On Madison Boundary Changes

Dear Board,
As the opening of a new school is coming close, I was surprised to some extent that the plans were changed with such a short amount of time left before the new year.
So………..I dug up my West Side Long Term Planning Binder and reviewed all the data presented to us, as a member of that committee, and remembered the HOURS we spent debating and reviewing the pros and cons of each plan. I believe this is a very hard process and I am sad it is being altered at this late date.
I think one thing many of us felt on the Long Range Planning Committee was even with the new school and addition to Leopold we did not devise a Long Term Plan. My #1 suggestion to the board would be to revisit the plan of “making the map look better” and balancing the income levels but TO MAKE IT A LONG TERM plan and say in 6 years this is what we are going to do. (and stick to it) I think when you spring it on families that in a few months Johnny has to switch schools, we parents are too invested and comfortable with the school and protest the change. But if a 6 Year Plan was in place with some options to start at the new school, grandfather for a couple of years the protest would be great but families would have lots of time to accept the change and deal with it. It would also be a LONG TERM PLAN.

As far as the new plans I have to LAUGH at the school pairing idea. This was the number one presentation from Mary and the administration. They clearly loved the idea of pairing and attempted to pair Chavez/Leopold, Crestwood and Stephens, Crestwood/Falk, Chavez/Lincoln, Thoreau/Lincoln……………….
Each time the committee shot it down. We did not, from a community few point find it appealing. Notice of the 12 or so plans we came up with not one pairing survived. I know it is more convenient for downtown and their numbers but let me tell you our thoughts at the time.

  1. Pairing two schools has worked for Marquette/Lapham and Franklin/Randall primarily because they are similar in their make-up of families and because they are neighborhood schools (0 bus). While Stephens and Crestwood are similar in make-up they happen to be two of the most “bused” schools in the district. Crestwood is at 7 buses and Stephens I believe has 8 or so. That means if Johnny is in 1st grade and Sally is in fifth, they could both take two buses to and from school, or there will have to be two different buses come pick up these two siblings. Either way it is different than the Johnny walk to school and then takes a bus to the “other” school, and it seems like it would increase the transportation cost. But at least these schools are close in proximity.

  2. Pairing will reduce parental participation. At the middle school (as PTO president) I find people feel it takes a year to learn the ropes, and many do not want to get involved because the investment of time is so reduced. 6 years at Crestwood getting to know a principal, staff, etc is different than 3 at Crestwood and 3 at Stephens. We also use the older students for reading buddies, snow suit helpers, etc…. I love having my kids at one school not 2 and since I have more than two kids 3. Three principals, 3 rules, 3 different PTO’s, 3 different places to drive. I currently have this situation (high school, jr. high, elementary) and it’s not fun.

  3. Pairing schools to solve the high low income numbers did not work at Midvale/Lincoln. It was an interesting experiment but in 1991 Lincoln had a low income of 51% and in 2005 they were at 69% combined currently it is 64%, and Midvale in 1991 was 42% and 2005 it was at 64%. I know many claim this was for odd reasons but the pairing of Falk/Crestwood to solve the low income I predict would have the same impact and we would loss families as we did in Midvale. These schools are too different. Falk has 0 or one bus. Most families walk to school. You would then bus them to school. Crestwood families would again have to take two buses I suppose to get to Falk. Also as with the problem of moving low income families to a school far away, you cause this same transportation problems. These kids may not be able to get to school if they miss the bus, etc due to parental lack of transportation. Pairing two school so far from each other makes little sense too me for this reason.

  4. Pairing two school such as Falk/Crestwood from two different Middle School boundaries also creates problems with where they go after elementary. Do you separate kids that go to elementary together?
    I hope the district is prepared to lend Jefferson an enormous amount of resources if the pair go to Jefferson. Since Crestwood and Stephens will increase their high needs students from Allied, the Wexford community already attends Jefferson and then add many high needs from Falk, I expect Jefferson would require greater resources. If you send them to Toki, my children who currently walk to school would take a bus to school.

These were just a view of the complaints, concerns I can remember, or I took from my notes. I know NONE of these issues are simple. To be frank moving high income families to a low income schools creates problems and can cause the district to lose families. Moving low income to high income schools causes problems with transportation for those kids and families. Once families are invested in a school far away or close they tend to like that school best, which speaks volumes to the individual schools and their staff and principals. I felt the original plan had the best balance of moving families to fill schools and balance some of the stress at Falk. For whatever reason that was changed. But to me the plan to move Spring Harbor to Crestwood makes the most sense and then do a 6 YEAR plan to address the low income needs and take that $90,000 to bus kids to and from Falk and put it into extra staff support where it is needed at Falk. We can’t solve the changing demographics overnight. I truly understand the difficultly involved in changing boundaries and do not take your job lightly, but as an enormous amount of hours were spent on this issue by many members of the community I felt you should also not take our input too lightly.
Thanks for your attention,
Mary Kay Battaglia
mom at Crestwood, Jefferson, and Memorial (3 schools is too much!!!)

4 thoughts on “On Madison Boundary Changes”

  1. Thanks for posting. I think it is really important to remind everyone about the East and West Task Force recommendations. The members of the Task forces worked for a year to come up with ways to deal with overcrowding and under-enrollment. Those recommendations should at least be looked at before changes are made.

  2. Thanks, Mary, for posting your detailed reminder of the citizen Task Force recommendations.
    However, I believe that MMSD did not consider such recommendations, not because they forgot, but because they purposely ignored.
    There is ample and continuing evidence and experience to show that MMSD neither encourages nor wants citizen and parent input into any aspect of school decision making — all they want is a compliant citizenry with deep pockets.
    The Task Forces were only needed for the express purpose of passing the referendum for the new school. It was an MMSD PR job necessary for public buy-in. Once the referendum was passed, MMSD has no need for citizen input and will go about their merry way until they need our money again.

  3. Mary,
    Thanks for posting your letter. I’m sorry to hear that the efforts of citizen representatives on the West Task Force have been diminished by the surrounding politics.
    I agree with Larry. MMSD wanted the Leopold referendum to be presented to be pushed to the voters, they wanted it passed, and, when the voters didn’t give them the desired outcome, used less conventional means to achieve that goal (in a slightly different form). The tactics used with the new school weren’t much different.
    The footage from the Leopold-generation West Task Force meeting held at Van Hise was not posted to the MMSD website, as had been stated would occur with all meeting footage. I was fortunate enough to see the live broadcast on television.
    This meeting was contentious. Statements were made by folks in the Midvale/Lincoln areas (as at many others) to please consider splitting the pairing, realigning pairs in closer proximity to one another, or running the schools as individual neighborhood schools. (Lincoln and Leopold are two miles apart, just across the Beltline from one another. Franklin’s area is adjacent to Lincoln, just to the north.)
    Mary Guldbransen stated (clearly in reference to Franklin/Randall) that she understands how people “fight” for their pairings, and that over time they become “their” pairings (apparently even long after their children have left said pairing).
    The result of that WTF meeting was the continued stifling regarding disbanding Midvale/Lincoln (and now Lincoln and Glendale and Allis), and retraction of the boundary change in the West High area taking a handful of residences from Franklin/Randall and moving them to Midvale/Lincoln. After a clamor by some of the affected families involved, the reason cited for the retraction request was that Franklin/Randall “works”.
    To some extent, it works because the old South Madison (Franklin) has been gentrified to the point that the pair contains a much more homogeneous group of children, both socially and economically. It has also been lucrative in terms of property values, especially in the Randall area.
    So much so that Franklin and Randall, still paired, are now so predominately white and upper-middle class that MMSD limitations on intra- and inter-district transfers no longer apply. Why are they still paired? Could it be that splitting up might leave them open to being paired with other attendance areas? I believe that busing is used within the pair; it is likely there are transit costs involved.
    We are now in a situation where pairing is being raised again as a solution. This situation cannot be adequately addressed until the fate of Chapter 220 is determined, and we start to look realistically at the social, educational and fiscal impacts of pairings made which are not periodically reviewed and modified accordingly.
    Supt. Rainwater says the recent Supreme Court rulings are not an issue for the MMSD, as pairs are created based on geography, not race (WSJ, 11/12/2007). Anyone with a basic knowledge of the district’s physical geography, socio-economic geography and boundaries, can see that this statement is false.
    Mary, all good intentions aside, it will likely boil down to pairing Crestwood with Falk. Stephens has already been redlined. The redlining will now spread to a relatively wealthy attendance area on the Far West Side.
    (It’s interesting that at a projected enrollment of 66% of capacity (really?), Shorewood has not been entertained as a possible pairing candiate this time around. Or, reopening Hoyt and moving MSCR offices. Speaks volumes.)
    Now Crestwood’s area may suffer the same value and flight consequences, and children may be denied transfers within and out of the district.
    Rest assured, it’s really not about property values, but, according to Supt. Rainwater, about obeying the law. Until a successful challenge is made to Chapter 220, this system will likely remain in place.

  4. This is beyond moving children and drawing boundaries based on income. The statistics since the task force was formed have changed. SAGE was minimized / removed from many schools and capacity increased for many of the elementary schools. Chavez for instance went from 583 to over 700. Unfortunately for the task force, programatic changes (SAGE) could not be discussed and given todays stats, I wonder if the task force would have the same result or priority.
    Let’s look beyond the lines and income. Let’s look at programs & the budget impacts:
    What if boundary changes were the initiative to talk about budget concerns?
    What if families valued the programs and resources rather than simply drawing lines and moving children around like dots?
    What if income was not the factor considered in the balance equation?
    What if, by pairing Crestwood and Stephens (less than 1 mile apart) the neighborhood schools had a chance to receive more resources according to the needs of the children?
    What if the Crestwood/Stephens pairing would solidify boundaries and strenghten their presence within the district as it has done for Marquette/Lapham & Franklin/Randall?
    What if the Crestwood/Stephens pair would minimize bussing to Allied Drive and provide a cohesive learning experience?
    What if bussing was minimized so much that geographicaly localized neighborhood schools existed and minimized budget cuts? What would that look like?
    What if boundary changes lead to board decisions to cut / minimize SAGE like last year? [The evaluation on SAGE was for 30%; 40% or 50% and less. SAGE cuts were based on income not need. I believe 30% was the magic number last year. Going into 2008 cuts…what’s the new number going to be?]
    What if SAGE cuts are researched at the 40% and lower in 2008 and 50% and lower in 2009?
    What happens in Memorial attendance area given those scenerios?
    What if pairing Falk/Crestwood meant a loss of Title I and SAGE?
    More important than boundaries:
    Are programs following children like we have been told or is the district picking and choosing?

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