers of low income students in the Memorial area range from 22 percent at Crestwood to 66 percent at Falk. Under the proposed plan, Falk’s low income percentage would drop to 57 percent.

4 Names for Madison’s New Far West Side Elementary School

Susan Troller:

he names of four prominent deceased local citizens have gone to the head of the class as names for Madison’s newest elementary school, slated to open next fall on the far west side. They include Jeffrey Erlanger, Paul J. Olson, Howard Temin and Ilda Thomas.
A 13-member citizen naming committee, chaired by Madison historian David Mollenhoff, will recommend the names to the Madison School Board in a report to be distributed to board members on Thursday. The group has been meeting since early January to consider more than 80 names submitted by the public for the new school.

Near West Side Madison City Bus (Metro) Incident

Via a reader’s email – Madison Police Department:

On November 19th at 2:44 p.m. Madison police responded to 1300 Seminole Highway after a Metro bus driver noticed someone pointing a gun out of a window on the back of his bus. This was a bus with about 50 Cherokee Middle School students on board. They were going home from school. The driver also indicated he had been shot in the back of the head with a BB. This caused no injury. Officers were able to find a Smith & Wesson black plastic BB/pellet gun & a container of BBs in a backpack. The 13 year old listed above admitted the backpack was his and he had fired the weapon. A friend of his was arrested for disorderly conduct after he threatened to harm other students. He believed one of those students had “snitched.”

Madison Police Chief Hears About West Side Crime

Brittany Schoepp: Children seeing people run from police through their backyard, waking up to the sound of a gunshots, watching drug deals. These were some of the scenes described by West and Southwest Side residents as hundreds of them turned out Wednesday to voice their concerns about crime in their neighborhoods at a meeting with … Continue reading Madison Police Chief Hears About West Side Crime

3/5/2007 Madison School Board Candidate Forum: West High School

The Madison West High School PTSO held a school board candidate forum Monday night. Topics included: Madison High School Comparison A candidate’s ability to listen, interact and work successfully with other board members Past and future referenda support Candidate views on the $333M+ budget for our 24,000 students Extensive conversations on the part of Marj … Continue reading 3/5/2007 Madison School Board Candidate Forum: West High School

Name Madison’s New Far West Side Elementary School

Madison Metropolitan School District: The Madison Metropolitan School District is seeking suggestions for the name of the new school in the Linden Park area. Anyone can submit a name for consideration by completing a form that’s available from the district, and submitting it by 4 p.m. on February 23rd, 2007. “We encourage community members and … Continue reading Name Madison’s New Far West Side Elementary School

A New School on Madison’s Far West Side: A Long Term Perspective

On November 7, Madison area residents will be asked to vote on a referendum concerning our local schools. While the referendum has three parts, this paper will focus on the first part – the construction of a new school on the far west side, representing over 75% of the total cost of the referendum. This … Continue reading A New School on Madison’s Far West Side: A Long Term Perspective