11 thoughts on “WIBA’s Vicki McKenna & Don Severson Discuss the November Referendum”

  1. The negativity and misinformation here is astounding. Just one example of each for now.
    Negativity: Vicki Mckenna seems to say that it would have been a bad thing to pick the September date because the turnout would be low and that it is a bad thing to have picked the November date because the turnout would be high. You can’t have it both ways and I for one think that a high turnout is inherently a good thing because it means that a larger percentage of voters will have their voices heard. I wish Miss Mckenna would explain how a high turnout can be a bad thing in governing the schools.
    Misinformation: There is much talk about a desire for racial and income balance as a factor limiting the use of existing facilities. This simply isn’t the case. Other than the school pairs, which were negotiated in response to a federal finding, MMSD does almost nothing on these. In fact, legal council has advised the district to avoid the consideration of race in drawing boundaries and assigning students. I happen to think that MMSD should be doing more in this area, but the fact is it isn’t.
    Ms McKenna should at least do some minimal research before forming her opinions and “informing” her audience.

  2. I think the November date is great. Placing these type of questions on “high” turnout ballots is far more desirable than the more recent practice of holding expensive special elections.
    Interestingly, while talking with a friend who is a keen observer of the local scene (but not a MMSD resident) recently, he expressed great surprise that the MMSD would spend any money on new buildings, given the at best flat enrollment picture overall. He believes that the money should be spent on people. I’ve heard similar sentiments from local teachers (“we can’t maintain what we have”).
    We’ll certainly see how this plays out, including the 3 requests in one question approach.

  3. I agree that the November date is great. The more folks who vote the better. I also think the rolling together of the requests into one referendum question is good….at least it makes it a simple yes or no vote.
    Regarding the comments from Jim’s friend, the general public really does need to be educated on the reasons why it makes sense to build during a time of flat enrollment. Having been a citizen member of the long range planning committee and having also served on the East Area Task Force, there is no question in my mind that MMSD absolutely needs a new far westside school. We need to have our schools where our kids are….and right now the demographics of Madison are such that the westside has a booming population of students that deserves a new school. The geography of Madison makes massive boundary changes to balance enrollment really impractical and highly unpopular and unsupported by parents. In the long run, putting a new school where the kids are would seem to me to be the most efficient and least costly way to deal with this problem.

  4. Let’s hope that by the time the referenda are up for a vote, the general public is informed whether building “where our kids are” also means closing buildings in long-established neighborhoods.
    I’m not saying how I come down on this, just looking for full disclosure of all costs associated with these questions.
    PS It really corks me that developers don’t have to provide for the schools their moneymaking ventures necessarily engender.

  5. It needs to be highlighted that the East and West side areas have vastly different needs in terms of space utilization, growth, and demographics. Couple that with the geographic and housing pattern layout of the district, and you have the crux of the over/under enrollment problems.
    It’s only been in the past month that I’ve heard a wide cross-section of MMSD parents and staff actually suggest taking some more drastic measures on the near west side- closing Spring Harbor Middle in favor of better space utilization for example. And I’ve heard folks pining about some other realignments as well…I don’t know what was considered by the West/Memorial Task force, so I don’t have a clue if there are reasons why certain scenarios weren’t considered or just didn’t pass muster. All of these things will have to be presented to Jane and John Doe taxpayer so they can see what’s really going on.
    It’s important that the BoE is united on this referendum, and 6-1 is pretty united in my eyes. But it’s also important that the MMSD not screw this up- witness the ballot errors last spring- and turn off voters. IMHO, the best PR the MMSD could get is to publicly display any cost-cutting efforts that have recently occurred. Show the people you are being responsible, and they’ll write you that check!

  6. David
    Good observations. I just want to clarify that the entire Board favored all the parts of the referendum. Ruth Robarts thought it best to have it presented as individual questions, the other six favored a single vote. Johnny Winston had reservations about the November date. They were united in the stance that all three parts are in the best interests of the district and the community the district serves. So it is really 7-0. I hope we can now count on all 7 working for the referendum.

  7. Thanks for the clarification TJ. I wasn’t able to watch that meeting on TV! That is a good sign. When was the last time this district went to referendum on a unanimous vote by the BoE?

  8. To answer the Spring Harbor question….this was discussed as a possibility, however to open Spring Harbor as an elementary means busing students from Far West side to a school that has less than 280 student capacity. It did not solve enough of the problem to convert and shift the entire west side community in a domino effect for so few seats. One idea we were not allowed to explore but was brought up was converting Spring Harbor and Hoyt to “charter or raffle elementaries” where students from the district elect to go. That creates expensive busing but provides closer to 500 seats.
    I for one wish the questions were seperate. The past opposition has been strongly against raising taxes, spending, and poor money management. If you look at the numbers for the community the far west side is an obvious need which I am afraid will now be defeated. One yes would be better than three no’s.

  9. Mary, is the 280 really how many students Spring Harbor can hold, or the number the Charter has stated it will max out on?
    I agree, I do not like the three questions tied together. I live on the fringes of MMSD, and to me, if my kids have a little longer bus ride than that is my problem. I don’t live in walking distance to a neighboring school, so I can’t complain on the length of the bus ride, specially when the district made comments in the last year about closing a school or two on the east side. If neighboring schools are that important to someone, they will move near the school, for others, it is just because they don’t like change.
    With the size of Leopold already, I can’t believe that anyone really thinks it is better to keep adding onto it. The teachers don’t even know each other because of the size already. Part of this is the administrations poor lack of management, but it is also because it is too big already. What ever came about with the talk the board had about building in Fitchburg?
    I am not so sure the public will be voting yes for the three questions tied together. Seems like the board is hoping this is the way to slide Leopold Mega School under the radar.

  10. The numbers for capacity at Spring Harbor are really small. They only allow 80 students per the charter but the school was an elementary school and was converted to Middle school to help with the peak in numbers.
    The Epic building was sold due to too low elementary enrollment.
    Madison as all big schools live on a wave. We are currently in a huge graduating class and huge elementary school with the lowest point in middle school. This wave will follow until about 2013 when the graduating class will be small middle school big and elementary small. It is a weird thing to plan for. Add the change of where people live and two lakes in the middle and it creates a nightmare. If only we could move those lakes…………..just kidding.

  11. If I remember correctly, the Epic Building was a MMSD school in the 70’s and had a fire. They decided that it wasn’t worth the cost of rebuilding because of the numbers so they sold it. Again, I am trying to remember something that happened about 30 years ago, and I lived on the east side so it had no affect on me or my friends.

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