Great Opportunity Needs Your Support

We have a great opportunity! On Monday March 6th, the Madison School Board will be considering four proposals for funding that have an opportunity to have a positive impact on the student achievement in our school district. These programs are community based after school and summer programming that can supplement students’ academic achievement in the Madison Metropolitan School District. These programs are not subject to the state imposed revenue limits. They are Kajsiab House and Freedom Inc., Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network-South Central Wisconsin (GLSEN), Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY) , and The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, Inc. (CHHI) . I am asking for your support to help fund these programs.

Kajsiab House and Freedom Inc. proposes to conduct culturally relevant programming for Hmong students to improve attendance and graduation rates. By working closer with both of these organizations, the MMSD can develop better communication and increase student achievement of Hmong students.
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network-South Central Wisconsin (GLSEN) intends to use funding to increase their capacity to decrease bullying and harassing behaviors in Middle Schools. They will do this by increasing the number of gay-straight alliances, workshops and conferences. GLSEN will also partner with the school district media channel, Wisconsin Public Television, and MSCR.
Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY) would like to continue and expand their “Children of Promise” program at Toki Middle School as well as giving financial aid to economically disadvantaged students as a part of the summer national talent search. This program is in response to identifying more students of color to participate in advanced placement courses and talented and gifted programs in the MMSD.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, Inc. (CHHI) has developed a comprehensive supplemental educational program for Black American students. The CHHI seeks to support the MMSD thru enhanced educational, counseling and intervention programming. This program will seek to prepare students for economic independence.
The leaders of these organizations Doua Vang, Cindy Crane, Ellie Schatz and Dr. John Odom, their staff, volunteers and board members are some of the finest people in this community and experts in their field. These programs have the tremendous potential to strengthen school and community relationships. The total amount of funding for these programs is $150,000.
School district community services monies also fund programs such as Centro Hispano, Urban League of Greater Madison, African American Ethnic Academy, Project Bootstrap and Madison School and Community Recreation all of whom work directly with students of color, economically disadvantaged youth, senior citizens and community based services.
Please be aware that the school board and district are under attack from people who believe that programs such as these are “driving up their taxes.” This is simply not true! Community services funding is included in this year’s community services budget, but hasn’t been allocated. However, because the district budget has already been passed, each proposal will need five votes from the seven-member school board.
I am asking for your support for these programs. Please consider doing the one of the following. First, if your schedule allows please attend the Monday March 6th school board meeting at 7:15 p.m at the Doyle Administration Building located at 545 W. Dayton Street. During this meeting, it will be very important to have people who support these programs and others like it to testify. Supporters can sign up at the McDaniels Auditorium and have 3 minutes to make a public statement. These comments should talk about all of the good things that can be accomplished through programming with the MMSD. If you can’t attend the meeting please contact the elected board and central administration via e-mail at Please take a few moments to write positive words to encourage the elected school board to fund these programs and support others like it.
If you have questions, comments or would like additional information please contact Johnny Winston, Jr. at 441-0224 (home), 347-9715 (cell) or If we work together, we can truly make a difference for our students in this community. Thank you.

24 thoughts on “Great Opportunity Needs Your Support”

  1. Johnny,
    Can you please provide more detail on the “comprehensive supplemental educational program” offered by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, Inc. (CHHI)?

  2. And the Children of Promise programing at Toki. Why is it only available at Toki? What does it do? Is it aimed at increasing achievement or recognizing excellence among children of color? What about all of our community’s children? Where do the kids who cannot afford “enrichment” or tutoring opportunities, but are also do not qualify as members of protected groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, families with low income, LGBT youth, get their extra help and/or extra challenge? I am NOT saying that the Toki program is a bad thing (for one thing, I do not know enough about it at this point to make such pronouncements), but I am wondering who decides who accesses these programs, and which schools they are offered at? I am not being facetious, by the way. I would actually like to know who pulls what strings to make these happen and if they can be pulled for everyone?

  3. I had a message waiting for me in my email that contained a document explaining more about Children of Promise, and it sounds like an awesome program that has made a big difference in the lives of more than a few children. But it does cost (for example) $900-1700 to attend one WCATY (or related) summer program for 1-2 weeks, and that is not something many people can afford for their child (or children). This program helps a few of the ones for whom this would be completely beyond reach (ever). And it sounds like they are hoping to expand their reach beyond Toki with some of this funding they have requested.

  4. Millie,
    Could you possibly post the document on Children of Promise?
    I haven’t gotten any response from Johnny or anyone else on my request for more information.

  5. Millie:
    The “Children of Promise” program at Toki was funded by “A Fund For Women.” This funding was ending so the program was ending. This is the essence of great programs that are funded by local, state and federal dollars, it eventually ends unless you find another way to replace the dollars or supplement them. This is the reason the local community service budget has grown because the Federal government stopped funding after school and educational enrichment programs like Safe Haven and the 21st Century Community Learning Grants. I had several conversations with Ellie Schatz and Wendy Johnson, Psychologist at Toki who also works with WCATY. Everyone I spoke with raved about this program and that it was a shame that the funding would end. So here we are asking for the boards support to continue this worthwhile program. It is also a shame that we don’t have enough money to implement it in all of our schools.
    I realize that the programs listed are ethnocentric. However, that doesn’t mean any child of any color or economic status can’t take advantage of these offerings. This community is definitely not lacking in children’s programs. As a matter of fact, many often have scholarships or fee waivers. Unfortunately, either parents don’t know about the programs or can’t afford the programs but have thrown away the information before reading the disclaimer that talks about scholarships or fee waivers. This is why I continue to advocate that the school district needs to continue to communicate through grassroots means by collaborating with the community centers, UW, MATC and other colleges, community service agencies and programs – everyone doesn’t have a computer or access to one. Also, we need to have parents and staff members that understand the complexities and challenges that families face and work together to distribute information in a variety of ways.

  6. Johnny,
    As you can see in a comment above, I asked you for more information on on the “comprehensive supplemental educational program” offered by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, Inc. (CHHI), but you haven’t responded. The group’s Web site ( provides no detail on such a program.
    I hope that you’ll post the CHHI’s proposal on

  7. These are all wonderful organizations, but I am confused. How were these organizations selected – what process and criteria were used? Did the School Board identify priorities, did the School Board issue an RFP? Basically, what kind of open process was used? I would appreciate more information since there are many worthy organizations in the City of Madison – Simpson Street Free Press, music and art organizations, etc.

  8. “This is why I continue to advocate that the school district needs to continue to communicate through grassroots means by collaborating with the community centers, UW, MATC and other colleges, community service agencies and programs – everyone doesn’t have a computer or access to one.” –
    Amen to that, Johnny. I can’t even count the number of times I have asked someone about something and simply been told, “Oh, that infromation is on-line”, as if that meets anyone’s responsibility to inform people of details or even a program’s existence in the first place. But there is also the problem you mention of people “throwing things away” before they have even read far enough to know what it is, how much it costs, whom it targets, and whether or not their is financial aid available. I do know from personal experience though, that programs that make it clear that people have to qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch programs to have a chance at help paying fees, miss a lot of kids whose families don’t qualify for FRL, but also barely can make their rent/mortgage payments and heating bills while stil buying food.

  9. Responses to Barb and Millie:
    You’re absolutely right. There are many wonderful organizations that could be ideal candidates for future community services funding. I would be interested in reading or listening to any organization’s proposal. I have personally directed many music and fine arts organizations to the school district’s Fine Arts Coordinator, Julie Palkowski. Some excellent linkages have not only been made but programs have been established.
    Before starting this endeavor, I asked the board’s legal counsel, Clarence Sherrod about the procedures that needed to be followed. I have been following his legal advice ever since. In addition, I have consulted with the Board President, the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Coordinator of Talented and Gifted Department (and the entire department), GLBTQ resource teacher, and Hmong community liaison. I also consulted with the community organizations involved and reached out to others such as the leadership of the Madison United for Academic Excellence. While doing all of this, I have communicated with the elected school board in December and sent them the proposals and encouraged them to talk to the organizations involved, ask questions etc. The organizations came before the Finance and Operations Committee on February 20th and made presentations. It will now come before the entire board on March 6th.
    I wrote about this plan on the Finance and Operations Committee link located on this website. I wrote this on October 24, 2005. I am following through on this plan. However, it will be up to the elected board to see if this is a direction that the elected board wants to go. I put the plan on the table. It has been an open process.
    Finally, I do take great exception to a school board member who says, “These are Johnny’s programs.” I emphasize that I am not a participant in nor am I directly involved with any of these programs. One role of board members is to explore various strategies for supporting the overall educational missions of the MMSD, including identifying and supporting community collaborations that will facilitate these missions. This also means building consensus and building trust among the membership of the school board. This is something this particular board member knows little or nothing about. I will deal with particular school board member’s passive aggressive behavior in the open process we call school board meetings. I am truly offended at that school board members remarks. Not only are the school board member’s facts incorrect, they’re misleading, ill informed, and I’m sure the motivation for your questions. Regardless of your reasons for asking, I hope this answers your questions.
    Again, thank you for your comments. I agree with you that relationship building no matter what race, ethnicity or economic conditions should stop families from gaining access to educational services for their children. However, we know it does. I am committed to addressing these barriers that prohibit any family or student from reaching their educational goals. Whether that means making a school board motion, a phone call or writing a letter of support, I’m willing to this and have done this on a routine basis since becoming elected in 2004.

  10. The Children of Promise proposal will provide financial aid “for disadvantaged Madison school district students to participate in Talent Search, the national testing service through which students are identified for out-of-level classes and services . . . [and] for disadvantaged Madison students to attend accelerated academic programs through WCATY.”
    Meanwhile the superintendent and MMSD administration intend to place more students in “homogeneous” classrooms instead of placing high-performing, as well as struggling, students in programs better suited to their academic needs.
    I hope that Johnny and other board members push the administration to abandon the one-size-fits-none model and adopts something more along the approach of Children of Hope.
    Until then, is it wise to fund Children of Hope? Will the board only create children of disappointment, i.e., high-achieving students who have been encouraged to take advanced courses and then find themselves in homogeneous classrooms where the material doesn’t match their skills?

  11. Johnny,
    Thank you for responding to my question, but I found your attributive statement of my motivation petty and inaccurate. You have an issue with a board member. It does NOT involve me.
    I thought my question was straight forward – what was the process, was the process open and why wouldn’t an RFP be part of the process such as this to be as open to the community as possible? If the board’s priorities are these areas and the board voted to move in this direction with these “unallocated” funds, then that’s an answer to my question, isn’t it?
    As I said at the start of my comment to your blog, these are worthy organizations. I would add a thank you for your efforts.
    I’ll comment on fine arts in separate blogs in the future.

  12. Johnny Winston, Jr., member of the MMSD Board of Education, is cheerleading “A Great Opportunity Needs Your Support” campaign. While it is possible to support the good intentions and beliefs of the opportunity, the decision-making process, as well as the funding source and availability, begs several serious questions; therefore, raising several issues about open and public discussion, accountability and effective planning and use of District resources.
    1. Was there public discussion by the Performance and Achievement (P & A) Committee of the Board of Education for the need (with supporting data), as well as the value of special programming for the achievement enhancement of categorically identified students’ needs; or, is this an individual/unilateral initiative on the part of Mr. Winston?
    2. Was there public discussion by the P & A Committee to pursue after school and summer programming services to address these students’ needs; or, is this an individual/unilateral initiative on the part of Mr. Winston?
    3. Was a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) process used in a widespread solicitation of grant proposals from community groups to address these students’ needs; or, was the solicitation an individual/unilateral solicitation of pre-selected community groups determined by Mr. Winston and/or District Administration?
    4. Were there written specifications and a format for which submitted proposals were expected to address?
    5. Are there written criteria by which submitted proposals have been evaluated and scored for determining eligibility and efficacy for approval?
    6. What was the process for determining that public discussion of the submitted proposals was not conducted in the P & A Committee, but placed directly on the agenda of the Finance & Operations (F & O) Committee? Why?
    7. Why is it that Mr. Winston, a member of the Board of Education, erroneously and irresponsibly asserts that “Please be aware that the school board and district are under attack from people who believe that programs such as these are “driving up their taxes.” This is simply not true! Community services funding is included in this year’s community services budget, but hasn’t been allocated.”? Mr. Winston obviously doesn’t understand that over 70% of the funds (allocated or unallocated) in the Community Services Fund (Fund 80) are in the budget because of the tax levy on property in the school district (not subject to the revenue cap) at the same mil rate as taxes levied for school district operations (subject to the revenue cap).
    8. The Department of Public Instruction published purposes and guidelines for local school districts in the use of funds for community services provides that programs and activities must be accessible for all program/activity appropriate aged children resident in the school district (i.e., whether the children attend MMSD or not—including private schools, alternative schools and home-schooled). The proposals do not address communications with families and the inclusion of these children in the programs.
    9. Measurable outcomes, accountability and evaluation measures and reporting mechanisms are not addressed, nor apparent in the proposals. What are the written provisions for these critical aspects of such programs? What are the District coordination and oversight provisions for these programs?

  13. Questions for Don Severson:
    1. How many members are in the Active Citizens for Education?
    2. How many of these members are African-American, Latino, Southeast Asian, Native American or live in a low-income neighborhood?
    3. How many meetings of Active Citizens for Education have been held in a neighborhood center or low-income community?
    4. Have you attended a MAFAAC, LaSup, Family Voices, LUChA, Communities Unitied, 100 Black Men or other programs that work with students of color or low-income students? If so, did you invite them to join ACE? Did you provide transportation or child care?
    5. Have you visited the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute? Have you met or had conversation with nationally known education and race relations consultant Dr. John Odom? Have you met or had conversations with members of their board of directors including Dr. Muriel Simms, Dr. Anthony Brown, U.W. Prof. Richard Davis, Bishop Eugene Johnson, MATC minority student specialist Alfonso Studesville or former CEO of Alliant Energy and the newly hired chancellor of the University of Georgia, Erroll Davis? Are you aware of the achievement gap between African American students and others? Are you aware that nearly a fourth of Black students in the district were suspended? Did you know 67% of all students expelled were Black? Did you know according to the DPI website that the graduation rate for African American students has decreased from 55% to 23%? While this is a good thing, I won’t stop until it is ZERO percent for all races! Did you know that the Black Commentator, a national online newsletter, dubbed Wisconsin as the worst state in the nation for Black people, based on our state’s prison population? Did you know, nationally, for every one black man who graduates from college, 100 are arrested? I could go on but I’ll stop here. I think I’ve made this point.
    6. Have you ever visited WCATY? If so, have you had conversations with their Executive Director Elle Schatz? Have you ever met or had conversations with MMSD TAG Director Welda Simousek? Have you met or had conversations with the MMSD TAG staff? How would you go about addressing the number of low-income, disadvantaged and children of color involved in Talented and Gifted Programming and Advanced Placement courses in a collaborative effort that involved district staff, community programs, parent organizations, and students?
    7. Have you ever been to Kajsiab House or Freedom, Inc? Are you aware of their missions? Have you invited the Hmong elders to a meeting of Active Citizens for Education? Are you aware that Hmong students are suffering from “intergenerational conflict” caused by culture and adjustment problems in this community? Are you aware that the Hmong attendance board attendance goal has decreased from 93.6% to 93.3? The board goal for all student groups is 94%.
    8. Have you been to a GLSEN activity? Have you met or had conversations with GLBTQ coordinator Bonnie Augusta? Are you aware of harassment or bullying problems in the MMSD with students in general? How would you address this growing trend without doing harm to the K-12 budget?
    9. Did your school portion of your property tax go down this past year? If so, this is because of the state imposed revenue limits. It will continue to decrease every year if the funding system remains the same. 8 million dollars will be cut from this year’s budget. This does NOT equal the $1.75 or $150,000 worth of proposals, which is what these programs cost the school district taxpayer based on a $222,000 home.
    10. Have you read the proposals?
    Lastly, each of these proposals addresses a critical issue in our school district today. It has been a collaborative effort that has been supported by many members of staff, board members, community members, parents groups and students. I realize that everyone won’t like these ideas for a variety of reasons. I think programs that increase African American student achievement, Increase the numbers of students involvement in TAG, increase Hmong student attendance and achievement and anti-bullying and harassment is a good thing. All of these programs fit the criteria and guidelines for funding according to DPI. The process used to fund these programs according to the district’s legal council finds this appropriate.

  14. It seems to me that each of these programs would be a valuable partnership for the MMSD. It also appears that the proposals (and their financial outlay) aren’t being foisted upon the taxpayers in the dark of night. The terse discussion here indicates that anyone who actually cares either way is getting their opinion heard. The entire board gets to discuss and vote on these tomorrow night. That’s how it works.
    Might the MMSD have issued a RFP? I’m not certain they have in the past for every Fund 80 funding committment they’ve made. I can certainly understand Ruth’s concern that committing monies now might leave the Board with less money in June; but I also understand that a RFP means sifting through, potentially, hundreds of requests. I guess I’d have a larger concern with this whole thing if these weren’t focussed on our most fragile students. MMSD isn’t committing to funding these proposals in perpetuity…so I say let the Board have a spirited debate tomorrow night.
    “Lock and load”- Denny Crane

  15. Johnny,
    I do not doubt your good intentions in soliciting these proposals. However, your process of solicitation reminds me of Bill Clingan in last year’s campaign when he insisted on saying that no one cares about “the process.” As the election returns and the discussion of this particular issue both show, people care about the process because the process often determines the outcome.
    Your process pretty well determined that these groups will be funded and others never had a chance.

  16. I’m only going to speak to the one group I have some knowledge of, WCATY. Here is a group that works across Wisconsin providing programs for talented youth and already has the Children of Promise program underway at Toki. Many, many districts and communities utilize WCATY for these types of activities.
    As I read the proposal, the WCATY piece calls for continuing the existing Children of Promise program at Toki. If the goal is to continue that specific program, why go through a full-blown RFP process and impose that burden on the district and the outside organizations? That would be inefficient.
    MMSD, like all districts, has policies on procurement and purchasing. It’s critical that these policies be followed. However, I am troubled by the suggestion that *everything* go through an RFP process. Doing so when the district’s objective is to continue a specific existing program is wasteful.

  17. David (and others):
    I believe in process and historically, this is the process that has been used to fund “culturally specific” types of programs in this school district. Currently, the board funds the African American Ethnic Academy, Centro Hispano, Urban League of Greater Madison, Project Bootstrap, and MATC’s MY CAP program. We also are doing some limited amounts of 4-year-old programming in the Allied Drive area with Head Start and several other community organizations.
    Before starting this endeavor, I talked with our legal council, Clarence Sherrod about this process. This is very legal. I also talked with the Superintendent, the Board President, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, the Executive Director of MSCR, Board members and of course all of the community groups. I’ve been working on this since late October when we had AAEA, Centro, Urban League and Bootstrap report to the board through the finance and operations committee. I even wrote about it on the Finance and Operations link on this website.
    I’d also like to address the financial repercussions of this endeavor. The school district has money in this account and will not be depleted. Currently, there is $193,000. The total of these proposals is $150,000. Again, the Superintendent, the Board President, the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, the Executive Director of MSCR, and many Board members are comfortable with this. The tax for these proposals on a $222,000 home is $1.75. That’s one dollar and seventy-five cents. Okay. Maybe there are people that don’t want their school property tax to rise at all. It won’t. As long as we have the state imposed revenue limits, your school portion of your property tax bill will decrease because the school district has to cut funds. Around 8 million dollars will have to be cut this year.
    Related to an RFP process. I originally asked about that. An RFP process will not help in this situation because what is being asked is very specific. Plus, the Board is not a part of the RFP process until the end when it comes up for recommendation. It will also cost the school district time and money. Can another group be named that works with Hmong students with Qeej instruments? I don’t think this is something another organization would provide. How about Talented and Gifted programming? I think WCATY is the best we have. These are just examples.
    Also, let me tell you a story about RFP processes and this school district. After winning my election in 2004, an RFP was issued for bus contracts. Mr. Mom and Badger Bus did not win any of the contracts. The community was outraged! How would the board not award contracts to locally owned and minority owned businesses?!? So all seven members of the board made the Legal Council and Administration do something about it. They ended up giving contracts to the local and minority owned businesses. Now, fast forward to this past fall. Mr. Mom’s was having trouble delivering their bus services. Legally and contractually, you can’t just take away a contract. There has to be progressive discipline. This happened and unfortunately, because Mr. Mom’s couldn’t deliver their services their contract was terminated. But, this could have been avoided if the Board didn’t interfere with the RFP process so, sometimes and RFP process doesn’t get you what you want.
    Lastly, there is a democratic process to serving on the Board of Education or any elected office. Someone makes a motion, there is a second, there’s discussion and then you vote. By far, that is the most open and democratic process any one can have.
    This is what is happening on Monday night. I appreciate the discussion.

  18. Barb:
    You are right. I apologize for my curt response to your question. My response should have been directed at the particular board member and not connected to your comments. It was unfair to you. It’s hard to not take things personally when directed at you whether it is write or face to face. I believe we’ve both we’ve both been in positions either on the blog, school board meetings or in a partnership committee meeting where the discussion has been heated. We all can work harder to do things better. I pledge my support to do that. I would also agree that investing in our children’s future is important, we just have differing ways and approaches to do that. Lastly, I think anything is possible, if a song like, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” written by the rap group 3-6 Mafia can win an Oscar! Fine art and reality have collided for sure.

  19. Johnny,
    If you were to do it over, i.e., solicit proposals, would you do anything differently based on the discussion here?

  20. Johnny,
    I don’t have a dog in this fight (for a change!) but I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for your willingness to engage those who do on this site. We aren’t always going to agree either on substance or process, plus it’s hard to have nuance in this format; from time to time, feathers will get ruffled. However, I trust it’s because we all proceed from the same place, a commitment to the care and education of the children.

  21. Johnny,
    Thank you for your apology. Feathers do get ruffled, as Joan said. My hope is that we respect our differences (if they exist), try to understand one another and appreciate in each other that we want and care about great schools for our kids.
    I don’t agree 🙂 that we’re that far apart in our ideas and I also pledge to be as straightforward as I can in communicating my points and to listen respectfully to others’ opinions.
    I’d also like to echo Joan’s comments – thank you for engaging in dialogue on this site!

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