Category Archives: Staff Support


I am still amazed four years later after a transportation department change that was made during a budget crunch timeframe, that not only is the department still lacking the secretarial position, but it increased the salary and benefits level of every player involved in the situation.

  • Are the students, parents and school staff being better served by the Transportation Department’s surplus of a knowledgeable union employee (4 years ago today)?
  • Has the fact that the Transportation Coordinator was promoted to Manager, and the newly hired Transportation Coordinator (a former staff of First Student Bus Co) helped with the enormous amount of phone calls that department receives on a daily basis?
  • Have the homeless students been served with a staff person who stays at the office when a child is lost or not accounted for? (I risked insubordination for “refusing to lose a child in order to force the Board to realize we needed a 3rd person in the department”)

I find it hard to believe knowing that the district is maintaining an employee on staff (not even a union employee) waiting for the position of the transportation secretary, to once again be posted and for her to be hired. Until then, I hear the secretaries in the schools and other district operations saying they can’t get anyone to talk to in the Transportation Dept or that the carriers have been given the go-ahead to make the decisions.


Board proposes goals for superintendent

According to the agenda for the Board of Education meeting on November 20, 2006:

It is recommended that the Board approve the 2006-07 goals for the Superintendent that require the Superintendent to:
a. Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum.

  • The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.
  • The task force shall prepare and present to the BOE a preliminary outline of the review and assessment to be undertaken by the task force. The outline shall, at a minimum, include:
    1. analysis of math achievement data for MMSD K-12 students, including analysis of all math sub-tests scores disaggregated by student characteristics and schools;
    2. analysis of performance expectations for MMSD K-12 students;
    3. an overview of math curricula, including MMSD’s math curriculum;
    4. a discussion of how to improve MMSD student achievement; and
    5. recommendations on measures to evaluate the effectiveness of MMSD’s math curriculum. The task force is to present the preliminary outline and a timeline to the BOE for comment and approval.
  • The task force is to prepare a written draft of the review and
    assessment, consistent with the approved preliminary outline. The draft is to be presented to the BOE for review and comment.
  • The task force is to prepare the final report on the review and assessment.

Continue reading Board proposes goals for superintendent

MTI Demands to Bargain: Middle School Math Masters Program and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader

A reader emailed this item: Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter [pdf file]:

The District sent literature to various teachers offering credit to those who enroll in the above-referenced courses. As an enticement for the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader course, the District offers “salary, tuition, and book costs.” The program will run after work hours during the school year. Regarding the Middle School Math Master’s Program, every District teacher, who teaches math in a middle school, is “expected” to take three (3) District inservice courses in math, unless they hold a math major or minor. The District is advising teachers that they must complete the three (3) courses within two (2) years. The courses are 21 hours each. The program is scheduled to run during the school day, with substitute teachers provided on the days the courses will be taught.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has previously ruled that an employer offering financial incentives, including meals and lodging, or release time, to employees in conjunction with course work or seminars is a mandatory subject of bargaining between the school district and the union.

Wisconsin’s “Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be “met” through the WKCE”

A reader involved in these issues forwarded this article by Kevin Carey: Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB [Full Report: 180K PDF]

Critics on both the Left and the Right have charged that the No Child Left Behind Act tramples states’ rights by imposing a federally mandated, one-size-fits-all accountability system on the nation’s diverse states and schools.
In truth, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gives states wide discretion to define what students must learn, how that knowledge should be tested, and what test scores constitute “proficiency”—the key elements of any educational accountability system. States also set standards for high school graduation rates, teacher qualifications, school safety and many other aspects of school performance. As a result, states are largely free to define the terms of their own educational success.
The Pangloss Index ranks Wisconsin as the most optimistic state in the nation. Wisconsin scores well on some educational measures, like the SAT, but lags behind in others, such as achievement gaps for minority students. But according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state is a modern-day educational utopia where a large majority of students meet academic standards, high school graduation rates are high, every school is safe and nearly all teachers are highly qualified. School districts around the nation are struggling to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the primary standard of school and district success under NCLB. Yet 99.8 percent of Wisconsin districts—425 out of 426—made AYP in 2004–05.
How is that possible? As Table 2 shows, some states have identified the large majority of districts as not making AYP. The answer lies with the way Wisconsin has chosen to define the AYP standard.
NCLB requires states to base AYP designations on the percentage of students who score at the “proficient” level on state tests in reading and math. That percentage is compared to a target percentage, which must be met by both the student body as a whole and by “subgroups” of students, such as students from specific racial and ethnic populations. Districts that fail to make AYP for multiple consecutive years become subject to increasingly serious consequences and interventions.
Wisconsin has a relatively homogenous racial makeup and many small school districts, resulting in fewer subgroups in each district that could potentially miss the proficiency targets. But Wisconsin’s remarkable district success rate is mostly a function of the way it has used its flexibility under NCLB to manipulate the statistical underpinnings of the AYP formula.

Bold added. Also via eduwonk.
Kevin Carey comments on a Indiana newspaper’s editorial coverage of this issue:

Then comes the final pox-on-both-their-houses flourish, “what does any of it, really….” Maybe there are people out there who really don’t think that reporting accurate public information about the success of the school system has anything to do with the success of the school system. I just didn’t expect to find newspapers among their number.

Teachers Unions as Agents of Reform

Sara Reed:

Voters in Denver, Colo., in 2005 overwhelmingly approved a $25 million tax increase to fund a new, nine-year performance-based pay system for the city’s teachers. Brad Jupp taught in Denver’s public schools for 20 years, and was the lead DCTA negotiator on the team that negotiated the pilot project in 1999, and for the next 5 years he worked on the team that implemented the ProComp pilot.
ES: Why were you able to develop a pay-for-performance model in Denver when other places haven’t been?
BJ: Denver had a combination of the right opportunities and people who were willing, once they saw the opportunities, to put aside their fears of losing and work with other people to try to take advantage of those opportunities. The people included a school board president willing to say, “If the teachers accept this, we’ll figure out how to pay for it. They included the teacher building reps who said, “This is too good to refuse outright; let’s study it.” They included a local foundation that, once we negotiated the pay for performance pilot, realized we might actually be serious and offered us a million dollars to help put it in place. They included the Community Training and Assistance Center, the group that provided us with technical support and a research study of our work. They were willing to take on the enormous and risky task of measuring the impact of the pilot. And they included 16 principals in Denver who were able to see that this was going to be an opportunity for their faculties to build esprit de corps, to make a little extra money, to do some professional development around measuring results. I don’t really think there was a secret ingredient other than people being able to move past their doubts and seize an opportunity. It was a chance to create opportunities where the rewards outweighed the risks. I don’t think we do that much in public education.
But public schools have a harder time making changes, especially in the way people are paid, for a number of reasons. First, we don’t have a history of measuring results, and we don’t have a results-oriented attitude in our industry. Furthermore, we have configured the debate about teacher pay so that it’s a conflict between heavyweight policy contenders like unions and school boards. Finally, we do not have direct control over our revenue. It is easier to change a pay system when there is a rapid change in revenue that can be oriented to new outcomes. Most school finance systems provide nothing but routine cost of living adjustments. If that is all a district and union have to work with, they’re not going to have money to redistribute and make a new pay system.

Fascinating interview.

Promises Betrayed

Five years ago we moved to Madison. A big factor in this decision was the expectation that we could rely on Madison public schools to educate our children. Our eldest went through West High School. To our delight the rigorous academic environment at West High transformed him into a better student, and he got accepted at several good public universities.
Now we are finding this promise betrayed for our younger children. Our elementary school appears to be sliding into disarray. Teachers and children are threatened, bullied, assaulted, and cursed at. Curricula are dumbed down to accommodate students who are unprepared for real school work. Cuts in special education are leaving the special needs kids adrift, and adding to the already impossible burdens of classroom teachers. To our disappointment we are forced to pull one child out of public school, simply to ensure her an orderly and safe learning environment.
Unless the School Board addresses these challenges forcefully and without obfuscation, I am afraid a historic mistake will be made. Madison schools will slip into a vicious cycle of middle class flight and steady decline. The very livability of our city might be at stake, not to mention our property values.
To me the necessary step is clear. The bottom five to ten percent of students, and especially all the aggressive kids, must be removed from regular classes. They should be concentrated in separate schools where they can receive the extra attention and intensive instruction they need, with an option to join regular classes if they are ready.

Continue reading Promises Betrayed

Madison School Board Candidate Take Home Test Week 7


Great questions.

Strategies to Raise SAT Scores

Ian Shapira:

School officials said they are weighing several options, including encouraging more non-honors or non-AP students to enroll in Algebra II by sophomore year instead of participating in an easier, two-year Algebra I course; financing the PSAT for sophomores and perhaps freshmen; and, on a more basic level, adding more testing sites within the county so that students can take the exam in a comfortable setting without having to commute long distances.

2006-2007 MMSD Budget Comments

Jason Shepherd writing in the December 29, 2005 Isthmus:

  • Superintendent Art Rainwater: says the “most frustrating” part of his job is knowing there are ways to boost achievement with more resources, but not being able to allocate them. Instead, the district must each year try to find ways to minimize the hurt.
  • Board member Lawrie Kobza wants the board to review its strategic plan to ensure all students are being challenged with a rigorous curriculum.
  • Carol Carstensen, the current Board President says the “heterogenous” groupings, central to the West controversy (English 10, 1 curriculum for all), will be among the most important curriculum issues for 2006.
  • Ruth Robarts is closely watching an upcoming review of the district’s health insurance plans and pushing to ensure that performance goals for Rainwater include targeted gains for student achievement.
  • Johnny Winston says he’ll continue to seek additional revenue streams, including selling district land.

Read the full article here.

With respect to funding and new programs, the district spends a great deal on the controversial Reading Recovery program. The district also turned down millions in federal funds last year for the Reading First Program. Perhaps there are some opportunities to think differently with respect to curriculum and dollars in the district’s $329M+ budget, which increases annually.

Teacher Barb Williams offers her perspective on the expensive Reading Recovery program and the district’s language curriculum.

Board Candidate Maya Cole offers her thoughts on Transparency and the Budget

Public Education Goes to School

Harvard Business School:

We asked our nine districts what their biggest barriers were in achieving excellence at scale, and they described five categories of management challenges:

  1. Implementing a district-wide strategy
  2. Achieving organizational coherence in support of the strategy
  3. Developing and managing human capital
  4. Allocating resources in alignment with the strategy
  5. Using performance data for decision making and accountability

Congratulations to LaFollette Principal Mike Meissen

Message to the School Board from Superintendent Art Rainwater:
I am pleased to announce that Mike Meissen has accepted the position of Superintendent of the Glenbard Township High School District in Illinois effective July 1, 2006. Glenbard is a high school district with 4 high schools and almost 9,000 students.
After many years of service to the children of Madison, we are all very excited that Mike can realize his dream of leading a school district.

Continue reading Congratulations to LaFollette Principal Mike Meissen

06 – 07 Budget Positioning: HR and Business Services Presentation to the Madison School Board

The Madison School Board heard presentations this past Monday from The District’s HR Director, Bob Nadler and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Roger Price. Both described the functions that their organizations provide to the District.

Bob Nadler’s Presentation: Video
Roger Price’s Presentation: Video

The District’s Budget increases annually ($329M this year for 24,490 students). The arguments begin over how that increase is spent. Ideally, the District’s curriculum strategy should drive the budget. Second, perhaps it would be useful to apply the same % increase to all budgets, leading to a balanced budget, within the revenue caps. Savings can be directed so that the Board can apply their strategy to the budget by elminating, reducing or growing programs. In all cases, the children should come first. It is possible to operate this way, as Loehrke notes below.
Learn more about the budget, including extensive historical data.
Steve Loehrke, President of the Weywauga-Fremont School District speaks to budget, governance and leadership issues in these two articles:

Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

The following story aired on Channel 3/9 a few weeks ago and was recently posted on the Channel 3000 web site. This story discusses the impact of cutbacks of in-school staff, in this case school nurses, and reflects a serious issue that affects all of our schools. I urge you to read the extended story, which includes data on the number of students with serious chronic medical conditions in our schools.
When I was growing up, the school nurse was the lady in sturdy shoes and white opaque stockings who administered hearing and vision exams. We avoided her like the plague.
Today’s school nurses are a far cry from what I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. They often are the primary health care providers for students. For students with chronic diseases, trained nurses are the key link between families and schools. In many of our schools, nurses provide gently used clothing – everything from underwear to mittens – for students who come to school without proper clothing, or who need emergency replacement clothing. They serve as de facto counselors for students who visit them with health problems that may come from stress at school or at home.
School Nursing Shortage Affects Madison Students
POSTED: 12:50 pm CST November 22, 2005
UPDATED: 10:30 am CST November 23, 2005
In the Madison School District, up to 700 kids a day need medical attention. But as News 3’s Dawn Stevens reported, sometimes the person taking care of them doesn’t have official medical training.

Continue reading Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

Early in my career, I had to make a paradigm shift. Starting out, I thought my job was to tell people how to eat and I expected that they would eat as they “should”. Now I know that eating is a matter of taste and style and depends, for most people, to a lesser extent on nutrition facts. Although I’d love to be able to control what my clients eat, I have settled with the reality that I can’t even control what my dog eats! I buy Whole Foods dog food…he eats the white bread our neighbors toss on their lawn for the birds.
The point here is that your child’s eating style will be as unique as his appearance. It’s important that kids are provided with regular, fairly balanced meals and can choose what and how much to eat. It’s also important that they eat with others because meals are not just about consuming food. Once kids have meals that provide a framework for eating a variety of foods at predictable times, then the tendency to snack will lessen and cravings for processed foods will fade. Your child’s diet won’t be perfect, but he or she can still be perfectly healthy.

Continue reading Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

2006 Distinguished Service Award Nominations

The Madison Metropolitan School District:

The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) honors individuals for service beyond the call of duty. It is considered to be the most prestigious of the recognition awards offered by the Madison Metropolitan School District. Distinguished Service Awards may be to employees who have served at least ten years with the MMSD in each of the following categories: elementary, middle and high school teachers, administrators, support personnel clerical/technical employees, custodial/building services/trades personnel, educational assistants and food service staff. Special awards are also given to employee teams, citizen volunteers and high schools seniors involved in community service.
To nominate someone you must answer five questions about the nominee and submit three letters of support. Anyone may submit a nomination. Self-nominations are not accepted. Please print the nomination form available below and carefully read the guidelines on page two of the nomination form.

I have several people in mind.

Poverty and Education Forum: Audio and Video Archive

Rafael Gomez organized an excellent Forum Wednesday evening on Poverty and Education. Participants include:

  • Tom Kaplan: Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty kaplan at
  • Ray Allen, Former Madison Board of Education Member, Publisher – Madison Times
  • Maria Covarrubias: A Teacher at Chavez Elementary mcovarrubias at
  • Mary Kay Baum: Executive Director; Madison-Area Urban Ministry mkb at
  • Bob Howard: Madison School District rhoward at

Listen to the entire event (70 minutes) via a mp3 file on your ipod/mp3 player or watch the entire video here. Individual presentations are available below:

Maria Covarrubias: A Teacher at Chavez Elementary describes her journey from a California migrant worker to a UW Educated Madison Teacher. Video

Continue reading Poverty and Education Forum: Audio and Video Archive

MMSD Theory of Action for Change and Continuous Improvement

Superintendent Rainwater told MMSD board members Monday December 6, 2004 that some of the District’s goals are directed to educate teachers to do the right thing…support and train teachers…provide various levels of interventions for students that are not successful with the core curriculum.
In the case of reading, Balanced Literacy is the core curriculum and Reading Recovery is a first grade intervention teaching tool/approach that is used to help certain students be successful with reading.
The Superintendent commented that he believes the recent controversy surrounding reading is due in part to a misunderstanding of what the various definitions of Balanced Literacy, Reading First, Reading Recovery and Direct Instruction are.
From what I’ve read and understand about the debate and controversy, there are different approaches being used in the district when intervening to help a student who is not being successful with the core reading curriculum. Direct Instruction, which is a stand alone reading curriculum, is used by some reading teachers in the district as an intervention tool rather than Reading Recovery.
If results are available for both these interventions, I hope that the School Board takes the time to ask questions about what results we are seeing with different intervention approaches. Now that we have 80% of our children at proficient or advanced reading levels, the last 20% are likely to be particularly challenging for educators.
As I listened to the presentations last night, I couldn’t help but be impressed with two things regarding reading – strong community support and involvement through the Schools of Hope and other volunteers and continued reinforcement at all levels of the organization, beginning with teachers’ commitment to the students. When my daughter was in elementary school at Franklin and Randall Elementary Schools you knew that the principals and teachers were strongly committed to the Board’s reading priority.
Art Rainwater’s comments to the School Board can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
MMSD Theory of Action for Change and Continuous Improvement relative to the Academic Achievement of MMSD Students
Questions of Superintendent Rainwater

September 20, 2004 MMSD Board of Education Meeting Audio/Video Clips

Barb Schrank collected video & audio clips from last nights Madison School District Board of Education Meeting:

  • Don Hunt: Retired West High School Art Teacher Fine Arts Statement [MP3 1.4MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Barb Schrank Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.6MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Mariel Wozniak Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.9MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Juan Lopez lecture to Ruth Robarts [MP3 2.7MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Athletic Fees Presentation [MP3] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

Lee Sensenbrenner summarized the meeting as well.

Schools Chiefs Lead The Way in Pay Trends

From Education Week an article by Catherine Gewertz
New data from a survey of more than 500 school districts show the average salary of their superintendents has risen by more than 12 percent over the past decade in inflation-adjusted dollars, and that of their high school principals by more than 4 percent, while the average teacher salary declined by nearly 2 percent.
The salary survey of employees in precollegiate public schools also shows that the gap between teachers� and superintendents� salaries grew a bit wider in the same period. In 1993-94, the superintendents were paid on average 2.4 times as much as teachers. By 2003-04, the difference was 2.75 times.
The data come from the National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools and were released to Education Week this month by Educational Research Service as part of a research partnership.

Continue reading Schools Chiefs Lead The Way in Pay Trends

Cutting Fine Arts Coordinator Will Cost Money

With the recent elimination of the Fine Arts Coordinator in the Madison public schools, music and art (arts) education in Madison�s public schools will continue to crumble and to fall apart but at a faster pace. That�s bad for our children�s education, but it�s also bad for the City�s economy.
This letter to the editor of local Madison papers expresses concerns over the educational and financial costs of cutting 1/2 the position of the MMSD Fine Arts Coordinator that works with the District’s 130+ music and art FTEs in 47 schools to help these teachers deliver a quality curriculum.

Continue reading Cutting Fine Arts Coordinator Will Cost Money

“Debacle” at East High School

Highly respected East High School biology teacher Paul de Vair, who chairs the school’s National Honor Society Selection Committee, wrote a two-and-a-half page memo to Principal Catherine Tillman on May 7.
It starts, “I am writing this letter to formally protest the debacle involving six honor students who were elected to the National Honor Society by the Selection Committee and who were denied membership on the day of the induction ceremony.”
He goes through the details of “the mess you (Tillman) created,” resigns as chair of the Selection Committee, and concludes in italics, ” Never in my 40 years in education (which includes MTI and WEAC presidencies and terms on the NEA Board of Directors) have I seen a faculty’s spirit and enthusiasm plunge so rapidly as it has in the last 2 years at East High School.”
Mr. du Vair’s memo seems to be a public document, so I assume that I’m not violating any confidences by quoting it. He copied it to President, Board of Education; Superintendent of Schools; NHS Selection Committee; East High School Administration; EHS Faculty and Staff.
Ed Blume