School Information System
Newsletter Sign Up | Send Ideas | Directory | | Sponsorships

February 28, 2005

Thoughts and Comments on MMSD School Fees Report

Last year, Bruce Kahn (parent) and I made a presentation to the School Board, meant as a supplement to the district administration's report on school fees. We asked several questions and made several recommendations for School Board consideration, which we still feel need to be considered. Currently, fees are put in at the last minute in the budget process. No one "likes" fees, but discussion is needed before they are put into place.

Parents and the Community Need Complete Information & Big Picture

Why are there school fees today?
What are the costs of Extra-Curricular activities?
How do Extra-Curricular costs compare to instructional costs?
What happens when fees don�t cover costs?
What are some suggestions for your consideration?

Next Steps - Needed But Not Being Taken

Identify what is at risk.
Develop an equitable funding plan � operating funds, fees, fundraising, partnering/sponsorships, etc., where feasible and legal to do so.
What can the District afford to pay - what other funding sources/strategies are possible.
Form groups - task forces to move forward.
Begin meaningful discussions now. Parents, kids and the community can�t wait year after year for in depth discussions to begin.
hearings or surveys will not get the job done.

Download Thoughts and Comments on MMSD School Fees Report

Posted by at 10:05 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

No Child Left Behind --The Football Version

From a post on the atrios website:
No Child Left Behind - Football Version

1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held
2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.
3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in
football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don't like football.
4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th and 11th games.
5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

Posted by at 3:52 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School-Funding Update

Reform advocates need to take action ... now!
In school, money really does matter
Support for TABOR in Wisconsin is questionable

School-funding reform calendar
The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan -- a proposal for school-finance reform -- is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.Download School Funding Reform Update

Posted by at 3:39 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Ford Foundation K-12 Links (Winter Report)

Several interesting items from the Ford Foundation's Winter 2005 K-12 Report:

  • Dallas public schools are boosting student achievement by integrating arts into the curriculum.
  • In West Virginia and across the country, rural communities are fighting the supersizing of public schools.
  • BOOK REVIEW: School Champion
    A consensus has grown over the last 20 years that for sustainable school reform to occur, the public?not just parents?must be engaged, as instigators of change and as watchdogs to ensure that reforms are put into practice.
Another interesting link: The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is a statewide education advocacy organization. We work to improve education for all Kentuckians.

Posted by Lucy Mathiak at 1:59 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


Believe it or not, I am a pretty regular reader of the schoolinforsystems website. I find it to be an excellent opportunity to read about other viewpoints and opinions that I don’t hear about in newspapers, radio, television and other media outlets. While I don’t always agree with “everything” that a prospective writer is saying, I do respect their point of view. At times the commentary makes me “think a little harder” or perhaps look at a situation “a little differently.” Maybe it makes me think more “outside the box.” However, I do want to caution that posting on the website should not detract from developing the relationships needed to have further discussion with the elected school board members. It also should not be used to circumvent the democratic processes.

Last spring, website developer Jim Zellmer reached out to me as a candidate for Madison school board. I was very impressed by him, his wife and children. His efforts allowed others who might not have known about me, to have this opportunity. Mr. Zellmer is truly a professional. His hard work and efforts are much appreciated by me. Even if a majority of people posting on the website are critical of the school district, I don’t believe it is a reflection of how a writer feels about education. I believe we can all agree on how education is important to our students and to our community. I don’t take the commentary personally just like I don’t take the voting outcomes personally from my colleagues. I have much respect for them, too. But just so you know, I don’t always agree with them either!

School board members are elected by the community to represent their views and interests. With seven elected members, it is conceivable that the each member can have their own views and interests. Can the Madison Metropolitan School District go in seven different directions? No! No matter how hard we try! This is why it’s so important to build the relationships necessary with other board members because when it comes down to it, four board members (or a majority) will make a decision. The majority is not always the same people, either. It changes by the topic or agenda item. When discussing particular issues, a motion needs a second. A second is followed by discussion. Like it or not, this is the democratic process used by the school board and many other committees and legislative bodies.

In closing, I want to say to those who might be critical of the school district – keep posting and I’ll keep reading. This school board member might agree with you and I might not. I respect your rights but please don’t let your “posts” become the only discussion. Board meetings are every Monday night and open to the public. You are more than welcome to come to share your views with the entire board and administration. But remember board meetings will not become discussions or debates. School board members can discuss all night long but eventually one of the elected officials is “going to call the question.” That’s what you elect us to do. I look forward to working with you.

Johnny Winston, Jr.
Member of the Board of Education
Chair of the Partnership Committee

Posted by Johnny Winston, Jr. at 1:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How Can Parents Be Assured that the MMSD Budget Process Reflects Their Educational Priorities?

Two years ago in February Jane Doughty, MMSD parent and I asked the School Board questions regarding the budget process and we made some suggestions. Some changes have been made, but I think we are still missing: a) budget before budget cuts, b) discussion among board members about allocation of scarce resources, c) dialogue with the community early in the process so that your key stakeholders have a clear understanding of the issues, to name a few
You may still find the following information useful as you think about the budget.

Will the School Board:

A. Develop a clearly detailed, publicly accessible budget process - When?

B. Separate policy and budget issues - How?

C. Involve the public throughout the budget process � How and When?

Suggestions Made to the School Board in January 2003

Work With Representatives From Key Parent / Public Groups To Organize Communication with Public.

Publish Finalized Budget Goals and Objectives, Criteria, Tasks, Timelines For The Full Board & Its Committees � Backpack Mail, MMSD Website.

Make Corrections to Virchow / Krause Document (Other Documents) Prior To Use in Budget Process.

Use A Variety Of Tools That Can Gather Meaningful Input In a Timely Manner � Focus Groups, Public Workshops.

Download How Can Parents Be Assured that the MMSD Budget Reflects Their Priorities

comment section open

Posted by at 12:36 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School Budget - Here we go AGAIN?!

What to Look for in the Next Few Weeks? Based upon the single macro-forecast of a revenue gap of $8+ million, School Board members were told a list of budget cuts would be presented to the School Board on March 7th. Without benefit of a budget, the School Board will hold public hearings, not meetings, where parents/public have an opportunity to comment on the proposed cuts.

At no time can the public have meaningful comment on the overall budget by department or the allocation of next year's revenue. Why? This information will not be presented to the School Board until May 2005, and there is only one hearing scheduled after this date. Because the cuts are distributed on March 3rd, the public will only be focusing on the cuts and not the overall budget, budget priorities, etc. This approach takes advantage of parent's wanting to protect their child's education first. Since parents are in panic mode, they cannot clearly see the bigger picture and often feel as if they are being held hostage without any alternatives or a chance to pursue/discuss alternatives.

What's Driving this Timeline? The Superintendent has said in the past that the data are not available and that the teachers' contract is another the main driver for the timeline. The teacher's contract includes dates for notices for surplus and layoff. The teacher's contract says nothing about the School Board's budget decisionmaking process. Surplus notices are not due until July 1. Layoff notices are due 10 days before the end of the school year. If the School Board had a policy directive to the Superintendent of no teacher layoffs, as they implicitly do with Administrators, the backend timeline would not be as tight. This is apparently not the case - existing teachers can be laid off but not existing administrators. Even though the amount of administrators is smaller than teachers, the policy is not equitable across all employee groups. The Superintendent says licenses requirements differ, etc. This is noise - there is no equitable policy in place.

What have I observed? a) The public is not engaged at the start of the budget process. It's February 28th and tonight the Board is taking up the discussions of communications with the PTOs. What?

Parents are only "scared into paying attention" when the cut list comes out, because we don't pay attention the rest of the year. I see no backpack mail from the board to parents on the budget, next steps, what the board wants to hear from parents, etc.

Our ideas and comments are not solicited in meaningful ways or forums. That would have had to take place in the fall.

b) Allocation of new revenues is not discussed. A brief analysis done last fall for the Board said this would mean cuts to deep to non-instruction if all dollars were allocated to instruction as a first priority. End of discussion. A next step for the School Board would have been to come back with more specific impacts and to develop a dialog with the community and an iterative process that would put the School Board more in a leadership position with the direction of the budget - something that does not exist with the existing decisionmaking process.

What am I missing, and why is there only once choice? If I was reviewing my home budget, and I felt I could manage the cuts in my budget, I would think this current board budget decisionmaking process is just fine. My husband and daughter might complain about the changes but not for long.

If I looked at my home budget and saw I could't buy all the food I needed or medicine or pay my mortgage, I would be in rapid action mode. As soon as I had an idea this was my budget problem, I would be doing something and fast. I wonder why our Superintendent, who says the district is facing this type of financial crunch, isn't more actively using his school board and getting the public on board beginning last July.

Explicit budget details are not needed to have public discussions about the annual budget, financial planning, priorities, allocation of scarce resources and different models of funding children's services that Madison values.

Yes, the feds and state are not holding up their end of the bargain - now, what are we going to do about this. Referendums are only one option, but more are needed - we are here again with only one option being presented as viable - oh yes, or cut educational services.

Posted by at 10:55 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

MMSD Budget - Parents Suggestions Over Time

Parent Presentations on the District's Budget Decisionmaking Process: Since Spring 2002, other parents and I have spoken to the School Board on a number of issues related to the District's budget decisionmaking promise. We often presented this information in a power point presentation in an easy-to-read and understand format. I'm now in the process of pulling together this information and will be uploading those previous presentations to the school board.

Information Contained in the Presentations:
Much of the information presented to the School Board is still relevant today. Topics include: a) How Can Parents be Assured that the Budget Process is Meeting our Educational Needs? b) Questions to Consider when Discussing Fees c) What are the Revenue Cap and QEO?

Importance of Sharing this Information Now:
We are entering the School Board's active period with the school budget - cuts affecting children are made known even if the budget is not made known until much later. The budget timeline is the same and the decisionmaking process is the same as it has been for the past several years. The Superintendent's recommended budget cuts will be presented on March 7th. School Board members say this is only the start of the process and that they want to hear from the community. In reality, very little changes from the time the budget cuts are presented until the Board approves the Budget sometime in June 2005.

Stay tuned.....

Posted by at 9:47 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 27, 2005


Hello, my name is Ben Moga and I'm running for Alder in District 5. I met with the school information system group today at Jim's house and think it is an excellent organization. Real topics are discussed, the people are genuinely interested, and it serves as a great way to communicate. I see education as a top priority not just locally or nationally, but for the whole world.

I'm working on a project that is meant to address the issue of overweight children. It has become a topic even at the federal level and I'm working to get Badger Athletes out to elementary schools in coordination with the City's Fitness Initiative. Anyone interested can check out the project and its progress on my blog orientated website.

I am definitely interested in addressing the educational issues that will face not only my district, but that of the whole city. Any comments you have will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by at 11:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Bill Gates: US High Schools Obsolete

Bill Gates:

he most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who has put more than $700 million into reducing the size of high school classes through the foundation formed by him and his wife, Melinda. He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college, with classes that are rigorous and relevant to kids and with supportive relationships for children.

"America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they're working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

I am no fan of Bill Gates. [Slashdot discussion] He does, however raise some useful points, including the biggest obstacle: political will.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:49 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Maintenance Referendum Hearing - Video Clip

Watch a recent Madison School Board Maintenance Referendum Hearing (video). Don Severson, Roger Price, Art Rainwater and others discuss the planned maintenance referendum.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:31 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School Board Candidate Site Update

Larry Winkler's video interview (and audio mp3) file are now available on the candidate site. Please note that I've heard nothing from incumbent Bill Clingan regarding a video interview or the posting of candidate Q & A documents.

I've also posted campaign finance information from the candidate's January 31, 2005 filings. Here are the numbers:

  • Incumbent Carol Carstensen raised $3,189.00
  • Incumbent Bill Clingan reported $1,085 on hand
  • Lawrie Kobza raised $665.00
  • Larry Winkler raised $100.00

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:39 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 26, 2005

Ford Foundation Funding Arts Infused Education - Supporting Partnerships

The Ford Foundation is one organization that is investing in efforts to integrate the arts into classroom instruction in urban schools. Read Ford Foundation: Deep In the Arts of Texas .

Madison Schools have a fine arts curriculum with standards and benchmarks in place. In addition to fine arts curricula, Madison's public school children attend performances and there are artists-in-residences, for example. Many of these relationships were nurtured by the district's fine arts coordinator, a position that has been vacant for nearly 9 months. Two arts issues require immediate attention:

  • First: Last fall, the District's fine arts teachers asked that the Fine Arts Coordinator be reinstated (which the school board voted to do). These same teachers also asked for personnel to be hired that could help them out in the interim, which has not been done. This has left a void in the district's relationship with the community's arts organizations. The Fine Arts Coordinator had served on many local committees and boards to foster the relationship between the District and the community's arts organizations. We need to get back on track with these relationships. This is an important first step.

  • Second: As a next step, I would like to see a collaborative effort form among the City, University, community arts organizations and the MMSD to explore models for strengthening an arts infused education that further supports learning in the classroom - and raises children's test scores, especially for low income and minority children. Test scores from various parts of the country are showing the positive links between arts and test scores.

Posted by at 11:45 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School Spending

The National Center for Education Statistics has released national K-12 student expenditure data per state. The national average is $7,734, of which $4,755 goes for instruction.

The Madison School District spends north of $12.9K (24,430 students in 2004/2005 per Roger Price's recent budget presentation) per student per year. We'll hear a great deal about the district's 2005/2006 budget over the next few months. Regardless of referendums or new federal/state aids, the district budget will go up, from 316.8M in 2004/2005 to perhaps 327.7M in 2005/2006 (again, according to Price's presentation). Via Joanne Jacobs.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:17 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

My Views of the Proposed Leopold Expansion

On March 28, the Madison School Board will cast the final vote on the proposed referendum for $14.5M to build a second school on the Leopold Elementary School site. The proposed "paired" school will open its doors to students in September of 2007 and will house up to 550 Kindergarten through second grade students and another 550 third through fifth grade students. If the Leopold community's current population mix holds, a school of 1100 or more will include 275 (25%) students for whom English is a second language and 121 (11%) who have Special Educational needs. Over half of the students will come from low income homes. Unlike other Madison paired schools that are on different sites, Leopold's buildings will be on the same grounds and will be physically linked in an L-shape. Students from both schools will share lunch rooms and playground facilities. Students will have separate entrances, but will share buses to and from school.

My duty as a board member is to weigh the pros and cons of this recommendation from the administration. Although I see why current Leopold parents expect great positives from the new building, I believe that these are short-term gains for the school and community and that the negatives of creating an extremely large elementary school may outweigh the short-term advantages. I am particularly concerned that the short-term relief for overcrowding will be undermined when the building reaches full capacity and houses two schools, each of which is far bigger than any K-2 or 3-5 school today. It is my responsibility to ask whether we have the experience to make such a joint school work and what additional resources will be required to assure student success under such conditions.

In the short-term, the proposal meets some, but not all, of the needs of Leopold's current students. It would end the overcrowding. Because it would open at 75% of capacity, the students at the school in 2007 would have small classes in an over-sized facility. On the other hand, the school could not open until the fall of 2007. In the interim there must be a plan to control enrollment size through such means as freezing enrollment, sending grades to other schools or changing school boundaries. So far the Board has not seen the interim plan.

In the long-term, it is difficult to imagine ways in which a very large paired school offers new educational benefits to our children, but easy to list the problems that likely will arise from turning away from our goal of keeping schools small. Madison's standard is consistent with national trends for school size which prefer small over large schools. Research and our experience link smaller schools with higher academic achievement (especially for low income children), more engagement in school activities by students and families, and less truancy, discipline problems and need for Special Education services.

The Madison school district has remained true to this standard, even during difficult economic times. Currently, our largest elementary school--after Leopold-is Chavez School. Enrollment there is capped at 650. The biggest paired school is Franklin-Randall at 716 students. Even our largest middle school, Hamilton, has only 705 students. At the middle and high schools, we are working hard to break the schools into "smaller learning communities". Nationally, millions and millions of dollars are going into reducing the size of schools at all grade levels for the sake of improving the academic achievement of low income and minority students.

I greatly regret that I underestimated the need to focus on the educational dimension of the question before us from the very beginning. I realize that it is late in the game to raise such questions. However, I learned a painful lesson when I did not question or oppose the Board's decision to go ahead with construction of Chavez Elementary School, despite our doubts about the general contractor for the project. The scenario was similar. We had overcrowding problems on the west side and urgently needed a solution. We voted yes to move the project ahead. The result was a poor construction job and a new school that opened and, within a few months, closed again due to serious problems. Despite our good intentions, our rush to resolve one problem created a new problem and disrupted the children, families and staff of seven schools for most of a school year.

Although my thinking disappoints proponents of a new building, I do not believe that I will have fulfilled my responsibilities if I fail to raise the issue. It is possible that the current proposal for an 1100 student school will prove to be educationally sound. However, it is my goal to avoid creating additional problems for the Leopold community by thoroughly discussing plans before, rather than after, they are implemented.

This chart is based on the student enrollment data for the Madison Metropolitan School District after the 3rd Friday in September of 2004. All paired schools except the proposed new Leopold School are located on different sites.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 12:05 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More Leopold Expansion Discussion

The proposed Leopold Expansion discussion continues:

  • Visiting with some Leopold Parents at a recent event, a number of points were discussed:
    • Parking is currently a problem and will be worse as the school expands.
    • "We keep taking away their playground space. Where are all of the children going to play? They need space to run around."
    • "Why can't Madison build a school in Fitchburg (ie, closer to where all the homes are going in)? Verona has - Stoner Prairie, in Fitchburg [Map illustrating Leopold & Stoner Prairie]. Many homes are as far from Verona shools (in Fitchburg) as they are from Leopold."
    • "Where are all of these children going to go after Leopold?" "Will they be bused over to a Memorial/Middle School combination?"
    • "I'm concerned about the (proposed) shared library and cafeteria. Will they be adequately staffed for a school this size? The previous addition did not address the lunch room and library needs.
    • "I don't want to pay any more taxes, it seems like every year we have a budget crisis but my taxes continue to go up. Couldn't they plan better?"
  • Arlene Silviera is puzzled about Ruth Robarts recent questions regarding the size of the proposed Leopold school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 25, 2005

Blog is good for democratic decision-making

I'm volunteering with a conservation group in Mexico, so I don't have a lot of time to write a post. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to take a few minutes to respond to (Madson School Board Member) Juan Lopez who said of, "I think this kind of forum is destructive." See the story in the Wisconsin State Journal

I respectfully disagree.

A healthy democracy requires healthy debate. The tradition dates back to the Roman forums where citizens debated freely, and support for the necessity of public debate runs through the writing of our country's founders and our constitution.

Mr. Lopez and other board members might sense an unusual flurry of spirited commentary on this forum, because the board may not have provided a forum for the honest exchange of ideas. Suddenly, this blog provides the opportunity. Granted, the board holds public hearings, but they are rarely discussions. Instead, people speak and the board listens. It is most unusual from my experience when the board engages the speaker in a real discussion.

I encourage Mr. Lopez and the other members of the board to debate issues vigorously at board meetings, as well as post on this blog, which represents the best of what democracy offers for free and open debate.

Ulimately, the exchange of ideas on any pending school district decison will produce a better outcome than a decision without debate.

Ed Blume

The comments section is open on this post. Please feel free to agree or disagree. I welcome any comments.

Posted by Ed Blume at 4:56 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 24, 2005

Kobza on New Westside School

Sherman Middle School PTO President and Madison School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza on a new westside school. Kobza's website.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 23, 2005

Board Governance Lacking - No Timely Information on Taser Incident From Board President to Public: Chooses to Attack Robarts

Bill Keys, President of the MMSD School Board, chose to attack Ruth Robarts today in The Capital Times saying she was not the first board member to be concerned about the taser incident. Bill Keys' letter seems to be unnecessarily spiteful and misses the point that was raised in The Capital Times' editorial on February 15, 2005 . The editorial ended:

"Robarts is asking questions that need to be asked. And she is doing so in a thoughtful, forward-looking manner that invites the rest of the board and the community to join in a debate that needs to take place."

There was no criticism of the School Board - just praise for raising questions publicly, which is what the School Board needs to do in a situation where children's safety is an issue. The taser incident happened at Memorial High School on January 21, 2005. The incident was first reported in The Wisconsin State Journal on January 31, 2005, 10 days after the incident took place. In that article, Ruth Robarts commented that:

"School Board member Ruth Robarts said she was concerned that she didn't hear about the incident until a reporter's phone call." I find this incredible that she would hear about an issue such as this nearly 10 days after it happened from the press.

In that same article "Member Bill Clingan said it's appropriate that police authority trumps the school's, and that the incident is a police issue. But as an individual, he doesn't like to hear that a youth was subdued with a Taser."

What's missing - board governance. Neither Bill Keys, as president of the School Board, nor Bill Clingan, as vice president of the school board, did not appear to notify their colleagues about the incident in a timely manner; because, as it turns out, it's not clear from public documents when they learned of the incident. How can that be? I would expect the first question Bill Keys might ask Superintendent Rainwater is: Why wasn't the Board notified of this incident (at least before board members were contacted by the press) and what steps are you taking?

However, after learning about the incident, our School Board officers did not put the incident on a school board special session agenda so that they could 1) hear a public update about the incident from the Superintendent and what he was doing (such as, hiring an outside attorney to undertake an investigation), 2) provide the community with information about the incident that could be presented publicly and 3) have a public board discussion about next steps and what, if any, additional direction from the board to the Superintendent was needed. As an alternative, either school board officer could have written a letter to the paper about what the school board was doing to address the issue, complementing the questions raised by Ruth Robarts and letting the community know that this issue was of great concern to the board and that other board members were equally concerned as Ms. Robarts and were asking similar questions.

Instead, the public heard nothing from the school board president or vice president about an issue of importance to them (student safety) and what the school board would be doing. Rather than taking the opportunity to keep us updated, Mr. Keys decided more than one month after the taser incident to attack his colleague rather than thanking her for what she said, letting the public know what other board members were doing, and updating the public about what steps would be taken.

Posted by at 5:46 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


�This is part of democracy�
School board critics throw their support behind challengers

Jason Shepard wrote about the challengers in the upcoming April 5th school board race in the Isthmus on Thursday, February 10, 2005:

Download file with Jason's article

Posted by at 5:25 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Rainwater pushes a new school: He's told to prepare a contingency plan

Lee Sensenbrenner writing in The Capital Times on February 22, 2005:

"You're manipulating my vote," said Mary Kay Battaglia, who has children at Crestwood Elementary and Jefferson Middle School. "You're giving me a choice to move my child and 1,100 others or to vote for a referendum I don't think is necessary."...

...Board member Bill Clingan said that the board was neither efficient nor intelligent enough to be manipulative...

Posted by at 1:18 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Keys: Robarts Late on School Cop Discussion

Madison School Board President Bill Keys letter to the editor. Here's the editorial Bill Keys refers to in his letter.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:06 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More on Boundaries & Leopold Expansion

Lee Sensenbrenner and Sandy Cullen on Monday's Madison School Board Long Range Planning Meeting.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 22, 2005

Kobza on the Proposed Boundary Changes

I'd like to see more of this - candidates and board members blogging. Candidate Lawrie Kobza on the Administration's proposed boundary changes. [Disclaimer: I have offered to help all four Madison School Board Candidates with their internet activities. Three of the four have responded to varying degrees]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:39 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Truth-in-Advertising: The Proposed Paired Leopold School is a HUGE Elementary School

On February 21, the district administration presented its recommendations for resolving overcrowding problems at Leopold Elementary School and accommodating children from new and future housing developments on the west side of Madison to the Long Range Planning Committee.

During the discussion, I questioned the educational merit of creating a paired K-5 elementary school on the Leopold grounds that will house 1100 students. If the voters approve the proposed May referendum to spend $14.5M to construct a new school at the Leopold site, the school will hold 1100 students in two buildings joined in an L-shape.

Superintendent Art Rainwater dismissed my concern. According to the superintendent, the enrollment number for the proposed pair is a non-issue. The superintendent assured us that �you can find research that supports any size of elementary school from 250 to 650 students�. In other words, there is no optimal size for an elementary school. He pointed to current Madison K-5 schools as a standard.

Joining in, Board President Bill Keys told me that the �beauty� of the Leopold recommendation is that the proposed K-2 and 3-5 schools are �completely separate schools�. Like the superintendent, he saw no difference between a K-5 school with 500-600 students and the proposed k-5 with 1100 students.

I see a big difference. The proposed paired Leopold School is not an elementary school of 650 students. The school will enroll 550 students in kindergarten through second grade and another 550 students in third through fifth grades. MMSD currently does not have any elementary schools with 550 students below third grade level. One of the important educational questions before the Board in evaluating the May referendum proposal is whether we should create an elementary school of this size.

Simply put, a K-5 school with 550 students is a smaller school at each grade level than a paired K-5 with 1100 students. In the K-5 school, a kindergarten child is one of fifteen children in his/her class and one of 90 kindergarteners in the school. There are six kindergarten classes. In contrast, at the proposed Leopold School, a kindergarten child is one of fifteen in a class, but one of 200 kindergarteners in the school. There are 12 kindergarten classes in the school. The same is true for first and second grade students if the district continues to offer small �SAGE� classes in schools with large numbers of low income students. There are at least 12 classes at each grade level.

Currently, the administration recommends that the Board add an assistant principal at elementary schools with more than 500 students. The reason is that the larger number of students and staff create management problems beyond what one principal can handle. Why would we not have the same kind of management problems at the proposed paired Leopold School? Would two more assistant principals solve all of the likely problems? Why is 1100 students suddenly a desirable size for an elementary school? Is this the size school that parents want for their primary grade students or for their third, fourth and fifth graders?

Parents have asked me these questions and I have asked the administration. So far, I don�t think that we have satisfactory answers.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 6:24 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 21, 2005

Madison Times report on Donna Ford's visit

The February 18-24 issue of The Madison Times has a front page article on Donna Ford's recent visit to Madison by Laura Salinger.

Talented and Gifted program boosts student achievement
by Laura Salinger

Closing the achievement gap remains a hot topic in education these days. While statistics suggest that Black and Hispanic students are narrowing the academic-achievement gap that separates them from White and Asian students, the problem persists in schools nationwide.

An equally troubling problem is the small number of students of color in Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs. Along with other schools nationwide, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is struggling to increase minority representation in TAG programming.

"We know that our numbers are typical of what we are seeing nationwide," TAG program coordinator Welda Simousek said. "We have [fewer] minorities represented than we would like."

Simousek estimates that only 1-2 percent of students participating in MMSD TAG programs are students of color. It is a problem that the TAG department is addressing by working with students, parents, and other MMSD departments.

The TAG parent group, with support from MMSD�s Parent Community Relations Department, West High School, UW-Madison Counseling and Psychology, and American Family Insurance, recently invited Vanderbilt University professor Dr. Donna Ford to speak to parents and educators. A well-known expert on recruitment and retention of minority children in gifted programs, Ford discussed what can be done to increase minority participation in TAG programs.

Dr. Ford knows firsthand the effects that poverty and race have on education. She is a minority who was raised by a single mother in an economically disadvantaged family. These are among some of the biggest factors that increase risk for student underachievement.

"We grew up in a very economically disadvantaged community in east Cleveland," Ford said. "Basically, I grew up in poverty. I grew up with a mother who didn�t have a college degree. I grew up without my father."

But, Ford had one thing in her favor. Her mother was a strong advocate for education. Rather than buying shoes for her kids, Ford�s mother bought books. Rather than watching TV and playing video games, the children were expected to read and study diligently.

"She knew that the best way for us to be successful was to keep our focus on school," Ford said. "My mother demanded respect and we feared that."

Ford went on to earn her Ph.D. in Urban Education before turning 30. She also has a Masters of Education degree in counseling and a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and Spanish. Her work has been recognized by numerous professional organizations, including an Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association and the Esteemed Scholarship Award from the National Association of Black Psychologists. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including Reversing Underachievement Among Gifted Black Students and Multicultural Gifted Education.

Ford�s mission is to increase minority participation in gifted programs.

"African American and Hispanic students are underrepresented by 50 percent in gifted programs," Ford said. "I am determined that before I leave this place, I am going to desegregate gifted education."

Dr. Ford attributes the low number of minorities in TAG programs to a variety of factors, including the quality of schools and teachers, peer pressure, home environment, and psychological makeup. Standardized testing can also be an unfair and biased measure of intelligence, she said, considering that most tests are written by middle-class White people.

Other factors leading to underachievement include culturally incompetent teachers who simply don�t know how to teach a multicultural classroom and teachers who place low expectations on minority students.

Teachers who are quick to refer minority students to special education, Ford said, may be too slow in recommending minority students for gifted programs.

Peer pressure also plays an important role in minority-student achievement. When minority students are identified as gifted, their peers may accuse them of �acting White,� Ford said. Parents can be the biggest influence in fighting peer pressure.

"Parent involvement is essential at home and in school," Ford said. "Parent involvement is being consistent, being a role model, and investing in your children�s education."

Minority students also need to be comfortable in the skin they are in. Ford said this is often not the case.

"Children who have high self-esteem do well in school," Ford said. "If children don�t like the skin they�re in, then these students are not going to do well. I�m really concerned that too many students of color are not comfortable being who they are racially."

Ford stressed over and over the importance of parent involvement and/or adult role modeling for students of color.

"We have to encourage children to like school, to challenge themselves, and to learn from their mistakes," she said.

In Madison, the achievement gap has received plenty of attention, but little attention has been paid to the potential that minorities are overlooked for TAG programs. Simousek says that MMSD utilizes a unique model for identifying gifted students. Rather than solely using teacher referrals and test scores, as many school districts do, TAG resource teachers spend time in classrooms to seek out additional gifted students who are not referred. When a student is being evaluated for TAG programming, the whole class is then evaluated in search for other gifted students.

TAG has also implemented a pilot program in several middle schools, in hopes of increasing minority participation.

"We have met with minority students and tried to make them aware of programs that are out there," Simousek said. "We are also working to increase awareness among parents."

Simousek stressed the importance that TAG reach all students who could benefit from TAG programming.

"We�ve lost something that we can�t get back when we�ve lost a child�s potential," she said.

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 10:41 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Crackers - a For Profit Version of NYC's Yellow Gates

Leave it to New Yorkers to leave no sacred cows. Read on and enjoy the picture -

Gift to the City � is it Art or for the Birds? "The Crackers" is as much a public happening as it is a tasty snack, defying the domino theory. Peanut butter or cheddar cheese. They poured their hearts and souls into the project for over 26 minutes. It required three dozen crackers and spanned over nearly 23 inches along a footbridge in the park at a cost (borne exclusively by the artists) of $2.50. Is it art? You decide. The installation was completed with no permits or bureaucracy, and fed to the ducks after about a half hour. "The Crackers" is entirely for profit

View "The Crackers" and brighten your day

Posted by at 3:09 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

March 1 UW Workshop on Math Instruction

UW Communications:

From University Communications

Workshop focuses on using algebra to teach arithmetic
(Posted: 2/21/2005)

Helping grade-schoolers make the difficult transition from arithmetic to algebra is the goal of a one-day workshop on Tuesday, March 1.

"Thinking Mathematically: Teaching Elementary Students to Use Algebraic Reasoning to Support the Learning of Arithmetic," sponsored by the Office of Education Outreach, will be held at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

The aim of the workshop is to increase teachers' understanding of how the fundamental principles imbedded in arithmetic can provide a foundation for learning arithmetic with understanding as well as learning algebra.

The session, which runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., will be led by Annie Keith, a teacher in the Madison Metropolitan School District and a member of the Cognitively Guided Instruction research project at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), and Linda Levi, associate researcher at WCER.

Participants will learn about research that demonstrates how the principles of algebra apply to the learning of arithmetic. Keith and Levi also will discuss how to teach arithmetic so that the concepts and skills that students learn in elementary school are better aligned with the concepts and skills that they need in order to learn algebra.

Ensuring the individual applicability of the program, participants will be asked to pose certain problems to their students before the workshop and bring to the workshop information about how their students solved the problems.

Cost for the session is $135 and participants will be awarded 0.6 continuing education units for attendance. This workshop addresses Wisconsin Teacher Standards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8.

For more information, contact Julie Seaborg, Office of Education Outreach, at (608) 263-5140 or visit the Office of Education Outreach's Web page.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:46 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

MMSD's Kurt Keifer on the Administration's Boundary Plans

Kurt Kiefer via email:

I'm writing in response to your questions from last week re: boundary change options. Tim Potter, research analyst on my staff who is handling all of the GIS work on the project, provided the details.

a) Leopold at 1040 students. I seem to recall the original plan was 800? (it's now much less than that) Is this correct?

We are not sure how the 1040 figure is derived. Leopold with current boundaries is projected to have 750 students by 2010. Since the new developments are all within the Leopold attendance boundary they are incorporated in that projection. The McGaw Park development, for which there is no plat yet created, would not be included in the projection. Capacity at the Leopold site WITH a new school would be 1120. Students in Leopold in the various modules ranges from 582 to 875.

b) What are the implications of that growth on cherokee and west?

Depending on which plan you are referring to, yes, there could be an impact on Cherokee and West. Cherokee is currently projected to reach 100% capacity in 2010. The two new, platted developments (i.e., Swan Creek and Oak Meadow) are already in the Leopold attendance area so they are already in the projections. Thoreau already feeds into Cherokee and West so the return of those areas to Leopold would not have an impact at middle/high. The return of the area from Chavez could have an impact. On 3rd Friday, there were 31 and 33 middle high students in this area. On 3rd Friday, 21 of the middle school students were enrolled at Toki and 5 at Cherokee. Of the 33 high school students in this area, 11 attend West and 18 attend Memorial. Capacities at Cherokee and West are 648 and 2173 students, respectively.

c) What about Wright Middle School?

Wright is listed with a capacity of 324 and currently they have 207 students. Wright could alleviate any problems at Cherokee that might be caused by new developments.

d) Some wondered why Velma Hamilton was not affected by any of the

Any changes being made to the elementary schools which feed Hamilton would affect the latter. None of the plans affect Franklin, Randall, Shorewood Hills or Van Hise Elementary Schools. These schools are not experiencing significant changes in enrollments due to changing housing patterns or developments.

Let us know if you have any further questions.

Kurt Kiefer
Madison Metropolitan School District
Planning/Research & Evaluation
kkiefer at

Big props to the very active Kiefer's - Kurt's better half Jone' is an excellent elementary school teacher while son Oliver is the student representative on the Board of Education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 20, 2005

Question for Ruth Robarts: Better fallback plan required, or new building?

Thanks, Ms. Robarts, for calling attention to the problems with MMSD's fallback proposal for boundary changes on the west side, if a referendum to build a new elementary school should fail. You point out that under the fallback plan, too many kids would be coming and going from some schools, and that the boundary changes would disproportinately affect certain schools on the west side.

Do you know if anyone has come up with a better proposal to handle west side growth, in the event we can't build a new school?

I studied MMSD's posted proposals on the web site and came away with the impression that the administration couldn't figure out a way to make room in the west side elementaries to cover 2010 projections without either building a new school or reshuffling a lot of kids around now. It was my sense that they were trying for a solution that would preclude the need for new boundaries, at least for 5 years.

It did also cross my mind that maybe on purpose they're making all the alternatives to building a new school look bad.

If this is the case, I would think someone should be able to propose a better fallback plan. Do you know if anyone has? In other words, in objecting to the administration's fallback proposal, are you saying we need a better fallback plan (and that you know of one), or that we'd better pass a building referendum?

Thanks for any help with this, and also for your alert.

Posted by Bill Herman at 9:50 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why I Oppose the Administration's Recommendation for School Boundary Changes if the Leopold School Referendum Fails

On Monday, February 21, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board will hear the administration�s explanation of five options for reducing overcrowding at Leopold School and providing seats for students from new housing developments on the west and southwest side of the district. Last Monday, after I asked the administration to withdraw options that it will not recommend, a set of nine options dropped to five. Of the remaining five options, the administration recommends only two choices. Option A (3A2 PDF) depends on passage of a referendum to build a second school building on the Leopold grounds. Option B (3D1 PDF) assumes that the referendum fails. Madison Schools Boundary Change web page.

I cannot support Option B, the fallback option in the event that the proposed Leopold referendum fails. There are important but unanswered questions about how the proposed school boundary changes would affect the middle and high schools on the west side. However, more compelling to me is that this option moves 1137 students to new elementary schools, including 516 low income students, and moves them in a way that will excessively disrupt many of the eleven affected schools.

It is difficult to measure the disruption to a school of students moving both in and out of the attendance area. Net changes in the school enrollments do not capture the impact of moving students in both directions.

For example, the current enrollment of Stephens Elementary School is 444 students. Option B moves 214 students to new schools. At this point only 230 ( 51%) of the current students remain at Stephens. Then Option B adds 100 new students from other schools and the enrollment rises to 330. The net change looks small�90 additional students. However, 314 students have changed schools to make this adjustment. My approach gives Stephens a disruption rate of about 71%.

My chart compares the total number of students moved in and out of ten elementary schools on the west side to the current enrollments of those schools. I use the resulting percentage as a rough measure of disruption to the school. This approach demonstrates that the net change in students may be small, but the number of students changing schools is very large in proportion to the current size of the school in Option B. It is only a rough measure. However, the chart directs attention away from what appear to be minimal net enrollment changes to the impacts that families and schools will experience when coping with moves of students in and out of the same schools.

Option B also has an important impact on one east side school. It moves 120 students from Midvale-Lincoln School to Glendale Elementary School. Glendale School enrollment would increase from 267 to 387, a 45% increase in students in one year.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 2:02 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Roger Price Budget Presentation

Roger Price, the Madison School District's Assistant Superintendent for Business Services presented a look at the upcoming year's district budget last Monday night (2.14.2005). Roger forwarded his powerpoint slides (260K pdf) and an excel spreadsheet on tax levies from 1993 to 2005 that he used in his presentation. You can view the presentation (or listen to an audio mp3 file) here.

Barb Schrank took a look at the video clip and has some comments below.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:08 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education Next: Forum on No Child Left Behind

JOHN CHUBB, ROBERT LINN, KATI HAYCOCK, AND ROSS WIENER: Do we need to repair the monument?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:54 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

An A-Maze-ing Approach to Math

Barry Garelick on our "National crisis in mathematics education". Fat Link on Barry Garelick.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Diversity Forum: Madison School Board Candidates

Barbara Golden:

Saturday March 12, 2005 @ 5:00p.m. at Edgewood College (Predolin Center Auditorium) [Map with Driving Directions], sponsored by Money, Education Prisons (MEP) with support from the Madison NAACP. 88K PDF


MAFAAC web site.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:35 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 19, 2005

MMSD Budget Forecast - Board Asks Few Questions

Roger Price presented to the School Board a budget forecast (Roger Price Presentation - video/mp3 audio) for the next four years.

Watching the video I was surprised there was very limited discussion and few questions about the substance of the forecast. There was no discussion about or requests for the administration to develop alternative budget forecasts using different assumptions. There was no questions about the assumptions used. There was no discussion about setting a time to review directions to administration for making cuts - for example, what are the personnel policies? There will be no layoffs of administrators. Will that be the same for existing teachers? There was no discussion about when to discuss the financial impacts of programs that are not as effective as others and may be costing more than we can afford for the results. Examples of questions about curriculum - reading: what is being done to appeal federal $2 million, what is being done to review costs of reading and evaluating what is working best for most children, how is curriculum being evaluated at Lapham, how much are new contracts going to cost and relating this to personnel layoffs if referendums are not passed. what programs are not working, what do they costs, etc.

Basically, the majority of the school board assumed that was the gap - $29 million cumulatively over 4 years. No questions were asked about the assumptions used. This is the most important part of a forecast - what the assumptions are, what other assumptions could be considered. Unless you have a good understanding and confidence in the assumptions used, your forecast will be weakened.

The School Board received the information, said thank you and reviewed the dates needed to make a decision about going to a referendum for operating expenses. This is the first time the board has seen a budget forecast for 05-06 - no substantive discussion.

With the exception of the additional years in the budget forecast, which I was glad to see that an attempt had been made to go out several years, this presentation is the same process and discussions that I saw last year. The majority of the Board had no questions last year either - how can that be?

I think I would have lots of questions if I was facing a cumulative $29 million gap between revenues and expenditures in my budget.

Link to MMSD Budget Page

Posted by at 5:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Budgeting and Financial Planning - What's the Difference?

The Superintendent of a small Massachusetts School District, East Long Meadow, prepared a clear, concise document describing his perspective of differences between budgeting and financial planning ( East Long Meadow MA Financial Planning Overview Document). He described fiscal responsibility of the school district:

"School Committee members, superintendents, and business managers have two levels of fiscal responsibility. The first level is compliance with state and federal law. Compliance ensures that the budget meets state standards and that state funds are directed to legislated accounts and programs. Compliance does not ensure that funds are being used efficiently or effectively, however. The second, higher order of responsibility is that of fiscal stewardship, which goes well beyond compliance and ensures that funds are spent on programs that make a difference and move the district toward its vision. Fiscal stewardship avoids deficit spending and the need for drastic cuts that undermine education. It requires that policy and process are in place to ensure that funds are used effectively and wisely and that deficits are avoided.

How does a School Committee achieve effective fiscal stewardship? The answer is financial planning. You would never build a new house only to tear down part of it because you didn't budget enough to finish the entire building. Unfortunately, that's how some districts often handle funds. Some build a district vision for student success one year at a time and often end up spending so much on small projects that they don't have enough for the programs that would really make a difference. But building a successful district requires a strategic plan, improvement goals, and a financial plan to support the vision--plus the fiscal stewardship to make sure tax dollars are being directed to the most effective programs and departments."

As MMSD takes its first small, positive public steps developing a multi-year budget, there is valuable information in this budget that can provide guidance for questions to ask about multi-year financial planning and not simply the same budget with inflated expenses.

I sent a copy of this memo to Carol Carstensen earlier this month. I have been asking for a long term financial picture, as has Ruth Robarts and others in the community. I am encouraged to see that the District Administration has taken the first step in that direction on February 14th.

Posted by at 1:15 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School Board Governance Weak - School Closings

I agree wholeheartedly with the Capital Times February 17, 2005, editorial statement ( Editorial - February 17, 2005that the Madison Metropolitan School district ��seems to be determined to offend every supporter of public education in the city and surrounding communities�� The district administration�s proposed boundary changes and redistricting proposals presented to the board on February 14th was no �sweetheart proposal,� and once again demonstrated the lack of meaningful communication and collaboration between the school board and the public.

The Superintendent and his senior staff work in what appears to many as a heavy handed and an alienating manner, because the majority of the school board lets this happen. Do we want a board that allows the district administration present incomplete proposals and then drive the discussion with the board coming along for the ride? I know I don�t.

If Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Juan Jose Lopez and Shwaw Vang did not support closing schools, then this criterion needed to be communicated to the district administration clearly via a public meeting prior to the development of and release of a district administration report with options for easing overcrowding in schools.

As Chair of the Long Range Planning Committee last year, Mr. Clingan had the opportunity to put in place such an approach for addressing these big planning issues. As Lucy Mathiak wrote in two previous letters ( February 2, 2005, February 14, 2005 )to the Capital Times editor, ��he squandered his opportunity.� This is not a hind-sight comment. A long range planning committee needs to continually be looking long range and adjusting planning as needed.

As hard as the LRPC has worked this year (meeting bi-monthly) trying to meet fast-approaching deadlines, that committee and the public advisory committee has not had an opportunity to discuss strategically and to plan for new buildings, maintenance and redistricting as a package. All of these piecesare interrelated and need to be considered in the context of the impact of various options on decisions about building a new school, closing a school(s), maintenance, etc.

From here on out, I would recommend that board members direct the district administration to work closely with the community and the Long Range Planning Committee prior to releasing a detailed report with recommendations. At a minimum, the Chair of the Long Range Planning

Committee (Ruth Robarts this year) should not be receiving administration recommendations on the fly as they are being released to the public.

Emerson is now off the table for discussion, in part because of Capital Times editorial and public outcry. Also, Ruth Robarts directed the administration to take the option out, because a) there was no support for this option and b) further public discussions would be necessary before revisiting this option.

Posted by at 12:27 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 18, 2005

Emerson Won't Be Closed

Lee Sensenbrenner:

The proposal, which drew strong, immediate opposition from parents on the northeast side of the isthmus, was part of sweeping enrollment boundary changes that the district plans to decide this spring.
I wonder if this will popup again later, perhaps after the planned referendums? [speculation]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 17, 2005

Janet Morrow on the School Finance System

Janet Morrow weighs in on the current school finance system.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Cap Times: Don't Close Emerson

From the editorial page:

The Madison Metropolitan School District administration, which seems to be determined to offend every supporter of public education in the city and surrounding communities, was recently forced to back off from a foolish proposal to close two east side elementary schools and a middle school. But the administration is still recommending that Emerson Elementary School be closed.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:08 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 16, 2005

Madison School Board Candidate Election Site Updates

I've added a number of items to the April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Candidate Site:

  • Winkler & Kobza: Madison Teachers, League of Womens Voter's responses and the North Side Planning Council Questionnaire (Winkler).
  • Video interview with Carol Carstensen
  • Video Interview with Lawrie Kobza
Check it out. Campaign finance information is coming soon.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:29 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 15, 2005

East High Principal Search: Parent Letters to the Superintendent and Board of Education

East High Enrollment Area parents sent the following letters regarding the search for a new Principal:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:52 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Citizens Speak on the School Board's Proposed Equity Policy Change

Several Madison Citizens spoke to the Board of Education Monday night regarding the Administration's proposed change to the Equity Policy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Robarts on Use of Tasers in Madison Schools

Cap Times Editorial on Madison Board of Education Member Ruth Robarts concerns about the use of tasers in our schools (a taser was recently used on a 14 year old at Memorial High School).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:06 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 14, 2005

Cap Times on Tuesday's DPI Primary

The Capital Times thinks an Yvarra-Burmaster DPI race would be interesting and useful. So do I (they take Underheim to task for not shaking the race up). Underheim, to his credit, did participate in a Madison Candidate Forum (Burmaster did not). Learn more about the candidates here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:19 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Leopold Expansion: More from Mathiak

Lucy Mathiak adds to the Leopold referendum discussion.

More here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:19 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Search Reopened For East Principal

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Madison School District has reopened its search for an East High School principal.

Superintendent Art Rainwater said only four of the 13 applicants met the minimum job requirements, and only two appeared to be viable candidates.

Continued at

Ed Blume

Posted by Ed Blume at 6:50 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 12, 2005

Isthmus: Talking out of School: Don Severson's Letter to the Editor

Don Severson has written a letter to the Isthmus editor regarding Jason Shephard's 2/10/2005 article: Talking out of School (Shephard looks at the upcoming school board races in this article). Here's Severson's letter to the editor:

Madison School Board member Carol Carstensen complains that critics of the Board aren't really interested in seeking solutions to complex questions. She states that "I get a little concerned when people say, 'You should be doing this,' but then are unable to give me a better plan for how to achieve what they want." The significant issue here is that Ms. Carstensen is unwilling and unable to consider, discuss and evaluate other processes, approaches, criteria and recommendations for alternatives and solutions.
[PDF Version]

As a representative of Active Citizens for Education (ACE) I am one of the critics of the Board to whom she specifically refers in her above statements. We have presented her, along with the entire Board of Education, and the district administration with numerous recommendations, plans and proposals which are matters of record with Board of Education. Specific recommendations, proposals and solutions have been offered in such areas as maintenance, after school programs, Community Services, Fund 80, the budgeting process, extra-curricular activities funding, administration costs and staffing levels, cost analysis of programs and services, and many more.

For the most part, these suggestions and requests have been ignored and, more often than not, derided. "Complex" problems for Ms. Carstensen and the majority of the Board members are not discussed as matters of public policy and are not discussed and decided upon with complete and accurate information.

Even more seriously, most decisions made by the Board are made in isolation of one another, thereby ignoring the interrelationships and consequences of choices and long term impacts. Some examples of this piecemeal decision making process include the Leopold elementary school building initiative, reading instruction programs, maintenance projects, attendance boundaries and school closings, fees for extra-curricular activities and coordination for fine arts programs.

We have statements written by Board members that say they have the best ideas, they will make the decisions that are best for the district and they don't need the help of others to do that. The message from the majority of the Board is that if the ideas of others are not in agreement with theirs the ideas of others are not worthy of consideration. That mentality is not conducive to the consideration of the processes and solutions proposed by others to the "complex" problems for which the Board already believes it has the correct answer.

In the meantime, the "school house" is tumbling down under the weight of their arrogance. Ms. Carstensen brags about her 15 years of experience as a member of the Board. I dare say it is more like one year of experience fifteen times. We have consistently and vigorously offered ways and means to seek better informed decisions and solutions and to partner with our elected representatives in seeking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the school district that belongs to all of us and not just to them.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:52 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School District's Boundary Change Scenarios

The Madison School District has posted quite a bit of information, including an executive summary (in html!) on their web site. The details include a number of scenarios along with a school by school analysis. (very nicely done - fewer pdf's would be wonderful, but it's a great start).

There are a couple of related meetings Monday, February 14, 2005 that we'll record and post shortly thereafter:

  • Special Board of Education Meeting @ 5:00p.m. where they will discuss the Board's Equity Policy and the District's projected budget gap from 2005 to 2009.

  • The Board's Long Range Planning Committee meets at 6:00p.m. to discuss the boundary change options.
These meetings are held in the Doyle Administration Building [Map] in room 103 (enter from the back of the building).

Sandy Cullen writes about some parent's reactions. Lee Sensenbrenner on the District's 8.6M in pending reductions (or reductions in the increase).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 11, 2005

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Lunch 2.17.2005

Jeff Mayers forwarded this event information (calendar) [Candidate information]:

Top two DPI candidates from the 2/15/2005 primary election.

February 17, 11:45 a.m., the Madison Club, Wilson Street, Madison

Join us to hear Jeff Mayers and the candidates discuss the state of
education and the race.

Cost is $15 for Madison Club members and $19 for non-members. Call Loretta to RSVP at the Madison Club, 608-255-4861.

The event is co-sponsored by WHD Government Affairs and Sonic Foundry.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:55 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Fund Raising

The money being tossed around in this race reflects the growing partisan nature of a purportedly non-partisan position (Burmaster was on stage at the recent Kerry/Springsteen rally). Dave Zweifel also weighs in on the changing nature of this elected position.

The DPI Candidate primary is Tuesday, 2/15/2005. Vote - perhaps for Yvarra or Stelzel, two who are running without a serious cash machine....

Given the partisan nature of the job, Zweifel is correct in advocating for a fall election.

Background on the candidates 1/31/2005 campaign finance disclosures: [AP] [Wisconsin Elections Board]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:23 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More on Madison School's Proposed Outdoor Field User Fees

Sandy Cullen and Lee Sensenbrenner discuss the Madison School District's recent proposal to impose an outdoor field user fee.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 9, 2005

Q and A with MMSD school staff

MAFAAC (Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Coalition)
PO Box 5311
Madison, WI 53705
836-0616 for more information

What: Q and A with MMSD school staff, Valencia Douglas, Jane
Belmore and Marcy Peters-Felice

Subject: How can parents and other community members get involved in school issues; Who is welcome in our schools; How
are decisions made about important issues involving our children;
And how do we file a complaint when we feel wronged???

When: Saturday, February 12th

Time: 1:00-3:00 PM

Where: South Madison Health and Wellness Center, 2202 S. Park St.

This meeting is free and open to the public. We strongly encourage you to come and ask questions of the school representatives.

Snacks will be provided.

Posted by Ed Blume at 6:57 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School Board Governance Lacking - Fine Arts

Let the School Board know how you feel about the following at

Monday, February 7, 2005, I spoke before the School Board during public appearances. The purpose of my statement was to speak about my concern re. the School Board's ongoing inaction regarding the fine arts curriculum. During the past six years, there have been cuts to courses, reduced positions, continued threats of cuts to curriculum (such as the elementary strings academic classes) without any engagement or dialogue with the hundreds of concerned community members who have voiced their support for a strong fine arts curriculum and have asked (over and over) for the School Board to work collaboratively with the community to develop a fine arts vision and strategy for fine arts.

If the fine arts curriculum were being treated fairly in light of the District's overall financial challenges, that would be one thing. But this academic discipline has not been treated fairly and in some cases analyses and a board member's recommendation are made that appear spiteful (for example, a $500-600 fee for the elementary strings academic classes that are part of the School Board approved Grade 4-12 instrumental curriculum). In the fall the District formed a working group with supporters of extracurricular sports. What's wrong with this picture? Fine arts is also a great way to explore and develop community partnerships.

I believe the City of Madison and its fine arts community need to be seriously concerned with the District's continued lack of attention to this important curriculum area and the absence of leadership by the School Board to �think outside the box.� Board members are allowing this curriculum to wither even in light of research showing the positive effect on low income student achievement and have missed opportunities for federal funding of the arts for low income children.

On Monday, I was "politely" told that I should be the one to remind board committee chairs to follow up with items on their agenda. What kind of foolishness is this? Each board committee has a support person from district staff who should review this information with the committee and provide periodic updates - publicly, since the public is expecting follow-up.

This follow-up and continuity is not happening. For example, in March 2003 the Fine Arts coordinator provided an overview of fine arts curriculum and community relationships between MMSD and the community to the Performance and Achievement Committee. Board members asked for a follow-up the next year. This did not happen. During the year, I contacted the Fine Arts Coordinator and asked about progress on a Fine Arts strategy. He informed me that his superiors would tell him when to work on this - they never did. Does that mean the public needs to take note of tasks assigned or commitments made publicly at a meeting and follow whether the statements are being followed up? No way.

I also reminded the School Board that the superintendent said that in the absence of a Fine Arts Coordinator, he had told the board a committee of teachers would be put together to handle tasks. Rather than address my concern, I was "politely" told (dismissed) about how it's taken so long to find a Fine Arts Coordinator, because the District wants the best person for the position. I say hogwash. The District waited 5 months before even putting up an ad for the position when the outreach portion existed.

Are community members supposed to let the School Board know the teachers' committee is not in place, there has been no posting for the Fine Arts Coordinator position and MMSD positions on fine arts boards are going unfilled because there is no Fine Arts coordinator and another options is needed? The fine arts teachers did just that in early fall - no action by the School Board.

The Board says they are making an effort to find the best person. Yet, the District abandoned the first interview process that included qualified candidates, lowered the standards (removed a licensing requirement) and re-announced the position. Ads were only placed in newspapers. When asked if the District had placed ads with professional organizations that would know how to contact qualified personnel, the District said they did not have the time to do that. (note: many employers advertise online for positions
these days - is the place to be, generally).

Why does the public have to follow up with everything? Why can't we have confidence that appropriate steps are being taken? Why are there no mechanisms in place for the Board to provide appropriate oversight?

By his actions (and inactions) the Superintendent continues to show a lack of understanding of the demonstrated positive benefits of fine arts curriculum on student achievement, and fails to reach out to the community to keep the arts strong in Madison�s schools, which is something the community deeply values. In times of scarce resources, the district needs to work collaboratively with the community.

In the area of Fine Arts, it appears the Superintendent needs closer supervision by the Board. Yet, the School Board is not providing oversight either. Maybe I'm being too cranky. Afterall, what difference does it make if the Board abandons fine arts? Plenty.

What are the risks of not doing this? The board runs the risk of missing an important opportunity to improve student achievement and build community relationships with a community that strongly values the arts. Also, the board runs the risk of the district not remaining competitive with surrounding districts that have strong fine arts curriculum for their students. This would be an additional burden and negative impact on our low income students whose families do not have the opportunity to move to the suburbs. We can�t let this happen. Our children's learning deserves more responsibility and accountability from our School Board.

How does the School Board expect the community to support a referendum when there is inaction year after year? They won�t if the public is not confident in the board's ability to keep our school district strong by reflecting community values.

Specific comments in my statement included:

A. School Board is Non-responsive to the Community.

For three years, children, parents and members of the Madison community have spoken to board members about the important contribution of the fine arts curriculum to successful learning in core academic subject areas. While the School Board forms community committees to address community concerns about long-term planning, extracurricular sports, afterschool, and even school animals, the requests of hundreds of children, teachers and community members over the past three years for such a committee for fine arts curriculum planning go unanswered.

Abandoned promises. While looking for a new Fine Arts Coordinator, the School Board has let 9 months pass without professional support in the fine arts area for teachers and as a liaison with the community. Yet, the Superintendent said a committee of fine arts teachers would be put into place � this did not happen, and there was no follow-up publicly from the Board even after fine arts teachers spoke to the School Board about needing help last fall. Teachers even provided the School Board with possible solutions.

What has this meant? Diminished Community Outreach. There has been less community outreach and communication between the District and the arts community than in previous years. Representatives from the district�s fine arts professionals have not been on boards. I can only believe that if you had asked any of the fine arts teachers who are experienced professionals (many are involved in the community) to be on these boards, they would have been honored to serve. Even if you need to pay for time, the money would have been well spent.

Diminished Long-Term Planning for the Arts. MMSD lacks a fine arts vision that can only be developed with teacher, administrator, and community involvement. Long-term planning for the fine arts curriculum � looking at what currently exists, and what is needed for maintenance and growth of a strong fine arts curriculum is non-existent.

B. Missed Funding Opportunities.

In July, the Secretary of Education sent all school district superintendents a policy letter on fine arts curriculum. His letter began,

�As I am sure you know, the arts are a core academic subject under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I believe the arts have a significant role in education both for their intrinsic value and for the ways in which they can enhance general academic achievement and improve students' social and emotional development.�

While we can all agree that we have philosophical and financial issues with NCLB, the points made in the Secretary�s letter reflect the current knowledge, key strengths and benefits to math and reading about fine arts education. His letter also went on to provide links to flexibility in federal grants for fine arts curriculum for low income students and all students and provided links to resources and to research showing independently evaluated improved test scores for low income children. This funding has been available for several years � MMSD�s former fine arts coordinator was not included in grant applications at federal level for fine arts. This is not something you would not undertake independently.

C. Community Enagagement/Partnering

How much longer is the School Board willing to let the District�s fine arts curriculum wither? If resources are as scarce as the School Board continues to warn the public, then action is needed yesterday. Our community values fine arts � that�s clear to everyone. Fine arts curriculum directly benefits children�s performance in school � achievement.

Other districts nationally are independently assessing the proven benefits of fine arts curriculum for low income children�s learning and academic achievement. They are seeing improved results in their test scores. How long is the School Board willing to risk these benefits to Madison�s children?

What�s needed? I believe the Board needs a Fine Arts working group under the Partnership Committee with feedback to the Performance and Achievement Committee. This committee must a) review what exists � existing approved curriculum and standards, b) develop a vision and action plan for fine arts that will lead to a strong fine arts curriculum for our children c) determine costs and d) identify partnerships. I would recommend the first step for the group would be to develop a work plan for board approval. I believe the Fine Arts Coordinator needs to lead this, but I asked the Board to begin now. Even though the Fine Arts Coordinator might be new, there are people with vast experience in this field and strong community ties who can help get up and going and provide the support the Fine Arts Coordinator will need when they are on board.

What are the risks of not doing this? The board runs the risk of missing an important opportunity to improve student achievement. Also, the board runs the risk of the district not remaining competitive with surrounding districts that have strong fine arts curriculum for their students. This would be an additional burden and negative impact on our low income students whose families do not have the opportunity to move around. We can�t let this happen.

Posted by at 1:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 7, 2005

California: Mandatory Student ID Cards with RFID's

The EFF (well worth your support):

Several civil liberties groups, including the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter today expressing alarm at the Brittan School District's use of mandatory ID badges that include a RFID device that tracks the students' movements. The device transmits private information to a computer on campus whenever a student passes under one of the scanners. The ID badges also include the student's name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number. Students are required to prominently display the badges by wearing them around the neck at all times.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:49 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Schools Proposed Athletic Field Fees

A reader forwarded me comments that were sent to the Madison School Board regarding the proposed athletic field fees:

As you would guess, many of us who have watched a soccer game, t-ball game or football game and enjoyed the unencumbered spirit and play of our children and have personally mowed the grass, or lined a field, you may oppose the school board proposal of a user fee for the athletic fields during non-school hours.

I sent a letter to the comments section of MMSD school board. Send yours to: comments@ at

My letter to the school board stated:

I notice there is a proposal whereby the school board wants to consider placing a user fee on the school athletic fields for any use of these fields outside of school functions and MSCR activities. I am opposed to this proposal for a few reasons:

1. The school boards refusal to look at cutting administrative costs downtown as part of any budget proposals. Continuing to cut teaching positions and programs that affect learning is not reasonable and needs to be discouraged. Also would encourage looking at savings in terms of health care costs by negotiating HMO contracts rather than giving the teachers the comprehensive health insurance they presently receive.

2. The lack of maintenance of the fields by the schools. I have personally mowed the soccer fields at Cherokee, lined the fields and have watched coaches donate time and equipment (goals) to make the fields playable. I doubt that the maintenance or quality of equipment will improve with the user fee proposed.

3. Anything that can be done to encourage childhood fitness rather than discourage it should be the stance of the school board. Using the fees towards an improved PE curriculum with daily PE through 12th grade, improved athletic facilities both indoor and outdoor or promises of daily physical activity time outside of PE would be a first step in garnering my support of such a fee.

If the fee is assessed, I will not be interested in supporting the proposed referendum for a new school or capital improvement.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:05 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 6, 2005

Stand & Deliver: an Update

I recently watched the 1987 film, Stand & Deliver; A moving, mostly-true story of famed East L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), who finds himself in a classroom of rebellious remedial-math students. He stuns fellow faculty members with his plans to teach AP Calculus. Jerry Jesness dives deep into the story and talks with many of the players. Quite interesting.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:24 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 5, 2005

Donna Ford's Visit to Madison

Madison is fortunate to have Donna Ford, Ph.D. visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 8 and 9, 2005. Dr. Ford is the Betts Chair of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) recruiting and retaining culturally diverse students in gifted education; (2) multicultural and urban education; and (3) minority student achievement and underachievement.

Dr. Ford will be meeting with TAG staff and administrators during her visit, and will be speaking about multicultural education at West High School as part of a staff in-service. On Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Ford will be giving a community presentation entitled �Increasing the participation of culturally diverse students in talented and gifted education� at Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. This presentation is open to all interested parents and community members. Translation will be available for Spanish, Hmong, and hearing impaired audience members. Dr. Ford is also scheduled to give a colloquium on Wednesday, February 9 at 11:30 a.m., in the UW Department of Counseling Psychology. This presentation entitled �Understanding culture: Implications for improving minority student achievement.� will be held in Room 154 Education. For further information, please contact Jeff Henriques, or visit the TAG Parents website:

Dr. Ford's visit to Madison is supported by the MMSD Department of Parent Community Relations, American Family Insurance, West High School, and the UW Department of Counseling Psychology.

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 10:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 3, 2005

The Public Survey Trap and Music Education

In his weekly advice on music advocacy, Dr. Benham, on talks about public surveys. Useful information can be gathered, but they can also be used to threaten the public or be used as a mandate from the public if referendums do not pass. the music advocate needs to keep music off the surveys. Dr. Benham writes,

"In the presence of a financial crisis one of the approaches used to inform the public of the seriousness of the situation is a Public Survey.

The survey may be used for a variety of reasons, some of which may need to be "read between the lines."

* To inform the public of the financial crisis
* To inform the public of the need to raise taxes
* To establish a basis for a levy referendum to increase funding
* To inform (sometimes threaten) the public of probable cuts if additional finding is not increased
* To get a sense of what the public values most so that the cuts made cause the least negative reaction

One school district in which I worked mailed surveys to all employees and residents in the district. The survey listed 200 categories or programs within the district. The respondent was asked to rank each with a response of "A" (Most important to retain), "B" (Cut here first), or "C" (Save this if possible). After the district levy referendum failed the district mandated cuts in the music program that would have eliminated 70% of the orchestra staff and 48% of the band staff.

What actually occurred is that the results were summarily ignored, not even calculated. The administration proposed the music cuts based on their own educational philosophy and blamed the community for lack of support for music. The music parents requested permission to review the surveys and discovered the following.

* Of the 60,000 surveys distributed only 211 were returned
* Lack of participation by the community invalidated the survey, exposing the administrative action as self-serving
* Of the nine (9) music categories included on the list of 200 in the survey, music was ranked by the community as "most important to retain" on a basis equivalent with curricular status.
* Music categories outranked all extra-curricular activities as "most important to retain"

Continue Reading "The Public Survey Trap"

Posted by at 11:25 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Update on Lowell Elementary School and Emissions from Kipp Corp.

On Monday evening School Board members heard from parents, professionals and a local business about emissions from Kipp Corporation.

Parents and Clean Air Madison are concerned that emissions from changes in manufacturing and a permit from the WI DNR will negatively affect the health of Lowell Elementary School children. Kipp Corporation maintains they are operating within both state and city guidelines. Both CAM and Kipp made presentations of their positions to the board.

After much discussion by board members, Ruth Robarts made a motion to ask the state Department of Natural Resources to install an air monitoring device at Lowell Elementary School. Her motion, seconded by Juan Lopez, passed unanimously.

Posted by at 9:29 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 2, 2005

Lucy Mathiak on Bill Clingan & Leopold Expansion

Lucy Mathiak:

Dear Editor: I am writing in response to Bill Clingan's Jan. 27 letter regarding the second Leopold School. A second school is long overdue. It is the right thing to do.

While there is no doubt that Mr. Clingan will be a vocal advocate for the Leopold referendum, one wonders where his passion for this initiative was in 2003-04 when he chaired the Long Range Planning Committee. As chair, he had the power to move the school forward, and he squandered that opportunity.

According to the school district Web site, the Long Range Planning Committee met a total of three times under Mr. Clingan's leadership. Planning for a Leopold building referendum was not an agenda item at any of those meetings. The committee did not meet again while Mr. Clingan was the chair.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:47 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Direct Reading Instruction

Clash of philosophies, direct instruction vs balanced literacy (aka whole language) in Rockford, IL discussed in NYtimes

Posted by at 9:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

February 1, 2005

Madison School Administrators: What is the trend?

Before February 1 of each year, the Madison School Board must decide whether to renew its administrators' contracts. If the Board plans to cut administrative positions, it must give the administrators notice that their employment contracts will not be renewed. Otherwise, the contracts automatically renew for one or two years.

Because continued shortfalls in state and federal aid for schools force budget reductions each year, the number of administrators and the total cost of their wages and benefits is a factor in the budget for the next year.

On January 24, 2005 Superintendent Art Rainwater used the following graph and table as evidence of a trend of reductions in the MMSD administrative staff.

Download file PDF version

This presentation has two conspicuous features.First, the columns that contain numbers of administrators for each year have no totals. Second, the graph separates administrators into four categories based on the source of funding.

I made a different chart using the superintendent's data. For this chart I used the total administrators on contract for each year and charted the change in numbers from year to year. I did not separate contracts by funding source because the source of funding does not change the district's relationship to the administrators. Administrators have contracts with the district that continue whether or not outside funding continues. Note that the final column on this chart is the administration's proposed number of administrators for 2005-06.

Download file JPG Version

Judge for yourself. What is the trend in numbers of administrative contracts?

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 6:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More on Women in Science and Math:It's the Culture, Stupid

More on the environment women face in math and the sciences with a foreword by Paul Ehrlich

From: "Paul R. Ehrlich"
Date: February 1, 2005 10:03:13 AM CST

I circulate this piece by Emily Carter at Princeton (who I do not know) because I think it is exactly right. In my generation there was no question whether the man or the woman was to be the "bread winner." I completed my Ph.D. in 1957, three years after Anne and I were married -- Anne didn't go to graduate school and we had our daughter while I was still a student. Anne started as an art student, and worked with me dissecting under a microscope, coding morphological characters, and doing illustrations for our joint papers, but she was able to do that at home taking care of Lisa until Lisa went to school. We've been lucky enough to work and write together ever since, and she gained enough distinction to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and win many prizes. But there is no doubt that I've had enormous benefit from having a wife -- a spouse without huge employment responsibilities elsewhere, able and willing to fit her schedule into mine and work with me in the field and on lab and writing projects. If she'd been a Ph.D. chemist working for a start-up company, my career would have been MUCH more difficult, and if she'd had a house husband her career would have benefited greatly.

When I joined the Stanford Biology Department in 1959 we could have easily and eagerly hired a black faculty member -- everyone knew that racial prejudice was wrong. But the prejudice against women was so ingrained it wasn't even recognized by many of my colleagues, even though we had only one half-time female faculty member. We eventually cured that prejudice despite (for a few years) an dumb chairman who kept it going sub-rosa against the unanimous opinion of our faculty. But the "culture" remains, and we should do much more to change it.

Many years ago Carl Djerassi had the great idea of the NSF offering 3-year grants to bright young women scientists to pay for a postdoc to help keep their labs running while they started a family. I campaigned for it then, and I still think it a great idea (maximum 2 grants for 2 kids!). Just consider all the time and money wasted in training all the women who then drop out -- their loss an enormous penalty for academic science. It would be a small start at changing the culture in directions suggested below. As for Summers, I admit to being a mathematical idiot -- my daughter and all my recent female grad students can run rings around me in that area. But I think that's better than being an all-around idiot like Larry.


Monday, January 31, 2005
Few women in the sciences? 'It's the culture, stupid'

Emily Carter
Guest Columnist

After learning of Larry Summer's remarks that garnered considerable media attention, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. His remarks vindicated for me and other women faculty in math, science and engineering (hereafter MSE) that there remains in academe a less-than-hospitable working environment for women, where blatant discrimination does not exist but subtle biases, due to the academic culture, abound.

If even Harvard's President isn't sure whether "innate differences" between men and women are responsible for discouragingly small percentages of women MSE faculty at elite universities, then it is likely he is not alone in harboring such "doubts". Apparently Summers and many others remain blissfully unaware of the many studies that show no statistically significant, persistent difference between boys' and girls' aptitudes for math (c.f. Angier and Chang's Jan. 24 N.Y. Times article).

So it is clear why I might have cried. Why might I have laughed? Perhaps out of relief, because finally, I can turn to my male colleagues who keep insisting there are no more problems for women in academia and I can tell them what my inner soul has been saying all these long years: the problems remain, and until systemic change comes to universities, we will never see equal numbers of men and women on MSE faculty.

I think the media has missed the reason for the paltry numbers of women MSE faculty, to say nothing of Summers missing it as well. It has nothing to do with aptitude. The aptitude is there. Believe me � having chaired faculty search committees, having spoken with other search committees, we all observe the same thing. Many incredibly talented women are getting their Ph.D.'s in MSE these days. And departments would jump at the chance to hire these talented women. But they aren't applying. Why?

Women are voting with their feet, to stay out of a culture they perceive as unhealthy. To give a new twist to that famous election slogan coined by Cathy Trower, "It's the culture, stupid." Women are the canaries in the coal mines, and by golly they smell the toxic fumes. (A couple of anecdotal statistics: 1/3 of Chemistry Ph.D.'s are now awarded to women. Yet when I ran a search at UCLA, only 5 percent of the applicants were. The Chemistry Chair at Indiana the same year asked me to explain how 5 out of 6 of their best Ph.D.s that year were women, but only 3 percent of his applicant pool were.)

So what's the problem? Debra Rolison speaking at Barnard said it best: "Academic science still echoes the standards . . . in which round-the-clock scholarship by men doing science was historically sustained by a sociological and emotional infrastructure first provided by monasteries and then by wives." My female colleagues and I have wryly joked for years that we need wives. But we don't have that option and the joke is not very funny. If I recall correctly, over half of male academics have wives who do not work. Summers remarked that perhaps women didn't want to work the 80-hour weeks necessary to be at the top. Hmm . . . I would posit that most people, not just women, would prefer a less than 80-hour work week, so as to meaningfully engage family and friends. Moreover, since when is quantity valued over quality? Though my work hours were curtailed by becoming a mother, this in no way curbed my professional success; I simply learned to be efficient with every precious work minute, so at home I could concentrate on family.

The current culture will not bring more women to MSE faculties. So here is the crux: women want what most men have: to not choose between family and career. The current culture makes this possible only with enormous sacrifice. Women figure out the culture, living in it as graduate students. By contrast, they see industry jobs, often with on-site child care, allowing both family and career to blossom. Then why should they choose academe?

In closing, let's not forget the urgency of this issue. The nation is experiencing a wave of retirements in MSE over the next decade unseen in its history (due to the expansion of MSE faculty in the 1960s after Sputnik). This is a time for real systemic changes that could correct the tremendous gender imbalance on our faculties, but only if we act NOW. Otherwise, it will be another 40 years before another opportunity arises to change the face of academic science; when the new crop of faculty hired now retire. I'd hate to wait that long.

Emily Carter is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University. She can be reached at

(Copyright 2005 Daily Princetonian Publishing Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Posted by at 10:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas