I Care, but I think too.

If I have to hear or read another article about how I don’t CARE about Madison Schools or the kids because I think and analyze before I vote, I will scream. I voted today, thanks for the applause, and I voted No, Yes, Yes. So I guess I CARE 2/3 of the time right?
I CARE about the whole district and after careful analysis of the situation I am convinced the district needs another school, just not on the Leopold site. I feel a school located in a more general location that could accommodate students from the (higher income) west growth, (higher income)Leopold growth and perhaps be a home school for Allied Drive would be a more logical location for the whole district. Also I am concerned about the Ridgewood Apartments and the size of the proposed school if the numbers change due to that large complex.

I CARE enough that I volunteer twice a week at MMSD. I see first hand the struggles, but I also sometimes see the waste. I analyze that every year because I think the schools should be run efficiently. I CARE about how money is spent because if it were spent efficiently we would not have to say good-bye to no cut athletics and strings bi-weekly. I CARE when I see an aid at a Jr. High spend 1/2 the day reading books in the library because they do not want to cut her full time status yet she has no students in the afternoon. I CARE that every Monday afternoon’s elementary inservice time for the teachers may not be used as contracted. I CARE that my son never received true TAG services because there is no money. I CARE that the legislation is not supporting S.E. and ESL and I write my state reps all the time. I CARE the state and federal government is spending less on education than they mandate and I write my congressman, senators, and I vote. I CARE so much that I volunteer on countless committees and give significant amounts of money to our schools. I CARE so much sometimes it hurts. But I do CARE if money is just thrown at a problem. Ever seen a spoiled child? Money doesn’t cure them, discipline and love do. Throwing money without questioning the results is a classic educational method. My new high school 25 years ago was build with no divider walls to “Open up the educational experience ….several million dollars later we had to put up walls. Whole language was great, until you had to spell and take the SAT. Ideas are great, money is wonderful, enthusiasm helps, but lets not stop thinking when it comes to financing our kids education.
Why two yes votes? I like good roofs and I keep hoping MMSD might CARE enough about the computer age to join. And lastly, I wanted to vote no on the increase spending to send a message but since the budget is too overwhelming for me to comprehend (like how does the district say it cut so many positions but the number of staff has increased over the years) I am handing my vote and money to the district, just as I also hand them my three children everyday. And, I happen to CARE a lot about them. Is it a smart vote? Who knows but I thought hard and long because I CARE about the process and the outcome over time for all the kids.

14 thoughts on “I Care, but I think too.”

  1. Ms. Battaglia:
    Regardless of how you voted, I’m glad you did. The school board made this a community decision and you made your voice heard and that is indeed important.
    However, I would like to give you my perspective regarding Allied Drive and my strong opposition to building a new school or paired school there.
    Fifty-one years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated formal school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Twenty-five years later, this ruling forced the Madison School District to dramatically change how it educated elementary school students. In 1979, South Madison residents’ lead by Dr. Richard Harris filed a lawsuit with the federal Office of Civil Rights concluding that the Madison School Board had knowingly created and perpetrated racial isolation by closing schools and changing boundaries on the city’s heavily populated minority South Madison. This lead to the creation of a task force that created the current school pairings we know today.
    You have spoken to the board several times and attended many school board meetings. You know the budgetary challenges that the Madison school district faces. This is not going away. In my perspective, the growth on Madison’s southwest, far west and far east sides of town will necessitate building new schools. Now this might happen, 5 years to 15 years from now. This growth ultimately will lead to the closings (or consolidation) of schools on the north side and Isthmus. Currently there is no plan to build a school on Allied Drive. In my humble opinion, I hope there never is.
    First of all, where would you build it? Allied is very land locked. Also, two municipalities are involved, City of Madison and City of Fitchburg. Next is the issue of school districts, there are two of them as well, Verona and Madison. If you ask those who worked on the new Boys and Girls Club building campaign, they will tell you that this deal almost never happened because of all the politics involved. In addition, there are on-going talks with many housing developers about neighborhood revitalization. This situation is more unstable than Ridgewood Apartments.
    Second, the Madison school district does not have the resources (or capacity) it would take to make a school with close to 100% low-income students be successful. Teachers and staff would “burnout quickly.” In addition, the residents that live on the Allied Drive community are a very transient population. The turnover rate in this school would be incredible. It also doesn’t lend itself to the meaning of community. The message that the board would be sending is, “Stay on Allied Drive, no need to leave your own neighborhood.” This would only add to the segregation in our society that is still prevalent many Madison communities today. I am also fairly convinced that if the district would create “a paired school” situation like Lincoln/Midvale, families from more affluent neighborhoods would flee the city (or neighborhood) as they have done in the past. Right now, we need every student we can get to be enrolled in the MMSD. This is part of our budgetary problem.
    I believe that if we want to eliminate racism, schools are an excellent place to start. Our students need to be exposed to a wide range of students of different ethnicities and income levels. This produces challenges but I believe it is the right thing to do.
    In closing, I do thank you for your comments. I know that some residents on Allied Drive would like a school but I believe every neighborhood wants a school. However, we just don’t have the capacity or fiscal resources to do that. I will state that I do remain open for perhaps some sort of charter school that would work with a small number of students in collaboration with businesses, UW and others for the betterment of the community. Again, respectfully this is just my perspective.

  2. Mary,
    Thank you for you comments and your thoughts. I, too, question why an Allied neighborhood school is beyond question. As far as I can tell, the district has never seriously considered this as an option – at least there has been no feasibility study, so I cannot reject out of hand the possibility that such a school could be be attempted.
    Concerns about creating a racially segregated school system make sense IF one accepts the majority of the board’s position that it will not protect resources for schools with disproportionately high numbers of low income students. IF the board had the will to honor the principles of the equity formula, I believe that we could indeed see a model school composed of significant numbers of minority and/or low income children.
    The problem is that the majority of the board is on record as unwilling to allocate resources according to the needs of the respective school populations. Without a commitment to equity funding, an Allied Drive school would likely become an island of unmet high need.
    I like to imagine a different future, however. If our counterparts in Milwaukee could turn around Rufus King and other schools, I have to believe that it would be possible for Madison to envision and establish a school in easy distance of the Allied Drive neighborhood that could stand as a model of achievement.
    Yes, district resources are a consideration. But if people really are there “for the kids,” they need to start asking why it is acceptable to create a racially and economically segregated community that is perpetually outposted, indeed where people do not have the courtesy of knowing which school their child will attend when they sign the lease on their apartment (they don’t learn that until they register with the district). I find this especially troubling when outposting is decried for any other school population in the district.

  3. Thank you Ms. Battaglia, for expressing what a lot of other frustrated Madison parents have also been feeling. But Mr. Winston, your reply did not come close to addressing what I saw as the main idea of her message. When we parents see obvious examples of poorly directed funds in our schools and after school programs, we feel that the board of education should really question how and why the administration decides to allocate funds. It is not an easy task and I commend all the members of the board for their efforts, especially in these times of budget cuts. But accountability will be my main concern today when I vote.
    Have you seen the article in the paper today about how Madison schools did worse on the state-wide tests than in the previous year? And how Madison schools are in some cases below the state average in certain results? I know that these results need to be taken with a grain of salt, and are not the full measure of educational quality. But think about it — is it superior funding or superior instruction that really makes things great?
    When you say that you think families from “affluent” areas would flee the city rather than send their children to a paired school, who are you talking about? I am one of the Midvale neighborhood parents who did not “flee”, and I can tell you that Midvale/Lincoln is an exceptional school. It is filled with wonderful children from both neighborhoods, wonderful teachers, wonderful staff, and yes, wonderful families who are proud to be a part of it. Are we really all that different from the rest of the families in Madison? Don’t we all want a good education for every child, and not just our own kids? Don’t we all want fairness and equality?

  4. Jane and Lucy:
    I believe there is a difference between “waste and a personnel/resource allocation problem.” The issue of an employee not doing what they should be doing should be addressed by the building Principal. Related to the Afterschool issue of last year, I stand behind the direction of the district related to access and equity of student participation, however, I was very disappointed in the process used to make changes. This is why I am hopeful that the Afterschool Task Force comes up with recommendations so that this doesn’t happen again. Some in this community may feel that using tax dollars to fund afterschool programs is wrong but I respectfully disagree. The Midvale situation is different and I have shared my feelings with the board, Supt. and you (Jane).
    Related to Allied Drive, I’m going to stand behind my comments 100%. I attend church with Dr. Harris as well as many prominent leaders who changed the district in late 80’s. It is a shame that we are still talking about those same issues today. Building a school in any low-income neighborhood (Allied Drive or wherever) is not going to change the capacity of the district to provide quality education without draining the already scarce recourses from other schools. There are poor students in every school. I have a responsibility to all students throughout the district no matter what their income status is. Lenny Alston speaks very eloquently regarding the large percentage of low-income students at Mendota. He can do that because he’s lived “through the struggle of being a Black man living in Madison.” This is not the same augument that can be made by other people. There’s a difference. I’d be more inclined to elaborate off-line. This isn’t just a school district issue, it is also a City of Madison issue regarding housing patterns. The school district has to provide a school. Comparing Madison to Milwaukee is not a fair assessment. At this time Madison is NOT Milwaukee but we’re getting there.

  5. Johnny, what you said seems to imply that I somehow feel that using tax dollars to fund afterschool programs is wrong — and this is definately NOT the case. The tax subsidized afterschool program at Midvale serves mainly middle to upper income kids, because the families using both the Midvale program and the Lincoln program want their kids to attend the site close to their homes. Consequently, only a few low income kids (less than 20%, I believe) attend the Midvale program. Scholarships for these kids at the former, non-profit after school program that was at Midvale for 25 years would have cost the district over $40,000 less to fund than the current program does. The current program charges rates that are way below market, and the people that benefit from them are the “affluent” families that live near Midvale. This is all done in the name of “access and equity of student participation”, as you say. But the result is unfortunately the opposite. This is what I do not feel is fair. I am a strong supporter of tax supported afterschool programs for low income families, and I definately recognize the need for afterschool care throughout the district. I am glad that you did acknowledge that Midvale is different. Most Madisonians don’t realize what was done there. In light of the election and its importance, I think everyone should be aware of what the district has been doing.

  6. I would like to ask, if we explore a school in the Allied Community, are we putting a school where the growth is?

  7. The underlying and open position, at Board meetings, in public comments, on blog sites, constantly propagated, and reenforced, stated with much concern by advocates, is that children in single parent households, those of color, those on free and reduced lunch are simply unable to be successful academically without a majority of students in a school being white, middle and upper class.
    Is it possible, in this town, for Black children, Hispanic children, Hmong children, poor children, or their families, to take the opportunities that schools offer, with confidence and dignity that they can succeed?
    Is there a culture that says that they can be high achievers in our schools? And are we backing up that goal with rigorous educational opportunities?
    I do believe that the dialog throughout Madison is in fact harmful to just those kids and families whose capabilities we constantly disparage.
    If we, all of us, approach these issues with a different mindset, perhaps the solutions will become easier to accept.

  8. My kids attend school with Allied Drive families as well as lots of very wealthy Highland’s families and Hawk Landings families. Families are flowing in even with children of color and low income being a part of our school. In the 80’s it was a new concept, families do not like change and they left. Leopold families love the diversity they currently have and that school is near low income apartments, Crestood families love the diversity, Stephens, Lincoln, Midvale, etc….that is what I here all the time so I think you underestimate us white moms of 2005. There is high turn over I agree. There are problems. I was not trying to segregate these families, I in fact enjoy the diversity of my school. I was not proposing segregation and I am sad that is the way it was interpreted. I in fact put in parenthesis wealthy before Leopold and West to emphasis that a racial and income balance was required that many of our schools currently have. I was thinking, as I just returned from our school picnic, not one family from Allied attended and they couldn’t this is not near them. I guess my hope was by having a place to shoot hoops, picnic, do afterschool programs that the community could improve its image and people would stay. I can invision a Charter or Magnet school in say technology, science, math, back to the basics, whatever……in Dallas, Cleveland and many other communities I am familiar with have such schools that have become very popular with higher income families but placed in a lower income area. Mr. Winston has much more experience in this process and I meant in no way to isolate this neighborhood, but empower them. But perhaps busing these students and having them change schools every time one gets filed to capacity, and sending them to three different elementary schools within a small neighborhood is a better idea………..it just doesn’t sound right.

  9. Mary, I believe that the interpretation of segregation is not about what you said. It is the standard MMSD litany when people ask why NOT a school that is closer to Allied.
    You, and the others who have posted here, make many good points.
    As I read the various comments, I cannot help but wonder: if schools are anchors of communities, then why the resistance to giving a community that could use some stability a strong neighborhood magnet school? If it is important for the Ridgewood families to be able to walk to school, why would it be any less important for the people in the Allied Drive neighborhood? I just don’t get it.
    As for the issue of segregation, one of the issues that we have yet to address as a community, is that we already have schools that are over 60% students of color. We also have some schools that have fewer numbers of students of color but are very segregated in terms of the class assignments. In at least one school, the floors on which students take classes are segregated. These are some of the unspoken public secrets, and they point to the fallacy of arguments that diverse student populations mean equal access to educational opportunity.
    Perhaps I am a crazy idealist, but I believe that Madison has it within itself to develop and implement models of academic success for its schools. Again, I believe that the issue is important enough to have an honest dialogue about whether it really is impossible to find a model that would fit with the Allied neighborhood. I simply am not willing to say that the only way that the children of Allied neighborhood can be educated is to permanently bus them to other sites.

  10. Mary and Lucy,
    The fact that it is the low income kids that are taking buses all over town in order to integrate the schools is precisely why I am such a strong supporter of paired schools, like Lincoln/Midvale. We have a single school on two campuses, where the k-2 students from both neighborhoods attend Midvale, and then they all move on to attend Lincoln for grades 3-5. Yes, it was difficult to get the pair going, but now after more than 20 years it is working well (at least from the point of view of my child, his friends, and their parents, who have become my friends.) My son walked to school for 3 years and has taken the bus 8 miles to Lincoln for 3 years. His friends who live near Lincoln have had the opportunity to do the same, which seems so much more fair. What could be a better equalizer? And our kids have grown to love both campuses, just as the kids at other Madison schools become attached to theirs. This is a priceless advantage to a pair. There is a bond that forms. And most kids actually enjoy riding a bus. At least that was how it seemed the first day of school in 3rd grade — my son took the bus to Lincoln and I drove there separately just to see how things would go. The bus arrived and all the kids on it were cheering.
    It is true that it is hard to pair existing schools in different neighborhood. Lots of changes and resistance. But if a new school needs to be built, why not consider a real pair, rather than the Leopold/Leopold pair that the voters just rejected? The standard MMSD argument that building a school in a low income area would result in segregation just wouldn’t hold up if it were paired with a school elsewhere. I too feel that Madison is capable of finding better solutions.

  11. Couple of comments. One to repeat:
    If we explore a school in the Allied Community, are we putting a school where the growth is?
    I understand the discussion is focused on a charter/magnet school (which I’m not totally against) which too, will cost money and land. I would like to know the numbers on that type of school, simply because of the location of Allied to existing schools such as Midvale, Orchard Ridge and Huegel and the impact it would have on schools to maintain SAGE.

  12. Someone who knows the numbers better than I am can correct me, but it is my understanding that the area of strongest growth is west of Leopold. If that’s the case, and I may be wrong, a school that is farther west would be closer to Allied and closer to the growth.
    Jane makes a good point – a paired Leopold/Allied school is an option worth considering. The district keeps telling us there is no land, and yet it does appear that there are several parcels that are ripe for redevelopment within a reasonable distance from Allied. I guess I’d rather that the board make decisions based on careful study instead of whatever MMSD admin asserts at the moment. Sometimes their assertions don’t hold up to scrutiny.
    Jill, you’re right about what is happening at Mendota. Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but the biggest issue is the board’s refusal to honor the equity formula that was supposed to ensure that schools with higher need populations get the resources that they need. It seems to me that any part of new thinking on the schools must involve accountability on how resources are prioritized and allocated.

  13. I believe there is a larger issue at work here. Last week at the Northside Planning Council forum asked “if further cuts were required, should the district commit to keeping small class sizes at schools with the greatest need even if it meant raising class sizes at schools with lower poverty levels.” This was a “Yes” or “No” question with no one being able to offer an explanation. I answered, “NO.” Because it is the truth and the right answer to a terrible question.
    There are poor children throughout the school district and they are not just concentrated on the Northside. I have worked in EVERY low-income neighborhood in this City. Allied Drive is just the latest in the history of this City. Sommerset Circle, Vera Court, Darbo Worthington, Broadway Simpson. Where was their neighborhood school? The Vicki Krantz article this past week was wonderful, however, this story has been written so many times before. All you have to do is cross out the names and neighborhood and plug in new ones.
    In the case of a school on Allied Drive, you in essence would have to put a large amount of resources at that particular school which would take resources from other schools. How many people would love Allied Drive then? This move would set race and economic relations back even further in this City. If you believe I’m playing the color card here (instead of race card), I am. But the color is green. Resources are scarce. And I believe that our district still doesn’t have the capacity to work the miracles it would take to make an overwhelmingly educational task possible.
    I say this respectfully to district staff because I receive the district comments that talk about how hard it is to teach children without the 15 to 1 class size. I receive other e-mails that tell the board to create a school for those “special ed” kids. Others talk about the Board cramming the Spanish school (Nuestro Mundo) down our throat. I realize that these are the extreme @ssholes of the community that have nothing better to do than look at MMSD data and clutch their wallet tighter. Or better yet, pass a high school, see the demographics and say, “I’m not paying for that!”
    Part of my responsibility is to keep the MMSD from going down the wrong path. Maybe four other school board members might think differently than I. That’s their business. But I am willing to lie down in front of a bulldozer to not let that happen to our community.
    Side note – As I stated at the last board meeting, the Leopold community should be consulted and every option should now be taken off the board. The community spoke and now is not the time for a “do over.” The district should find out about all available land options throughout Fitchburg even asking the new developers of Ridgewood about acquiring land there or talking to Promega about the free land they were going to give the district for a middle school in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

  14. Mr. Winston you are right about the Leopold community speaking, throughout the campaign there were some very vocal voices about a new school but when you look at the Fitchburg numbers on the vote, they clearly have a different idea than those living near Leopold or within the Beltline. Fitchburg pretty overwhelmingly voted Ref. #2 down and barely passed, by 8 votes, #3. As a whole they voted ref. #1 down but it was divided by precinct which sends an interesting statement to the board.
    I know the board can only respond to those that show up and speak, but it seems to me not all the Leopold parents were on the same page and there is a division between Madison and Fitchburg for those that bothered to show up and vote. I could be wrong but I do not think it was the “size” issue. I think Fitchburg parents want a closer or different school, but of course do not want their taxes to go up…..why else live in a community without fire/police/school etc….. What about a new school off Seminole Hwy near McKee or better yet if MMSD is going to front the bill for a new school does Fitchburg own any land it would be willing to sell at a reasonable price to provide an education to its children.
    I see your point about a school at Allied Drive, but as the West side grows and Crestwood fills to capacity or above,(as Hawks area continues to boom) the kids that will be moved again are Allied Drive. (I know there is a long term plan to build west but…) There is no other student population that is shifted with no home school. Maybe resources can be allocated to two schools to reduce the stress, but can that neighborhood ever have the honor of having two schools they call their own without the constant possibility of a move. I know you know we mean well by these families. I know you mean well for all the kids of the district and I know these kids are just trying to get through the day sometimes, but I wish they had some stability in their lives, that is all I want for them, no different than my own kids.

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