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October 3, 2011

Madison Prep and Teacher's Union Collaborate: What's it all about?

Kaleem Caire, via email:

October 3, 2011

Dear Friends & Colleagues.

As the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times newspapers reported over the weekend, the Urban League of Greater Madison, the new Board of Madison Preparatory Academy and Madison Teachers, Inc., the local teachers' union, achieved a major milestone last Friday in agreeing to collaborate on our proposed charter schools for young men and women.

After a two-hour meeting and four months of ongoing discussions, MTI agreed to work "aggressively and proactively" with Madison Prep, through the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District, to ensure the school achieves its diversity hiring goals; educational mission and staff compensation priorities; and staff and student performance objectives.

Where we started.

In March 2011, we submitted a proposal to MMSD's Board of Education to start an all-boys public charter school that would serve 120 boys beginning in the 2012-13 school year: 60 boys in sixth grade and 60 boys in seventh grade. We proposed that the school would operate as a "non-instrumentality" charter school, which meant that Madison Prep would not employ teachers and other relevant support staff that were members of MTI's collective bargaining unit. We also proposed a budget of $14,471 per pupil, an amount informed by budgets numbers shared with us by MMSD's administration. MMSD's 2010-11 budget showed the projected to spend $14,800 per student.

Where we compromised.

A. Instrumentality: As part of the final proposal that the Urban League will submit to MMSD's Board of Education for approval next month, the Urban League will propose that Madison Prep operate as an instrumentality of MMSD, but have Madison Preparatory Academy retain the autonomy of governance and management of both the girls and boys charter schools. MTI has stated that they have no issue with this arrangement.

What this means is that Madison Prep's teachers, guidance counselor, clerical staff and nurse will be members of the MTI bargaining unit. As is required under the current CBA, each position will be appropriately compensated for working extra hours to accommodate Madison Prep's longer school day and year. These costs have been built into our budget. All other staff will employed by Madison Preparatory Academy, Inc. and the organization will contract out for some services, as appropriate.

B. Girls School Now: When we began this journey to establish Madison Prep, we shared that it was our vision to establish a similar girls school within 12-24 months of the boys school starting. To satisfy the concerns of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction about how Madison Prep complies with federal Title IX regulations, we offered to start the girls school at the same time. We have since accelerated the girls school in our planning and look forward to opening the girls and boys schools in August 2012 with 60 sixth grade boys and 60 sixth grade girls. We will add one grade per year in each school until we reach a full compliment of 6th - 12th grades and 840 students total.

C. Costs: Over the past six months, we have worked closely with MMSD's administration to identify an appropriate budget request for Madison Prep. Through an internal analysis of their spending at the secondary level, MMSD recently reported to us that they project to spend $13,207 per pupil on the actual education of children in their middle and high schools. To address school board members' concerns about the costs of Madison Prep, we worked hard to identify areas to trim spending without compromising our educational mission, student and staffing needs, and overall school effectiveness. We've since reduced our request to $11,478 per pupil in Madison Prep's first year of operation, 2012-13. By year five, our request decreases to $11,029 per pupil. Based on what we have learned about school spending in MMSD and the outstanding educational needs of students that we plan to address, we believe this is a reasonable request.

Why we compromised.

We have more information. After months of deliberation, negotiation and discussion with Board of Education members, school district administration, the teacher's union and community stakeholders, we've been able to identify what we believe is a clear path to getting Madison Prep approved; a path that we hope addresses the needs and interests of all involved without compromising the mission, objectives and needs of our future students.

We believe in innovation and systemic change. We are very serious about promoting change and opportunity within our public schools, and establishing innovative approaches - including new schools - to respond to the educational needs, interests and challenges of our children, schools and community. Today's children are tomorrow's workforce; tomorrow's leaders; tomorrow's innovators; and tomorrow's peacekeepers. We should have schools that prepare them accordingly. We are committed to doing our part to achieve this reality, including finding creative ways to break down boundaries rather than reinforce them.

The needs and desires of our children supersede all others. Children are the reward of life, and our children are our first priority. Our commitment is first and foremost to them. To this end, we will continue to seek ways to expand opportunities for them, advocate on their behalf and find ways to work with those with whom we have differences, even if it means we have to compromise to get there. It is our hope that other organizations and individuals will actively seek ways to do to the same.

We see the bigger picture. It would not serve the best interests of our community, our children, our schools or the people we serve to see parents of color and their children's teachers at odds with each other over how best to deliver a quality education to their children. That is not the image we want to portray of our city. We sincerely hope that our recent actions will serve as a example to areas businesses, labor unions, schools and other institutions who hold the keys to opportunity for the children and families we serve.

Outstanding Issues.

Even though we have made progress, we are not out of the woods yet. We hope that over the next several weeks, the Board of Education will respond to your advocacy and work with us to provide the resources and autonomy of governance and leadership that are exceedingly important to the success of Madison Prep.

We look forward to finding common ground on these important objectives and realizing our vision that Greater Madison truly becomes the best place in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn and work.

Thank you for your courage and continued support.

Madison Prep 2012!


Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205

Posted by Jim Zellmer at October 3, 2011 7:56 PM
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