East Side school plan opposed
March 19, 2007
Waving bright signs and chanting, dozens of parents, kids, and teachers converged at a School Board meeting Monday night to protest proposed budget cuts that could consolidate elementary and middle schools on the East Side.
Earlier this month, Madison school officials proposed addressing a projected $10.5 million shortfall in next year’s budget by moving Marquette Elementary students to Lapham Elementary and splitting Sherman Middle School students between O’Keeffe and Black Hawk middle school. The move would save about $800,000.
School Board members are still wrangling with at least five options to deal with the budget deficit and were presented with an alternative consolidation plan at Monday’s meeting.
But many affected students, parents and teachers came to the meeting angry about the administration’s recommendation to take students out of Marquette and Sherman, arguing it would eliminate neighborhood schools, force kids who currently walk to school to take buses, and increase class sizes.
“I really don’t want to go to Lapham,” said Kalley Rittman, a Marquette fourth-grader who was at the rally with her parents. “All the kids are going to be squished in one place.”
Currently, Kalley and her sister in third grade, Hannah, walk to Marquette, said their mother, Kit. They would have to be bused to Lapham.
Kalley was also clutching an envelope with letters from other students and teachers at Marquette, and later spoke in front of the board, telling them she created a video on the school for them to watch.
Faye Kubly said her 11-year-old son had trouble in elementary schools before he transferred to Marquette, where teachers developed a system for him to learn successfully. She and other parents called the middle school proposal a “mega middle school” and called on the state to change its funding guidelines.
Several students from the district’s alternative high school, Shabazz, expressed concern that a proposal to move the district’s other alternative programs to Sherman Middle School could harm the school environment.
School administrators presented an alternative plan Monday night, under which Sherman, Black Hawk and O’Keeffe middle schools would be consolidated into O’Keeffe and Sherman; Lindbergh elementary school would be closed and those students sent to Gompers; and Lapham and Marquette elementary schools would be consolidated to Lapham K-5.
This plan “gets the most cost savings,” Superintendent Art Rainwater said, noting it would save about $1 million and adding “I kind of think it’s worth looking at.”
Many of the meeting attendees said they supported a proposal by School Board member Carol Carstensen to hold a referendum to stave off some of the cuts. They chanted “Reading, writing, referendum” and held up hand-made signs spelling “referendum” during the public hearing.
But some board members expressed reticence at supporting such a referendum. Board Vice President Lawrie Kobza and member Arlene Silveira said this is not the right time and board member Lucy Mathiak said “one referendum is not a permanent solution to what is a structural problem in these schools.”
Also at the meeting, dozens more people weighed in on suggested names for the new school at Linden Park. There was a large contingent of Hmong residents speaking in support of naming the school General Vang Pao, after a prominent American-allied Hmong military leader.
“Hmong children will feel a sense of inclusion, importance and acceptance in their community,” said Pahua Thoa, a senior at UW-Madison.
Several people also spoke in favor of naming the school after Ilda Thomas, the founder and first director of Centro Hispano in Madison, including her daughter, Sonya Worner, who came from Minnesota to speak about her mother.