All posts by Carol Carstensen

MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

There seems to be some confusion about the negotiations between MTI and the school district. The Board WILL be negotiating health insurance with MTI; the Board has NOT taken health insurance off the table. The Voluntary Impasse Agreement (VIA) does NOT eliminate this as a subject of negotiation. The VIA DOES set up a structure for negotiations: a schedule, agreement by MTI that teachers will not engage in job actions, dates for the start of mediation if a settlement hasn’t been reached, name of the mediator, a date for binding arbitration if mediation is not successful and name of the arbitrator. IF no voluntary settlement is reached and we go to binding arbitration, MTI agrees that it will not propose a change to the salary schedule and the Board agrees not to change health insurance. Those agreements are meant to make binding arbitration less attractive to both sides – and to put the emphasis on reaching a voluntary agreement.
Because the Board has not yet provided MTI with our proposals I cannot discuss them in public. I can however talk about the settlement we have reached with our custodians who are represented by AFSCME. The custodians agreed to change their health insurance to a choice of 3 HMO’s (Group Health, Physicians Plus and DeanCare). The savings from this change allowed a greater salary increase (2.5%). A small amount of the savings ($15,000) went back to the budget. These savings are realized only in the first year – thereafter, the base for figuring future costs uses the lower health insurance costs.
One of the most dramatic changes of the last 5 years (and one that has been little noted) is the movement of teachers from WPS to Group Health. This year more than 50% of the teacher’s unit take Group Health Insurance – the lowest priced HMO in the community.
A more complete discussion of this issue can be found at:,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,51/
Carol Carstensen

Black students boost ACT scores

Madison students continue to top state average
By TCT staff, news services
Madison high school students bested the state ACT test score average once again for the 12th straight year, with scores of African-American students rising at a greater pace than all other students.
ACT test score comparisons were released today.
According to the Madison Metropolitan School District, the composite score for Madison students was 24.2, or two points higher than the statewide average of 22.2 and more than three points higher than the national average of 21.1. A perfect score is 36.
African-American students in Madison scored an average composite of 18.8, a 6 percent increase from the 17.7 average in 2005, while Asian students had a 23.0 composite this year (22.1 in 2005) and Hispanic students a 21.8 composite (21.5 in 2005).
The big increase in black students’ scores closed the gap on white students’ scores locally, with the white students composite of 24.8, 24 percent higher than the black students composite, down from a 30 percent gap last year.

Continue reading Black students boost ACT scores

Revenue Caps Affect Middleton

Budget Hangs On Enrollment Middleton Watching Numbers
The Capital Times Tuesday, July 11, 2006
By Christopher Michaels
Increased enrollment in the weeks preceding the start of the school year could mean more state aid for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. It also could mean an easing of planned staff reductions of special concern to one of the district’s elementary schools.
Teachers and parents from Park Elementary School in Cross Plains are asking the School Board to do what it can to avoid staff cuts at their school, which has a number of special needs students.
In a preliminary 2006-07 district budget approved by the School Board Monday, the tax rate remains unchanged from the 2005-06 school year. However, state revenue limits mean the district has had to reduce its budget by about $1.4 million compared to last year.
That reduction is taking its toll on programs and staffing with about 15 positions districtwide being eliminated, said Superintendent Bill Reis. Some of those positions, including two teachers and available hours for educational assistants, are at Park.

Continue reading Revenue Caps Affect Middleton

District News

Here is the link to the school district’s monthly newsletter:
I thought the story about awards to staff was especially important: it is half-way down the page,
The superintendent recently received 2 awards from the UW School of Education – to quote from the newsletter:
Professor Paul V. Bredeson, UW School of Education department chair, gave MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater a Senior Faculty Fellow award in recognition of his significant contributions to the work of the department and his fostering of collaboration between the University and administrators throughout the Madison School District.
This took place at the UW Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis awards reception May 5.
Art also received the national University Council on Educational Administration’s (UCEA) Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from UW School of Education Dean Julie K. Underwood.
The faculty of the UW Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis nominated Rainwater for the national recognition given to practicing school administrators who have made significant contributions to the improvement of administrator preparation.

Carol Carstensen

The District’s Equity Fund Explained

There were some earlier postings and questions about the Equity Fund that I believe need to be answered.  First equity in this case is similar to the equity you have in your house as you pay down your mortgage.
The Equity Fund is a consequence of the fact that, by state law, the district operates on a fiscal year budget (July 1-June 30) but the taxes are collected on a calendar year basis.  So the 2006-07 year is paid for partially from last year’s tax levy and partially from the 2007 taxes that will be collected in January 2007.
Furthermore, about 75% of total taxes come in by January 31 – the rest come in by July 31.  So when the district closes its books at the end of the fiscal year (June 30th) it has some tax funds set aside to pay for the July-Jan portion of the year and bookkeepers and accountants require a label/category for all funds – this is the Equity Fund.  It is the funds that (with the additional July collections) are intended to cover the expenses of the district for the July-Jan months.

Continue reading The District’s Equity Fund Explained

15 Administrators Downtown Cut Since 2000 – 4 More Next Year

To provide some additional information to the budget discussions. Since 2000-01 the Board has eliminated 15 administrator positions from downtown, as follows:
3 FTE (Assistant Superintendent, Title 1 Coordinator and Staff Development) were combined into one – Coordinator of Government Programs
Community Relations
Contract Compliance
5 FTE in Business Services
(4 in IT and the Risk Management Coordinator)
Drivers Ed/Environmental Ed Coordinator
Physical Ed/Athletics Coordinator
Social Studies/Foreign Language Coordinator
Math Coordinator

Proposed Administrator cuts for 2006-07:
1 FTE in Business Services
1 FTE in Educational Services
1 FTE in Teaching & Learning (Reading Recovery Coordinator)
1 FTE in Human Resources (Payroll Manager)

Questions about using the Doyle Building

Since there have been different ideas about using Doyle to solve some of the district’s space/funds problems, I thought I would list the questions that occur to me as I consider next steps.
1.Locate the Affliated Alternatives (at Brearly) in Doyle:
a. How much space will AA need?
b. What will be the cost of remodeling to accommodate students?
c. What about cafeteria and gym space?
d. Where would we move the staff that must leave Doyle to make room for the students?
e. What is the cost of the move and of remodeling the new space?
2.Sell or lease Doyle
a. Where would central office staff be located?
b. What is the cost of the move?
c. What is the cost of remodeling the new space?
d. What are the out-of-pocket costs (travel, time, etc) of locating Doyle staff in more than one location?
e. What is a realistic expectation of the money generated by a long-term lease?
f. What is a realistic expectation about the amount Doyle would bring if sold?
g. If there is development potential, why haven’t there been proposals for the district/UW parking lots behind Doyle?

Equity and the School Board – No Easy Answers

The district’s equity policy was originally adopted in 1994. Shortly after, the East Area Success Team came to the Board with a proposal that we adopt a more equitable approach to distributing resources. This became the Equity Resource Allocation formula; it was used, and is still used, to distribute additional resources (supplemental) to the neediest schools at the elementary level. The Board allocated a number of the supplemental positions to support SAGE programming at 16 schools in 2000-01. Since most schools used the supplemental resources to decrease class size this appeared to be a reasonable way to reduce class sizes and gain a bit more in state funding.
Last spring the Northside PTO Coalition, which has been very concerned about the equity policy, put this question before the school board: “If further cuts are required, will you commit to working with the community to try to protect smaller class sizes at the neediest schools, even if that means raising class sizes at schools with lower poverty levels?”
The Board discussion reported in the Capital Times earlier this week was about the questions and issues such an approach raises. My questions are:
How much do we take away from some schools and some programs to maintain resources at other schools?

  • Just to clarify, the first step the Task Force on Equity is directed to take is to review the district’s current policy and the equity resource allocation formula.
  • Is the income of students to be the overriding criteria in funding discussions?
  • Do we end SAGE at those schools with poverty levels significantly below the district average (say less than 30%)?
  • Do we take away the .5 supplemental allocated to schools with lower poverty rates?
  • How do we handle programs that serve a lower percentage of low-income students?
  • Do we eliminate advanced courses at the high school or foreign language at the middle school in order to give additional resources to the secondary schools with the highest proportion of low-income students?

I do not have a ready answer to these questions – but they are ones that the Equity Task Force will discuss in considering their recommendations to the Board. The Equity Task Force was specifically requested by a number of parents and the Northside PTO Coalition.

The Budget: Same Service = Cost to Continue = Baseline

Jim Zellmer, and others have taken the district to task for having a “same service” budget – alledging that nothing changes as a consequence.
But let’s clarify the use of some terms. The district uses the term “same service” to estimate the next year’s costs – the city and county do the same thing, but use the term “cost to continue.” This is not the entire process, but merely the starting place. The district and Board then make changes – both to comply with the state revenue caps and to improve our programs. We can figure what the changes will cost (or amount saved) by the difference from the same service budget.
Change and how to achieve it in a large system such as the school district is a major concern. Some changes have significant budgetary impacts, e.g. equipping schools with adequate computers (and the infrastructure to support this), reducing class sizes in the primary grades.
However, the one of the most far-reaching changes needed is to change what is occurring in the classroom. This change is brought about through intensive staff development – and is aided by smaller class sizes, but once the district budget includes funding for staff development and for smaller classes the critical factor is not the budget for these but how the funds are used.


With apologies to Jonathan Swift:
Given the concerns about obesity in children – and the high cost of gasoline, I have a suggestion to deal with both. We need to redesign our buses so there are pedals for each rider – the students can provide much of the power to move the bus and reduce our reliance on gasoline while getting good exercise.
To take this one step further – we should design exercise rooms at the high schools so that bikes and treadmills also replace other energy sources.

Equity Policy:  Discussion Not Voting

The issue of the district’s equity policy is on the agenda for this evening’s discussion to get more direction from the Board.  The last time the Board looked at this issue it indicated the need to establish a task force but did not specify membership, charge or process.  When I described my goals as President (and during the spring campaign) I specifically said I would follow through with creating a task force to look at the equity policy.  This is on a Special Board meeting because it is being brought to the Board for discussion not action.   I am sorry that there seems to be some confusion about this.