Leopold Referendum Not in Near Term

Cristina Daglas:

The Madison School Board flirted Monday night with the idea of holding another referendum to seek funding for a second school on the Leopold Elementary grounds, but then backed away from it for now.
The board’s Long Range Planning Committee met with parents from Leopold at the school and heard their pleas for another referendum. Two of the three committee members – Juan Jose Lopez and Bill Keys – favored holding another referendum but ultimately moved to table the idea when it was clear that a majority of board members were not ready to go back to the voters so soon after the defeat of a similar referendum on May 24.

6 thoughts on “Leopold Referendum Not in Near Term”

  1. There were discussions. The Board made suggestions for changes to the charge and asked the Administration to incorporate those changes into a new document.
    Some changes (I’m not working from notes):
    1) MMSD employees shall not be voting members
    2) Change Principals to at large members of majority ethnic minorities.
    3) Broaden the charge from the list to “perform the following, including but not limited to”.
    One suggestion by Ruth and not accepted by the rest of the board was to broaden the representation more. I believe it was she who mentioned that given the definition of how the members would be chosen, these task forces will be made up of the same old faces, and will come up with the same ideas –which means nothing new.
    Membership now and in the next incarnation only includes people associated with the schools (chosen by PTO president and school principal). No community members generally.
    I find the membership definition problematic. Membership needs to be community based, not just school based.
    I also have problems with the extensiveness of the charge. It is too vast (or overly detailed) in scope to complete much useful in the 4 working-months before their report is due (January).
    I certainly believe input from the community is required — such as by on-line survey of perceptions, beliefs, etc that could be used to inform these task forces (however constituted).
    I believe the Board did pass on $25,000 for in-house facilitator for each task force, who will also have the responsibility to staff the task force, write the reports, etc. Given the potential charge, the time-frame and the lack of independence, I personally expect these “facilitators” to direct the agenda, the discourse, and the decision, etc.
    And, given that two of the members of the LRP (Lopez and Keys) wanted to go out for referundum now, because the choice to build the new school at Leopold was the only correct choice (it was the only choice allowed) was the best one. Their positions, public now, certainly indicates that there will be considerable resistance to new ideas from the Task Forces.
    One other item to note:
    Oliver Kiefer is, of course, fairly naive as to issues and perspective (else he’d hide these views), but he does likely provide glimpse into the views of the administrative staff downtown. His comments in support of going out for another referendum included the statement that only the staff understand and are intelligent enough decide issues of public policy and that these decisions should therefore be left up to the staff — Keyes and Lopez, typically, in agreement on such tripe.
    That is, in matters of public policy, the public should be not involved.

  2. …some commentary following each quote from the Cap. Times article…
    “Other members said all seven board members must be in favor of any decision they decide to put to a vote within the community. Two members, Kobza and Ruth Robarts, were vocally against the May referendum’s passage. “The board has to be united for this referendum to pass,” board member Johnny Winston Jr. said. “Going to referendum right now is not a good thing to do.”…
    Although I fully agree, I wonder if this can truly happen. Neither presented alternatives or even acknowledgement that an overcrowding issue exists within our West and Memorial attendance elementary schools; thus the need for long range planning. I hope doubts BOE members have, will be shared with and considerations offered for the newly formed task force to address.
    “Members of the Leopold community spoke at Monday night’s meeting, which was held in the school’s library. They urged that the board consider going back to referendum, and many also asked that decisions be made soon regarding boundary changes. After the referendum motion was tabled, more than half of the crowd left, expressing little emotion.”
    I’ll have to re-read the minutes when they are posted at:
    I sat through the public appearances and know that not all the speakers were *Leopold parents*. I also don’t recall any of the speakers *specifically* asking the BOE to consider going to referenda. I did hear their:
    § frustrations in wanting to know where their children will be going to
    school ASAP (which then BOE member Carol Carstensen stated those children in Middle School will continue through their designated High School),
    § frustrations with not being able to help new neighbors understand where their children will attend school, (as homes in the Fitchburg area are being put up for sale more frequently now…)
    § frustrations with increasing classroom dynamics (a direct concern of balancing income levels),
    § frustrations of being able to teach in a proper learning environment,
    § frustrations & recommendation to re-draw boundaries and shift children across the Isthmus (domino effect through Isthmus area schools, rather than west-ward),
    § frustrations of a lack of Madison community understanding the issues,
    § frustrations of forming another task force when this was already done 5 years ago,
    § frustrations in general…but not a specific comment to ask for another referenda.
    It is also noteworthy that Juan’s motion for referenda did not have a date associated with it. It was tabled in hopes of educating all
    citizens through the task force and in hopes of coming together as a board in making a wise decision to help a community that is now in
    upheaval. Half the crowd left after it was tabled, because the motion was followed by an interesting exchange and of course, the parents
    affected would stay to know the final outcome. At this point it was past 9 pm.

  3. In a nutshell everyone, the task force is being outlined as we speak. Last nights conversation was a good beginning with many BOE members additional concerns and ideas for input for modification prior to a final motion.
    To the comments above … Yes, Ruth did express some skepticism about task force representation. However, it was Carol Carstensen who agreed with a public appearance to have the board/administration provide guidance in creating a committee within each school to minimize individuals speaking on behalf of all the neighborhoods feeding into their school to which they represent. Each representative will be nominated by the PTO (President(s) or by school vote if preferred) and agreed upon by the school Principal. The speaker also mentioned the representatives should be aware of neighborhood issues, and Carol provided that perhaps even contacting their City Alder for an understanding would be great as well.
    I envision these representatives will…yes … be “school based” BUT…as well, parents are a big part of this decision and also a part of the community. Does this mean, we should only listen to parents? NO, that’s not what I stated. I was that speaker, and I believe there are several parents who will want to provide input. As well, several neighborhood associations should be represented on the school committee. If you know of someone without a child at their neighborhood school who is greatly interested and wants to participate. I think they should be encouraged contact the school Principal, attend the first PTO meeting or send an email to the BOE.
    Art stated that announcements of individuals and task force details will be sent to neighborhood associations asking for their input. He also mentioned a list of information the task force will be allowed to have to provide insight and to help make recommendations. I think that’s pretty independent. I too like the recommendation for on-line survey’s. This allows information from the public that may not feel comfortable appearing at meetings. Larry…I hope you send that idea to the board and administration directly and are not just sharing your insight here. That’s a great idea! For anyone else wishing to give support or insight, your emails are received by all members at: comments@madison.k12.wi.us
    Quickly…Bill clarified after he seconded the motion for Juan’s referenda, that there was not a specific timetable attached to the referenda suggestion. I guess, with all the misconception, I would like to know if everyone agrees there is an overcrowding problem at Leopold and fast approaching issue within the West and Memorial attendance area’s? If you agree, there is a problem…a referenda, does seem inevitable for a community decision and for the task force to have an alternative plan in hand as well.
    From the parents and staff at Leopold, there is definitely a feeling of “Here we go again!” but as well, I get the impression that the whole task force concept is not what ya’all are looking for either. Would that be correct or what is the beef with the outline put forth? I liked all the comments made, by Lawrie, by Ruth, by Johnny, by Shaw, by Carol, by Juan and by Bill. An initial outline must be created so it can be presented and then battered around to make it even better. I thought that’s what was happening.
    As for Oliver…our community should be proud to have had a young adult with his insight and knowledge serving in a volunteer position with the BOE. I wish him well in college. Gant has some big shoes to fill and I’m sure he is also well equipped. Oliver is young…but, ya know me…I don’t like the word naïve. In his reference to the administration, I believe he was addressing the meaning of equity: fairness. It is the job of our administration to serve ALL children and provide for ALL children. No matter the color of the rainbow, no matter the side of Madison on which they reside, no matter what community home they can afford, no matter what individual parents have to say or do…It is their job, to look at decisions with impartiality.

  4. Mari,
    The success of the task force (and another referendum) rests on two critical issues:
    1) Representation of “no” voters on the task force;
    2) Examination of all options, such as a new school at a site different than Leopold, magnet schools, charter schools, opening Hoyt, just to name a few.
    If the board and task force fail on either, the referenda will fail again.
    Why can’t the board and administration understand these simple keys to success? They seem determined to repeat the same process that led to defeat of the referendum.

  5. Ed,
    Agreed, there should be a variety of representation. As I’ve said before, it’s not proper to ask how people voted. The ‘no’ representation should encourage people to participate in the process rather than simple examination. To be blatantly honest…the no’s need to step forward in either being a rep. on the school committee or the individual representative to LRP (should that be the outline become apart of the ammendments to the task force).
    LRP and the BOE are asking for many Madison citizen representatives. I believe they would support all nominations. They are also asking for input at LRP meetings. The meetings can be attended and public appearances made by those who don’t feel their needs are being considered.
    As far as options…you and I have spoken to one another. It’s up to all citizens to share their options to a solution and ask for non-bias, substantiate research.
    Unfortunately, ya’all are ready to commit the process to failure, before the task force even begins…

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