This is the third in a series of farewell posts to the SIS blog. I still don’t know how long this will take; I don’t have a schedule but I don’t think too much longer. There are still things I want to say before I leave this forum. “The Long Goodbye?” I hope not, but a bit longer. I also want to note that as part of weaning myself from SIS, I’ve decided not to “do comments.” Some of that decision is a selfish desire to pursue my own agenda and some of it is a recognition that “doing comments,” pulls me in exactly the direction I’ve been complaining about. I only mention this because I want to applaud Ed Blume’s recent effort to be constructive, education4U’s and Larry Winkler’s comments on my previous post in this series and thank Barb S. for her kind words. Some of the things I want to say are very general about how I think about education and activism; some are specific to my experiences in Madison and with SIS. Most are a combination. This one is a combination that turns out to be timely (I intended to write this before the event that gives it timeliness – an event I had no direct part in).
This post is about the referendum campaign, CAST (Communities and Schools Together) and what others have called “the CAST leaders,” (I have never heard anyone associated with CAST call himself or herself or anyone else a leader. I prefer to think them as those who are working the hardest). There has been an attempt to make the referendum campaign at least partially about the people working with CAST. If that is gong to be the case I think it is important to relate what I know about those people and that organization.
It is serendipitous that the word CAST fits so well with what I want to write about, which is the how CAST came together and how it functions. I don’t know the entire story and the fact that I don’t know is part of the story. It is significant that there is very little formal organization or structure and much improvisation; that things get done because varied and talented and committed people find the time and means to get them done. We’ve been doing this without being given orders or deadlines or anything but encouragement. So I don’t know all about how CAST came together (and in fact to know all that, I think I’d have to query every person who proudly calls himself or herself a member of CAST because every person has their individual story and reasons for wanting to help get the referendum passed). Enough with the protestations of ignorance, there are some things that I do know and these are part of the story too.
Carol Carstensen was designated (officially? unofficially?) by the Board of Education to coordinate the campaign. In some manner and in some way and to some (from what I can tell, limited) fashion Carol recruited people to fit certain slots, like a casting director casts a play or movie. I don’t know what these slots were, but I would guess that geographic diversity and earned respect from varied portions of the MMSD community were part of the criteria and skills and strengths may also have been considered. That is one meaning of cast.
Cast also describes casting a line or a net to see what you catch. That’s how most of the people working for the referendum came together. It was more of a wide net than a line. Calls for help on list serves, word of mouth, letters to supporters of past referendums, more word of mouth…were all parts of it that I know of. When you cast a wide net, you can end up with many different types of fish.
CAST has many different types of fish, many different types of educational activists. Really, we share only three things: (1) A desire to see the referendum pass; (2) a willingness to work to make that desire a reality and (3) respect for one another. There are people who I am working closely with who I have in the past had public disagreements with. There are people who I am working closely with who have made public statements that show they have a greater concern than I do about “Bright Flight.” There are people making great contributions and I don’t know anything about them but their names and their contributions. There are probably people who have views that are very, very different from mine. There is no party line but to get the referendum passed. That’s one reason why it is so laughable that anyone would try to make a big deal about the fact that no CAST member “called” me on what I wrote about the Wright PSO meeting (and note that the person making that accusation was on the CAST list, read the message and only attempted to “call” me on it in a different and more public forum where he was confident that his distortions would get a more friendly reception). What was really going on was I was sharing something that was important to me with a diverse group who I knew would (with one exception) treat my thoughts with respect. I didn’t post those thoughts on SIS because I knew they wouldn’t be treated with respect. I don’t give a damn now, so before I leave I’m going to say a lot more about that meeting. The other people on the list (with one exception) understood that: TJ on the soapbox again, sometimes worth heeding, sometimes wrong, sometimes tiresome, but not to be twisted or ridiculed. Respect. It wasn’t a policy statement or an attempt to convince anyone of anything. Maybe at some level I wanted to prompt people to think about contrasting attitudes on support for public education, but mostly I wanted to share my moving experience of hearing from other supporters with those who are working to build support (again, with one exception). So a wide net was cast and the catch is good and varied. That’s what coalitions are. We work together to achieve those goals we share in common.
The final usages of cast I want to bring in are biblical. “Cast your bread on the waters; for you shall find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11). Most interpretations of this injunction concern faith and charity and doing good works. Having faith to follow a practice that appears to make no sense (historically seed was cast from river boats at high tide as a way of planting, so there was method to the madness). And charity and good works, in that if give of yourself based on faith, your faith will be returned, your good works will yield returns, you will find the bread. I have the sense that the people working with CAST are working based on a faith that building that school, renovating the other, refinancing those debts will all be returned to the community with a multitude of small and large benefits. Given the current atmosphere, I need to point out that this isn’t a blind and irrational faith, there is good evidence to back it up (look at the CAST web site). But in another sense it is irrational for many of us. My children will not attend the new school or Leopold; the odds of the money saved directly benefiting my children are very small. Still I have faith that doing what is right — right for the children who will attend the new school, right for those whose schools will avoid some overcrowding because of the new school, right for those at Leopold who will finally get some relief from overcrowding, right for those who may gain a teacher or a smaller class and will not lose some services because of the refinancing, right for the MMSD community of five or ten or fifteen years from now who without these measures will be forced to build a new school or new schools in crisis situations (because that land is there and homes will be built and children will need schools) — will yield indirect returns for me and those I care about. It will make Madison a better place. I can’t see any way that failing to pass this referendum will make Madison a better place.
My faith has been shaken lately. Not my faith that passing the referendum is the right thing to do. It is my faith in myself, in my understanding of how the world works and in my belief that the vast, vast majority of people on this planet are people of good will. These faiths have been shaken by doubts that whatever benefits may come from my advocacy; the road that I have taken my advocacy on in response to recent events may be causing harm to an individual in ways that I did not anticipate and do not desire. These faiths have also been shaken by momentary doubts about how much and how far I can trust someone who I like very much but don’t know very well. The first set of doubts I am struggling with. I quickly decided to dismiss the second set, but I am ashamed that they even rose in my mind. I am sorry to be so cryptic, and only am sharing this because it has brought home to me how important trust and honesty are. Living life with the assumption of distrust is not a good way to be. Working to improve our children’s schools and futures based on distrust is not a good way to get things done.
The last use of cast I’m going to say anything about is “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7). (If you got this far aren’t you glad I decided not to drag in anything about casting from a mold, or a cast for a broken bone. I am.) I’ve cast some stones in my day that I am not proud of and I’m not without sin, so I’m not claiming personal purity. I’ve certainly had some stones cast my way lately. I’ll pick a fight and almost never back down, but I would never initiate the kind of dirty tactics I’ve seen directed my way and at CAST. As I am sure anyone who was on the CAST list can attest, there has never been any discussion or contemplation of using dirty tactics. (Really, the best opposition research that came from this failed Nixonian misadventure was a statement from me completely divorced from the referendum that had to be misinterpreted in order to even try to do anything with.) I’m not saying CAST is without sin, but we aren’t casting stones either. There may be referendum supporters casting stones, but they are not part of any campaign I am involved with.
CAST is a coalition of dedicated people who believe that passing the referendum is the right thing to do. No more, no less. In regard to how the electorate votes on the referendum, most of this shouldn’t matter at all. I’ve asked repeatedly that those of us who devote time to educational activism help others decide how to vote based on the merits of the proposals on the ballot. This plea has been met with resistance from those who oppose the referendum and those who have not taken public stances. Who supports or opposes the referendum and how they express their support or opposition isn’t on the ballot. This shouldn’t be about me or anyone else. Unfortunately Jim Zellmer and others are correct that at least some voters will be thinking of things other than the merits of the ballot measures as they cast their votes. If one of those things is the revealed character of activists on each side, then I can’t help but feel good about the prospects for passage.
Vote Yes for Schools!
To be continued.

18 thoughts on “CASTing”

  1. I appreciate your long good-bye and hope that it really doesn’t end.
    Maybe we could think of my upsetting post as a blow up similar to one between significant others, with an improvement in communication after the steam blows.
    More to the point, here’s where I cannot follow CAST. I cannot make the leap of faith that you describe: “I have the sense that the people working with CAST are working based on a faith that building that school, renovating the other, refinancing those debts will all be returned to the community with a multitude of small and large benefits.”
    I cannot put my faith in an organization that appears to be at Stage 1 in both leadership and partnership development. (See my earlier posts.) And I will not give my money to it, beyond what’s required by law. That’s why I’ll vote no on the referendum. I’ll vote yes when I see more movement from the board and administration toward Stage 5.
    Phrasing these thoughts another way, the Madison community at-large does not share a vision of education in the MMSD. For example, we have some people whose vision measures success by the number of “high flyers,” and others (like me) who measure success by percentages of third graders and tenth graders who cannot read at grade level. So we talk passed each other when we talk about the success of the MMSD.
    The MMSD desperately needs a leader (or leaders) who: 1) have a vision of what the MMSD can be, 2)can articulate the vision to the community, and 3)can mobilize the community to support it. At the moment, the MMSD does not have that leadership. At the moment, the leadership says things like “the MMSD is the best school district in the country,” which only means that the status quo is as good as it gets.
    Given the leadership void, it might be useful for CAST to continue beyond the referendum and join with the less faithful (like me) and find ways to move the MMSD closer toward Stage 5, though I’m not certain it’s possible to move it, because I sense that the current MMSD leadership knows well that it operates in Stage 1 and seems quite proud to be there (as if Stage 1 is the best place to be). In other words, leadership to forge a common vision will probably have to come from leadership outside of the MMSD’s administration and board. Maybe the United Way could fund such an effort.
    Whada’ ya’ think?

  2. I too, hope that you and all continue to post (regarding educational issues)here and in a variety of venues. Most of us are moved to think and respond more to those with whom we may disagree, so those posts can be a special benefit. From those with whom we agree, the support is nice. I value the time that you all take to share your views.
    Sometimes, we seem to divide those in the conversations into various categories. Really, that division is pretty arbitrary and we have lots of similarities in spite of our views. I’ve been surprised many times.
    During our conversations about students, we sometimes also speak of “categories”. In reality it’s not often useful or accurate (it’s sometimes painful) to divide students into discrete categories. It is entirely possible for a very bright child to need, for example, additional challenging work in math, help with reading due to dyslexia and a program to deal with challenging behaviors that may be seen for any of a variety of reasons. This child may need TAG, special education and counseling services. Some students may appear to sail through school with no problems, but may have benefited from supportive services in earlier years of school. Others may need support due to issues which develop in their final years in the district. All of our children have, are currently or could (in the future)potentially benefit from a wide variety of special services offered by the district. We need to find a way to support ALL needs of ALL students, whatever those needs may be. Marcia

  3. Can someone answer this? How does the need for a new school, which a community based task force, through hours and hours of study and debate concluded was the solution, have such a polarizing effect on people? I was on the task force and our decisions were painful to arrive at, but in the end, space, new space, was the only long-term solution to the overcrowding issue.
    The board agreed.
    Here we are.
    Ed seems to love to read himself. Ed…step up man. You talk about a leader who can articulate his ideas and lead the district. Step up. It seems to be your desire.
    I spent waaaay too much time on the task force pouring over the data, (without preconceived notions about whether the administration was functioning in “Stage 1″or not)…I was given data…reams of it….studied it…and collectively we concluded that the issue of overcrowding in the West/Memorial attendance area at this time, and in the coming years, will require a new school and an addition of more multi-use space at Leopold. It is a conclusion, Ed. We concluded that.
    conclusion: a judgment or decision reached by reasoning
    Reasoning, Ed.
    Let’s focus on the data….drive westbound on Raymond Road or PD and count the bulldozers leveling ground. Then go to Chavez School and walk through the halls and see for yourself how the kids are stacked up. Then head over to Leopold at, oh, say, 10:45 am and head to the cafeteria where kids who aren’t really that hungry are having lunch. And then decide if 30 bucks a year isn’t a bad investment in the future education of our grade school students (and future city leaders).
    Stop clouding this very simple (and reasonable) issue with side-track thinking about “stages” and your personal thoughts on how the administration is getting along in your opinion. A task force of community members spent their time analyzing the problem, debated quite emotionally, debated some more, tried a few things and came to a simple conclusion.
    Leopold needs help, and the far west side has a very real and imminent need. Long range? Yup, the referendum is a very good, solid, long range plan. The task force, the board and the members of CAST all agree. You’re welcome to come aboard, Ed.
    Vote YES, for schools…
    Rich Rubasch
    CAST Member

  4. “How does the need for a new school, which a community based task force, through hours and hours of study and debate concluded was the solution, have such a polarizing effect on people?”
    Well, when a district that has experienced several years of enrollment declines (this year’s one-year uptick notwithstanding) asks citizens to spend tens of millions of dollars on new school space, when that space arguably exists within the district, I can see how that could be polarizing.
    To be up front, I don’t have a stake in the upcoming MMSD referendum. The referendum proposed strikes me as a rationale solution to a very difficult issue facing MMSD — its enrollment growth is not where its capacity is. Lots of dedicated folks (I know some of them) spent many hours debating this, and came to the conclusion that building — as opposed to redrawing attendance boundaries — was the best approach for the district at this time. Again, I can see the argument behind that.
    But MMSD arguably has the space within its current array of buildings to accomodate its current enrollment. There is an argument out there that can reasonably ask: Why is a district with essentially flat enrollment (and by that I’d suggest looking at the last five years) asking taxpayers for more building space?
    It may very well be that changing boundary arrangements is more disruptive of all childrens’ education than moving a portion of those children into a new building. My sense (anecdotedly, from friends and so forth) was that debate drove some of the recommendations that came out of the East and West side task forces re. attendance boundaries. And that’s a fair argument to make; the prospect of changing attendance boundaries even once, let alone several times as populations shift around the MMSD attendance boundaries, can’t be something that anyone — Art, the board, parents, teachers, anyone connected to MMSD — would look forward to.
    But most folks who reside in MMSD don’t have children in the district. They pay lots of property taxes. And they might reasonably ask: Why can’t you just make it fit?
    There’s a good answer to that, but I’d suggest one of them shouldn’t be: Why is this issue polarizing? My experience is that most school referendums are pretty polarizing events.

  5. I’m not about to regurgitate every discussion we had as task force members, but believe me, we debated Everything. Yes, that’s with a capitol “E”.
    I have heard others make the same argument you have, Phil, about the overall district population. We are discussing an issue that concerns grade school populations, perhaps the most important group of kids that you’d want to put your best foot forward if you want them to succeed in life. So, while the total district population is on a small uptick, the numbers for grade schools has been on a significant upswing.
    And you are correct that the growing populations of children are not necessarily in the communities where there might be space. We analyzed in exhaustive fashion, moving boundary after boundary to fit the students, and in every case, we ran into major problems about 2-3 years out. That would not have been a reasonable long range plan…but it is not like we did not look at that. In fact we spent most of our deliberations on boundary changes, and honestly trying to make them work.
    To the “most of the folks” who don’t have children in the district, the plan put forward by the task force is good because a school system that adapts to change, and has long range goals is good for our community.
    If you are a two parent, two child family living in a two bedroom home and discover you are expecting a third child, you might be able to “fit” the new child in some extra space. Or you could move to a larger home. This decision will affect the future of that family. The new home might cost more and be a burden to the budget, but that family will probably not regret making that decision.
    We are at that crossroads…heck, we had issues when growth in Fitchburg was escalating and causing strains on the Leopold school. The time to solve these problems is now. We cannot wait and see any more. Task force did the hours and hours of hard work to come to this conclusion, not without great difficulty. The board agreed with the plan. I cannot make it simpler….
    So, Phil, since you don’t have a stake either way, why don’t you show your support for our commnunity and our up and coming next generation leaders and give us a Yes vote in November.
    Your conscience will thank you for it.
    Rich Rubasch
    CAST Member

  6. Phil makes some great points. For anyone who has spent any time at all studying this stuff (I was on the East Task Force last year), it is abundantly obvious that MMSD needs a new school on the west side to accommodate the burgeoning enrollment on that side of town. The geography of Madison (having that darn isthmus in the middle of town) simply doesn’t lend itself to any practical redistricting plan that will work well to address the overenrollment/underenrollment issues and be palatable to anyone. I’m convinced! The issue is convincing all the voters out there who don’t have a detailed understanding of the problem and don’t understand why we need a new school when district enrollment has been flat.

  7. This is a very useful discussion. Thank you for that, Rich and Phil, and thank you, Rich, for your long hours on the task force.
    Here’s the question I’d love to hear from you two on: if MMSD builds on the far west side and at Leopold, will there be closures elsewhere in town if only because there are only so many schools the district can justify maintaining and staffing. If you know that closures are likely, do you know where those might be?
    The polarization of which you speak, Rich, may be less a general reluctance by folks with no kids in the district to pay any more in property taxes as much a concern that the schools used by some families might close.
    Somewhat parenthetically, and at the risk of upsetting someone here, I’m also wondering how members are chosen for task forces. In my 15 year experience in MMSD, serving on a PTO board, active in SIP for six years, those choices were made from parents friendly to the current administration. I’m not suggesting that was the case for you, Rich. But it is another reason some don’t automatically trust the results. That there was a cross-section of town on the task force, in other words, may belie the allegiances of the members, regardless of geography.

  8. It makes no sense to close any schools at this point. With the East and LaFollette areas growing again, and the concentration of poverty in many East area elementary schools, it’s apparent that we 1)need the space for growth and 2)need the current smaller school sizes to help the most needy students. Middle school feeder patterns have been adjusted to utilize space at O’Keefe/Marquette and take some pressure off of Sherman Middle. The only “space” I can think of on the West side is Spring Harbor Middle, and apparently, the Board is keeping a close eye on both the size and socio-economic mix of that building.
    In terms of questioning the task forces’ output via their “selection process for members”, I’d note that PTO Presidents were EXCLUDED from membership. The East Task Force was, in fact, pretty damn hostile towards the administration.

  9. Joan raises a useful point with respect to public representation on various committees. It’s important to have a broad range of taxpayer/parent points of view.
    Ed Blume, a strong proponent of public education while at the same time often a critic of the current mmsd administration and board has offered to participate in some of these groups – to no avail.
    After all, for better or worse, Ted Kennedy worked with George Bush on the No Child Left Behind initiative:
    Tammy Baldwin and Herb Kohl voted for it while Russ Feingold voted nay:

  10. Rich:
    I said I don’t have a stake in the upcoming referendum, not out of disinterest, but because I don’t live in the district. I am keenly interested in MMSD policies and actions, in part because it’s the biggest K-12 educational institution in the area and sets the tone, so to speak, for much of the K-12 public policy debate in the county.
    As I think I said earlier, I think the proposed referendum is both defensible and a rationale approach to a very difficult issue. If my family lived in the district (three school-aged kids, two of them elementary age), I’d probably vote for it, and work toward its passage.
    Having said that, my situation would be different than the (vast?) majority of residents in the district. What’s the argument in favor of passage that you’d make to the retired East Side couple living on a modest pension? That the schools did well by their children? That’s a good start. That strong public schools help raise property values? Another good point. That investing in public schools is an investment in the greater social good? Another strong point, particularly with Madison’s voter demographics.
    But I’d suggest one argument shouldn’t be the equivalant of: If you only knew what I knew, you’d vote for this. It shouldn’t be: Let’s vote for this and stop polarizing our community.
    Public education (along with public safety) is the most important thing any community does. Debate about how it’s best done, and how a community allocates scare resources for it, ought to be passionately debated. My own take is that I’m inherently skeptical of any proposed public policy solution that doesn’t engender some level of strong debate and scrutiny of its merits. Surely people can view themselves as supporters of public education, and supportive of MMSD, and still raise legitimate concerns about the referendum, and wonder if it’s the best solution at this time for the district.
    Building referendums to add school capacity are inherently very difficult for districts to pass for (among a host of others) this reason: Voters are asked to make 20-year financial judgements (typical term of a building referendum bond) based on (maybe) three years worth of solid enrollment data. Districts are under pressure to not only “right-size” their building capacity (not too much, not too little, put space where it’s needed), but also “right-time” them, in anticipation of enrollment trends that are incredibly difficult to predict with much accuracy. The recent downturn in the county housing market (with resulting enrollment dips upcoming in your local school district) only shows how tricky it is for districts to figure out how much enrollment they will have, to say nothing of which neighborhood it will end up.
    I don’t doubt that the work of the task forces led them, and the board, to conclude that redrawing boundaries wasn’t a good long-term solution for the district, and building capacity was. But, I’m pretty sure somewhere on the East Side sits a couple knowing (generally) these things:
    — I don’t have kids in the district.
    — MMSD has been cutting its budget year after year.
    — Building a new school adds to the district’s fixed operating costs.
    — MMSD enrollment is essentially flat (up in ’06, but down five of the previous seven years).
    — I pay @ $3,000 a year in property taxes.
    Make your case to them. A good one may make the difference in whether the referendum is successful.

  11. One point I’d make on school closings: many of the schools mentioned as ‘under enrolled’ and expected to have lower enrollments this year, had HIGHER enrollments on the third Friday. Some of the schools that were expected to grow ended up losing teachers.
    This isn’t a criticism, but an observation that it is important to be very sure of the facts before getting to the “let’s close the school” point.
    Personal vignette: a week or so ago, I was walking the dogs around 7 AM. It was really foggy, and two blocks ahead of me, I started to see a sizeable group of people congregated on the sidewalk. My first thought was ‘housefire,’ ‘car-pedestrian accident,’ etc. As I got closer, I realized that what I was seeing was a VERY large group of parents and kids waiting for the school bus to one of the schools most often on the ‘let’s close it’ list. In talking with the parents, I learned that they had expected four kids from the relevant blocks, and ended up with over 10. Expect more next year.
    Rather than “let’s close,” I’d like to talk about how space could be used or rented to community organizations, artists, etc. until enrollments go back up.
    Just a thought.

  12. Myself and another parent were elected to the task force through a principal, PTO president agreement. Two representatives from each school was selected, an at large community member, and a couple of minority parents as well. How each school selected their members I am not sure and several members on the West side rarely showed, while others were there each meeting. I can’t say I have been in the “palm” of the district. I think most of the people that know me recognize me as a complainer more than a cheerleader.
    To answer a few other comments…..The idea of shifting kids around to make room was my primary focus until I did it on the district computer. When you move whole neighborhoods (which we felt was the best way to shift) you also change the schools. For expample one proposal to shift “Spring Harbor” neighborhood to Crestwood , which was closer and then shift Allied to a closer school say Chavez, ends up Crestwood had an enrollment of low income of about 2%. So you add back Allied and you shift again. As we went through this process what we found is it was not just number of students….but do you make one school 2% low income and another 75% low income so you don’t have to ask tax payers to pay $30? Perhaps we need the people that $30 bucks a year would put them out of their medications but when you really thought about the shifts, 45 minutes to an hour on buses, low income inbalance, you decided you would pay way more than $30 to avoid these issues for you own child, why not for another 100’s of other children in the district.
    At a PTO meeting at Jefferson last night we discussed the referendum and most were concerned that the retired members on their street will not vote for the referendum. I hope those community members realize Stephens, Crestwood, and Muir schools will be at or past capacity soon and they will deal with (or their families) lower rate of sale and value for their home if the schools are at or past capacity. I elected to not buy in Fitchburg for that very reason and I know many others who say the same thing.
    It is a long complicated problem, irritated by two beautiful lakes. Closing schools seems like a bad idea because if you look at the data, there is a wave of enrollment numbers.
    Our wave is high for High School low at Middle Schools and High again at Elemetary School. As the wave continues you can assume there will be peaks and vallleys. If the district had left some of the old buildings in the district and leased them (Epic is an example) then building a new school would not be necessary. Long term planning has it’s advantages.

  13. Rich,
    I’ll answer your question on why the referendum polarizes advocates for MMSD schools.
    Simply put, different groups of public education supporters view the MMSD very, very differently.
    I suggested in earlier posts on leadership ( and partnerships ( that some people (including me) see the MMSD in stage 1 on both partnership and leadership while others seem to see the MMSD at stage 5.
    If you didn’t look at the charts, I’ll cite again the chart on partnerships.
    Some of us feel the district is here:
    Approach in Stage 1
    There is no system for input from parents, business, or community. Status quo is desired for managing the school.
    Implementation in Stage 1
    Barriers are erected to close out involvement of outsiders. Outsiders are managed for least impact on status quo.
    Outcome in Stage 1
    There is little or no involvement of parents, business, or community at large. School is a closed, isolated system.
    While others apparently believe that the following description better fits the MMSD:
    Approach in Stage 5
    Community, parent, and business partnerships become integrated across all student groupings. The benefits of outside involvement are known by all. Parents and business involvement in student learning is refined. Student learning regularly
    takes place beyond the school walls.
    Implementation in Stage 5
    Partnership development is articulated across all student groupings. Parents, community,
    business, and educators work together in an innovative fashion to increase student learning and to prepare students for the 21st Century. Partnerships are evaluated for continuous improvement.
    Outcome in Stage 5
    Previously non-achieving students enjoy learning, with excellent achievement. Community, business, and home become common places for student learning, while school becomes a place where parents come for further education.
    Partnerships enhance what the school does for students.
    The various groups which want to make the MMSD better cannot talk to each other constructively because each group sees the MMSD at very different stages. Consequently, every issue quickly becomes polarized.
    A visionary leader would, I believe, be able to be able to articulate where the MMSD falls in the various stages and mobilize all groups to help reach Stage 5.
    And I can tell ya’, I ain’t the one who can mobilize the various factions. But maybe I’m mistaken and you’d like to be my campaign manager for a run at winning a seat on the school board.
    Better yet (because I’m not gonna’ run even if you’d manage my campaign), CAST could continue beyond the referendum, hold community-wide meetings to determine where the public sees the MMSD on the two charts, and help formulate action plans to move the MMSD to stage 5. That would be very constructive.

  14. “A visionary leader would, I believe, be able to be able to articulate where the MMSD falls in the various stages and mobilize all groups to help reach Stage 5.”
    How does that have anything to do with voting NO on a practical, well thought out and reasoned recommendation? Fixing systemwide MMSD problems and protocols is for another day…today the biggest item on the near term agenda is understanding that, as elementary school populations grow, along with our thriving community, the need for a school or an addition is not going away. The time is right now, and it is imminent because a school building is not a prefab. It will take time to build it, and the students will keep coming.
    Keep on topic….big picture, broad sweeping ideas that cloud over the issue we have at hand is counterproductive and a major contributor to the polarizing effect we have seen.
    I have a feeling you will see that most of the task force members and most of CAST will in some way continue their efforts….and their motivation is not to pursue a personal agenda, but rather to collaborate with other community members and the board and admin to make the district the best it can be. I am so confident of this that you might as well applaud them right now.
    I don’t have an opinion on the particular “stage” the MMSD finds itself. I have not seen the data….so that is for another day. But I do have the data for elementary overcrowding, and that is where I choose to direct my support.
    Vote YES for schools…
    Rich Rubasch
    CAST Member

  15. I don’t understand, Rich. You asked a question (why is this issue polarizing?) so I answered. Given your criticism, I guess I should apologize for answering your question.
    As task force member Jerry Eykholt was quoted in Isthmus today, “The referendum is not only about the space issue. It’s sort of about how this community supports the district.” I’m not going to support (with more money) a district proudly stuck in Stage 1 on leadership and partnership, let alone wherever the district may be on curriculum and achievement, which are taking a back seat to bricks and mortar.

  16. In quoting me (from the Isthmus), Ed was right to suggest that I think there is more at stake than the school space issue with this referendum – that being the clarity provided by a successful vote for a well-made case. The board and administration really need to see that citizens will vote on that need, rather than in raw form against something unrelated they don’t like about how the board operates or how the administration runs day-to-day operations. There are other ways to deal with those issues.
    SIS reader, please don’t fall into the subtle trap of association that Ed Blume places. The referendum isn’t a blank check – it is a fixed amount for fixed purposes. A vote for the referendum isn’t an endorsement of all MMSD does, nor is it saying that bricks and mortar are more important than what happens in the classroom. I haven’t heard anyone (advocate or not) say that. It will just move forward the development plans discussed at length with the community, recommended by the task forces, refined by the administration, and approved by the board.
    Although the stakes are high, the burden on the November voter is straightforward. As with any other issue, citizens should become informed, try to resolve questions through civil discourse (as TJ and Ed have done), and vote according to their position on the issue.
    Vote on whether you think the plans for new elementary space are justified and reasonable. For many of us, that means “Vote YES for Schools!”.
    – proud (outCAST?) member of CAST
    P.S. Our role of advocacy comes, in part, as a necessary response to the Wisconsin school funding laws that restrict school districts and school boards from active advocacy of referenda.

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