Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process

Spring is definitely coming. On February 17, the Madison School Board performed Act 1 of the four-act play that is our annual school budget process.
Act 1 is the unveiling of the Budget Forecast. In this Act, the administration solemnly announces that the district faces-once again-“The Budget Gap”. The Budget Gap is the difference between what the Board wants to spend and what we can spend without a successful referendum to increase operating funds. It is not a gap caused by a drop in state funding.
To nobody’s surprise, the Budget Gap is big and ugly. Under current state law, revenues from property taxes will increase about 2.35% for next year. However, the administration’s “same service” budget requires a revenue increase of more than 4%. The Gap for next year is $8.6M.


Upcoming Education Events

Our calendar is a useful place to checkout local education related events. There are several worthwhile events over the next few weeks (send yours in by clicking on the “Ideas” link at the top of our home page. We’ll post it).

  • School Board Candidate Diversity Forum (MAFAAC) 3/12/2005 @ Edgewood. 5:00p.m. Maps, links and information here.
  • Gregg Underheim, candidate for Wisconsin State DPI Superintendent is holding a Public Forum at the Lakeview Branch of the Madison Public Library Wednesday March 9th at 6:00p.m. [Maps & Driving Directions] note: we’ll of course post events for Underheim’s opponent, incumbent Libby Burmaster as well
  • Arlene Silveira emails that several westside PTO’s are sponsoring a Madison Schools Candidate Forum on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 at Cherokee Middle School [Map & Driving Directions] from 7 to 8:30p.m. [pdf flyer]

Madison Schools Budget Change Information/Links

The Madison School District’s Administration announced a series of 2005/2006 budget changes (eliminate some programs, reduce the increase in others, eliminate some positions). The overall budget will increase by about 10M+, from 316.8M in 2004/2005 to 327.7M in 2005/2006 (via Roger Price’s recent budget presentation. [slides pdf]).

Read the District’s introduction to the discussion items by clicking on the link below. This intro summarizes the priorities the Administration used to create the proposed budget changes (page 1 of the pdf link).


Superintendent Art Rainwater Proposes to Decimate Fine Arts: Turns Back on Curriculum and Academic Achievement Benefits of Fine Arts Education – Fails to Work with the Community, Year After Year

Superintendent Art Rainwater proposes (2005-2006 Budget Discussion Items)to cut another $1 million in elementary music and art education once again this year without any prior curriculum review and assessment of impact on children’s learning and achievement – that would have involved teachers and the community.


Here’s the Information:
Superintendent’s Proposed Fine Arts Cuts – Released to MMSD Board of Education yesterday:
Eliminate elementary strings curriculum 9.8 FTEs $496,860
Double up Special classes in Grade 1 5-7.5 FTEs $253,500-$380,250
Total Impact on Fine Arts Curriculum 14.8-17.3 FTEs $750,367-$877,110

plus another $100,000 in instrument purchase and repair budget.
Total existing k-12 Fine Arts budget approximately $7 million
which is 2% of the total budget. Superintendent Art Rainwater’s proposed cut would eliminate 14% of the existing fine arts budget – 100% of the elementary string teachers who likely would be laid off as they are specialized and not easily transferred. They’re also not administrators, none of whom are at risk of layoff.
History of Holding Hostage a Community that Values Music and Art Education:


Open Forum: Questions the Community Would Like to See the School Board Asking the Superintendent

I�m beginning a list of questions I�d like to see the School Board discuss and use to direct the Superintendent when the District�s budget is developed using this blog as a public forum. The state and federal governments are not holding up their end of school financing, yet our school board members need to develop a budget and to make preliminary operating decisions by June 30, 2005.
I�ve left the comments open for this blog and would like to hear what questions others might like to see the board discuss and provide further direction to the Superintendent during the budget process so that we develop a budget that puts children�s learning, academic excellence and achievement as the highest priority for our children this year and in succeeding years. I think our attention locally needs to be on how can we develop the best budget for these priorities so that we know what our funding challenges are for next year and will have better information for a referendum.


New Partnership Between School District and UW

It is amazing what can be accomplished without a school board meeting! As chair of the partnership committee, I know the importance of developing partnerships with our community. This is the challenge of being elected to represent a school district that is getting increasingly diverse with more students of color and more students with fewer socio-economic resources. In addition, the entire school district has fewer financial resources due to state imposed revenue caps. For these reasons, different approaches need to be utilized to further resources and strengthen partnerships with organizations that have similar goals.
I am pleased to announce that the Madison Metropolitan School District and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have entered into a partnership that will strengthen recruitment efforts and solidify one years worth of funding for the Minority Services Coordinator (MSC) position. This position has been very vital to the School Board’s goal of closing the achievement gap by working with racial and ethnic minority students since 1973. The position was created and developed by the late Joe Thomas of West High School. Without this partnership, the MSC position would have fallen victim to budget cuts.
Superintendent Rainwater shared these remarks with the entire school board:
“We have entered into a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to share the services and funding of the Minority Services Coordinators in each of our high schools. This partnership will enable us to keep the Minority Services Coordinators in the schools and further enhance their ability to assist both us and the University with our minority students as they prepare to enter college.”
This partnership is made possible because of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s efforts to encourage post-secondary education for Wisconsin disadvantaged and minority students. The funding will come from the PEOPLE (Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) Program currently serving approximately 800 high school and middle school students from public schools in Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Menominee Nation.
The program emphasizes enrichment in math, science and writing, and incorporates technology as an integral part of the curriculum. Students build study skills and receive information on college preparation and testing, academic and career options, and other subjects to foster graduation from high school and success in college.
Those who complete the pre-college portion of the program and are accepted for admission to UW-Madison receive a tuition scholarship for up to five years. This program is designed for African-American, American Indian, Southeast Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino and disadvantaged students. The program was launched in 1999 as part of the UW-Madison’s Plan 2008 to enhance campus diversity.
This partnership between the district and University would not have happened without the leadership and foresight of Assistant Dean in the School of Education, Walter Lane; Special Assistant to the Chancellor, LaMarr Billups; Vice Chancellor for Administration, Darrell Bazzell; Chancellor John Wiley, Superintendent Rainwater and the Madison School Board.
While I’m very happy to announce this partnership, I am saddened about the $8.6 million dollars worth of budget cuts. Although I know there will be no partnerships to solve $8.6 million dollars worth of services, perhaps this is the beginning to having serious discussions to create more partnerships that will be mutually beneficial to the school district and other organizations dedicated to the same goal of educating our students.

Budget Process – Cuts and What Else is Next

Superintendent Art Rainwater’s proposed budget cuts to balance his estimated Same Service budget forecast to expected revenues are being released to the public today. Prior to this release, the only information the school board has received relative to the budget is a macro-forecast of revenue/expenditures – assumptions about salary and wage increases, percent increase assumption for all other services, and 4% increase for MSCR expenses, for example.


School Board Candidates Respond to Questions About TAG Programming

The following was passed along by Kristin Meyer who attended the Northside candidates forum. Kristin asked the candidates about their position on supporting TAG services/support during ongoing budgetary shortfalls, and summarizes below the responses from each candidate. She reports that there was also a statement related to how the TAG program has already taken cuts and that, therefore, it seemed unable to adequately meet the needs of TAG students


School Board Candidates’ Forum – March 1, 2005

On March 1, 2005, the Northside Planning Council held an excellent, well run and informative school board candidates’ forum at Warner Park in Madison, WI. Candidates for Seat 6 (Bill Clingan – incumbant and Lawrie Kobza) and Seat 7 (Carol Carstensen – incumbant and Larry Winkler) answered a wide variety of questions on many topics.
Following are videoclips from that forum. The format for the forum following opening statements by the candidates was in three parts: 1) 3 questions developed by the Northside Planning Council, 2) each candidate asked their opponent a question, and 3) written questions submitted from the floor.
I. Opening Statements Candidates’ Opening Statements
II. Part 1: Questions developed by Northside Planning Council
A. Question 1 – City-School District Relationship: What is already being done to promote collaboration between the city and the school district and what creative suggestions do you have to further it? Candidates’ Answers to Question 1: City-School Relationship

B. Question 2 – Parental Involvement: What would you do, as a School Board member, to insure that the District is getting direct feedback from parents of color and low-income parents? How would you overcome the barriers that keep them from participating?
Candidates’ Answers to Question 2: Parental Involvement
C. Question 3 – Changing & Developing District Policy: The District almost succeeded in eliminating or changing its current Equity Policy without substantial public dialogue. What measures would you implement to insure accountability, transparency, and meaningful public input into future District decision-making? Candidates’ Answers to Question 3: Changing & Developing District Policy
III. Candidates Ask Their Opponents A Question
A. Bill Clingan asks Lawrie Kobza about her position on building a second school to total 1100 K-5 students at Leopold Elementary School. Lawrie Kobza asks Bill Clingan why, as Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Superintendent Rainwater has not developed meassurable goals approved by the School Board since 2002. She noted that the Human Resources Committee has met only once since Mr. Clingan became chair. Clingan and Kobza Ask Each Other a Question – Leopold and Superintendent Goals
B. Carol Carstensen and Larry Winkler ask each other questions. Ms. Carstensen asked Mr. Winkler about a previous statement he made regarding revenue caps and Mr. Winkler asked Ms. Carstensen what she was most proud of during her 15 years as a school board members. Carol Carstensen and Larry Winkler Question Each Other

IV. Candidates Asked to Say How they Differ from Their Opponent
Candidates statements about how they differ from each other in qualifications for the job.

Madison Schools Budget Reductions

The Madison School District’s Administration will release their proposed budget reductions (reductions in the increase – see these posts) Thursday afternoon (unless it leaks earlier). There will be an afternoon press conference (apparently 2:30p.m.). We’ll link to the district’s site once the information is posted. Roger Price previewed the 2005/2006 budget recently (video/audio along with slides).

The Leopold Expansion

The 3/2/05 CapTimes includes an excellent op ed piece by Ruth Robarts detailing her concerns about creating a large K-5 elementary school.


Eugene Parks

The last few days have been rather sad ones for me due to the recent death of Eugene Parks. I have always viewed Mr. Parks as a role model. I admire people who tell you how they feel without being “politically correct.” He was that type of person. He commanded your attention, not because of his “gruff tone” or “edginess” but because of his sincere knowledge of the topic on which he was speaking. Mr. Parks knew what he was talking about.
When I decided to run for Madison School Board, I made a list of people from whom I wanted to get endorsements. Eugene Parks was one of those people. As a made my way through the campaign, our paths finally crossed in a local restaurant. I was very excited to tell him about my candidacy. I exclaimed to him, “Mr. Parks, I’m running for Madison School Board!” He replied, “Why would you go and do a fool thing like that for?” Honestly, I was kind of stunned. Sensing this, he told me of his feelings about the Madison schools. He felt that schools were being set up. They were being asked to do everything but not adequately funded. He also told me that the school board was the only elected position that for every ONE friend you made; you made TEN enemies. Again, Mr. Parks knew what he was talking about.
After winning my election several months later, I was asked to do a radio interview on WORT. After my segment, Mr. Parks was the next guest. Once pleasantries were exchanged, I wished him luck in his interview; he wished me luck on the school board. While I was listening to interview, he told the interviewer how proud he was of me and that I represented young leadership that our community needed. I was very proud of that. He also questioned the priorities in the City of Madison where the community would build swimming pools but not support additional funding of public education (remember last year the School Board cut 10 million dollars from the budget). His comments were very profound.
I know I’ll never be like Eugene Parks. There will never be another Eugene Parks no matter how hard someone tries. Unfortunately, my personality is not like his. I am not as brave as he was to say exactly what was on my mind and tell everyone how I feel. However, every once in a while, the “Eugene Parks” in me comes out but I save it for special occasions and the settings in which media will not be around. The truest way to honor his memory is giving the Madison School Board the type of passion, effort and commitment that he gave to our Madison community. I will miss Eugene Parks.

Budget Time: Madison School District’s Credibility

The credibility of the Madison Metropolitan School District comes into serious question with the public when Board of Education members and district staff present erroneous information through the media to the public.
Recent examples include:

  • May, 2005 Special Election Costs:
    1. Bill Keys, President of the Board of Education, on the TV Channel 27 early morning news show, February 3, 2005, in referring to proposed referenda for a May 2005 vote stated that “it’s only $15,000 more ($90,000) to wait until May rather than go for the April election, which will only cost $75,000.” A vote on school referenda at the time of a regular countywide election incurs only a minor cost (less that $2000) to the District for graphics and ball space. Special balloting, such as that proposed for school referenda in May will incur more that $87,000 in expenses billed to the District by Dane County, the City of Madison and eight other involved municipalities with voters in the school district. A detailed report of these costs billed to the District for the June 2003 referendum ballot will be presented to the Board at its regular March 7, 2005 meeting.
  • Community Input:
    2. Carol Carstensen, Board of Education member, complains that critics of the Board aren’t really interested in seeking solutions to complex questions and is quoted in the “Talking Out of School” column in Isthmus, February 11, page 8, “I get a little concerned when people say, ‘You should be doing this,’ but then are unable to give me a better plan for how to achieve what they want.” As a representative of Active Citizens for Education we have presented the Board of Education and administration with more than 29 documents including recommendations, plans, proposals, reports and analyses on a variety of issues with which the Board is faced. A list of the documents, along with duplicate copies, will be presented to the Board at its next meeting to refresh memories.
  • Taxpayer Costs:
    3. Joe Quick, MMSD administration staff member, in discussing the proposed $26.2 million referendum for maintenance projects aired on the 10:00 p.m. TV Channel 27 newscast, February 28, stated that the request for revenue to support this referendum “would have no impact on taxes.” The fact of the matter is that if there is no referendum or if the referendum fails, property taxes will decrease due to the retirement of revenue bonds for previous capital indebtedness.

In order for the general public to understand the implications and consequences of financial decisions for which the public is requested to support, the Board of Education members and the administration must present accurate and complete information within the context of the total framework of the district’s budgeting, taxing authority and actions.
Don Severson
donleader at aol dot com

U.S. Education Eroding World Technology Leadership

e-prairie discusses a number of recent comments from the technology community on our education problems:

The New York Times Editorial Page agrees with Bill Gates and takes the States to task for “embracing the lowest common denominator”.

State Aims to Remake High Schools

Brian Tumulty on the achievement gap:

Wisconsin needs to boost graduation rates among blacks and other minorities, the state superintendent of instruction said Sunday as a two-day national summit on the future of high schools ended here.
�We have an achievement gap and we need to ensure every child is graduating from high school,� Elizabeth Burmaster said. �That�s the issue.�
Although Wisconsin boasts one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation � 92 percent overall in 2002-2003 � only 63 percent of blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of American Indians complete high school in four years.

Thoughts and Comments on MMSD School Fees Report

Last year, Bruce Kahn (parent) and I made a presentation to the School Board, meant as a supplement to the district administration’s report on school fees. We asked several questions and made several recommendations for School Board consideration, which we still feel need to be considered. Currently, fees are put in at the last minute in the budget process. No one “likes” fees, but discussion is needed before they are put into place.
Parents and the Community Need Complete Information & Big Picture
Why are there school fees today?
What are the costs of Extra-Curricular activities?
How do Extra-Curricular costs compare to instructional costs?
What happens when fees don�t cover costs?
What are some suggestions for your consideration?
Next Steps – Needed But Not Being Taken
Identify what is at risk.
Develop an equitable funding plan � operating funds, fees, fundraising, partnering/sponsorships, etc., where feasible and legal to do so.
What can the District afford to pay – what other funding sources/strategies are possible.
Form groups – task forces to move forward.
Begin meaningful discussions now. Parents, kids and the community can�t wait year after year for in depth discussions to begin.
hearings or surveys will not get the job done.
Download Thoughts and Comments on MMSD School Fees Report

No Child Left Behind –The Football Version

From a post on the atrios website:
No Child Left Behind – Football Version
1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held
2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.
3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren’t interested in
football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don’t like football.
4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th and 11th games.
5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

School-Funding Update

Reform advocates need to take action … now!
In school, money really does matter
Support for TABOR in Wisconsin is questionable
School-funding reform calendar
The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.Download School Funding Reform Update

Ford Foundation K-12 Links (Winter Report)

Several interesting items from the Ford Foundation’s Winter 2005 K-12 Report:

  • Dallas public schools are boosting student achievement by integrating arts into the curriculum.
  • In West Virginia and across the country, rural communities are fighting the supersizing of public schools.
  • BOOK REVIEW: School Champion
    A consensus has grown over the last 20 years that for sustainable school reform to occur, the public?not just parents?must be engaged, as instigators of change and as watchdogs to ensure that reforms are put into practice.

Another interesting link: The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is a statewide education advocacy organization. We work to improve education for all Kentuckians.


Believe it or not, I am a pretty regular reader of the schoolinforsystems website. I find it to be an excellent opportunity to read about other viewpoints and opinions that I don’t hear about in newspapers, radio, television and other media outlets. While I don’t always agree with “everything” that a prospective writer is saying, I do respect their point of view. At times the commentary makes me “think a little harder” or perhaps look at a situation “a little differently.” Maybe it makes me think more “outside the box.” However, I do want to caution that posting on the website should not detract from developing the relationships needed to have further discussion with the elected school board members. It also should not be used to circumvent the democratic processes.


How Can Parents Be Assured that the MMSD Budget Process Reflects Their Educational Priorities?

Two years ago in February Jane Doughty, MMSD parent and I asked the School Board questions regarding the budget process and we made some suggestions. Some changes have been made, but I think we are still missing: a) budget before budget cuts, b) discussion among board members about allocation of scarce resources, c) dialogue with the community early in the process so that your key stakeholders have a clear understanding of the issues, to name a few
You may still find the following information useful as you think about the budget.
Will the School Board:
A. Develop a clearly detailed, publicly accessible budget process – When?
B. Separate policy and budget issues – How?
C. Involve the public throughout the budget process � How and When?

Suggestions Made to the School Board in January 2003

Work With Representatives From Key Parent / Public Groups To Organize Communication with Public.
Publish Finalized Budget Goals and Objectives, Criteria, Tasks, Timelines For The Full Board & Its Committees � Backpack Mail, MMSD Website.
Make Corrections to Virchow / Krause Document (Other Documents) Prior To Use in Budget Process.
Use A Variety Of Tools That Can Gather Meaningful Input In a Timely Manner � Focus Groups, Public Workshops.
Download How Can Parents Be Assured that the MMSD Budget Reflects Their Priorities
comment section open

School Budget – Here we go AGAIN?!

What to Look for in the Next Few Weeks? Based upon the single macro-forecast of a revenue gap of $8+ million, School Board members were told a list of budget cuts would be presented to the School Board on March 7th. Without benefit of a budget, the School Board will hold public hearings, not meetings, where parents/public have an opportunity to comment on the proposed cuts.
At no time can the public have meaningful comment on the overall budget by department or the allocation of next year’s revenue. Why? This information will not be presented to the School Board until May 2005, and there is only one hearing scheduled after this date. Because the cuts are distributed on March 3rd, the public will only be focusing on the cuts and not the overall budget, budget priorities, etc. This approach takes advantage of parent’s wanting to protect their child’s education first. Since parents are in panic mode, they cannot clearly see the bigger picture and often feel as if they are being held hostage without any alternatives or a chance to pursue/discuss alternatives.
What’s Driving this Timeline? The Superintendent has said in the past that the data are not available and that the teachers’ contract is another the main driver for the timeline. The teacher’s contract includes dates for notices for surplus and layoff. The teacher’s contract says nothing about the School Board’s budget decisionmaking process. Surplus notices are not due until July 1. Layoff notices are due 10 days before the end of the school year. If the School Board had a policy directive to the Superintendent of no teacher layoffs, as they implicitly do with Administrators, the backend timeline would not be as tight. This is apparently not the case – existing teachers can be laid off but not existing administrators. Even though the amount of administrators is smaller than teachers, the policy is not equitable across all employee groups. The Superintendent says licenses requirements differ, etc. This is noise – there is no equitable policy in place.
What have I observed? a) The public is not engaged at the start of the budget process. It’s February 28th and tonight the Board is taking up the discussions of communications with the PTOs. What?
Parents are only “scared into paying attention” when the cut list comes out, because we don’t pay attention the rest of the year. I see no backpack mail from the board to parents on the budget, next steps, what the board wants to hear from parents, etc.
Our ideas and comments are not solicited in meaningful ways or forums. That would have had to take place in the fall.
b) Allocation of new revenues is not discussed. A brief analysis done last fall for the Board said this would mean cuts to deep to non-instruction if all dollars were allocated to instruction as a first priority. End of discussion. A next step for the School Board would have been to come back with more specific impacts and to develop a dialog with the community and an iterative process that would put the School Board more in a leadership position with the direction of the budget – something that does not exist with the existing decisionmaking process.
What am I missing, and why is there only once choice? If I was reviewing my home budget, and I felt I could manage the cuts in my budget, I would think this current board budget decisionmaking process is just fine. My husband and daughter might complain about the changes but not for long.
If I looked at my home budget and saw I could’t buy all the food I needed or medicine or pay my mortgage, I would be in rapid action mode. As soon as I had an idea this was my budget problem, I would be doing something and fast. I wonder why our Superintendent, who says the district is facing this type of financial crunch, isn’t more actively using his school board and getting the public on board beginning last July.
Explicit budget details are not needed to have public discussions about the annual budget, financial planning, priorities, allocation of scarce resources and different models of funding children’s services that Madison values.
Yes, the feds and state are not holding up their end of the bargain – now, what are we going to do about this. Referendums are only one option, but more are needed – we are here again with only one option being presented as viable – oh yes, or cut educational services.

MMSD Budget – Parents Suggestions Over Time

Parent Presentations on the District’s Budget Decisionmaking Process: Since Spring 2002, other parents and I have spoken to the School Board on a number of issues related to the District’s budget decisionmaking promise. We often presented this information in a power point presentation in an easy-to-read and understand format. I’m now in the process of pulling together this information and will be uploading those previous presentations to the school board.

Information Contained in the Presentations:
Much of the information presented to the School Board is still relevant today. Topics include: a) How Can Parents be Assured that the Budget Process is Meeting our Educational Needs? b) Questions to Consider when Discussing Fees c) What are the Revenue Cap and QEO?

Importance of Sharing this Information Now:
We are entering the School Board’s active period with the school budget – cuts affecting children are made known even if the budget is not made known until much later. The budget timeline is the same and the decisionmaking process is the same as it has been for the past several years. The Superintendent’s recommended budget cuts will be presented on March 7th. School Board members say this is only the start of the process and that they want to hear from the community. In reality, very little changes from the time the budget cuts are presented until the Board approves the Budget sometime in June 2005.
Stay tuned…..


Hello, my name is Ben Moga and I’m running for Alder in District 5. I met with the school information system group today at Jim’s house and think it is an excellent organization. Real topics are discussed, the people are genuinely interested, and it serves as a great way to communicate. I see education as a top priority not just locally or nationally, but for the whole world.
I’m working on a project that is meant to address the issue of overweight children. It has become a topic even at the federal level and I’m working to get Badger Athletes out to elementary schools in coordination with the City’s Fitness Initiative. Anyone interested can check out the project and its progress on my blog orientated website.
I am definitely interested in addressing the educational issues that will face not only my district, but that of the whole city. Any comments you have will be greatly appreciated.

Bill Gates: US High Schools Obsolete

Bill Gates:

he most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who has put more than $700 million into reducing the size of high school classes through the foundation formed by him and his wife, Melinda. He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college, with classes that are rigorous and relevant to kids and with supportive relationships for children.
“America’s high schools are obsolete,” Gates said. “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they’re broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they’re working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”

I am no fan of Bill Gates. [Slashdot discussion] He does, however raise some useful points, including the biggest obstacle: political will.

Ford Foundation Funding Arts Infused Education – Supporting Partnerships

The Ford Foundation is one organization that is investing in efforts to integrate the arts into classroom instruction in urban schools. Read Ford Foundation: Deep In the Arts of Texas .
Madison Schools have a fine arts curriculum with standards and benchmarks in place. In addition to fine arts curricula, Madison’s public school children attend performances and there are artists-in-residences, for example. Many of these relationships were nurtured by the district’s fine arts coordinator, a position that has been vacant for nearly 9 months. Two arts issues require immediate attention:

  • First: Last fall, the District’s fine arts teachers asked that the Fine Arts Coordinator be reinstated (which the school board voted to do). These same teachers also asked for personnel to be hired that could help them out in the interim, which has not been done. This has left a void in the district’s relationship with the community’s arts organizations. The Fine Arts Coordinator had served on many local committees and boards to foster the relationship between the District and the community’s arts organizations. We need to get back on track with these relationships. This is an important first step.
  • Second: As a next step, I would like to see a collaborative effort form among the City, University, community arts organizations and the MMSD to explore models for strengthening an arts infused education that further supports learning in the classroom – and raises children’s test scores, especially for low income and minority children. Test scores from various parts of the country are showing the positive links between arts and test scores.

School Spending

The National Center for Education Statistics has released national K-12 student expenditure data per state. The national average is $7,734, of which $4,755 goes for instruction.
The Madison School District spends north of $12.9K (24,430 students in 2004/2005 per Roger Price’s recent budget presentation) per student per year. We’ll hear a great deal about the district’s 2005/2006 budget over the next few months. Regardless of referendums or new federal/state aids, the district budget will go up, from 316.8M in 2004/2005 to perhaps 327.7M in 2005/2006 (again, according to Price’s presentation). Via Joanne Jacobs.

My Views of the Proposed Leopold Expansion

On March 28, the Madison School Board will cast the final vote on the proposed referendum for $14.5M to build a second school on the Leopold Elementary School site. The proposed “paired” school will open its doors to students in September of 2007 and will house up to 550 Kindergarten through second grade students and another 550 third through fifth grade students. If the Leopold community’s current population mix holds, a school of 1100 or more will include 275 (25%) students for whom English is a second language and 121 (11%) who have Special Educational needs. Over half of the students will come from low income homes. Unlike other Madison paired schools that are on different sites, Leopold’s buildings will be on the same grounds and will be physically linked in an L-shape. Students from both schools will share lunch rooms and playground facilities. Students will have separate entrances, but will share buses to and from school.
My duty as a board member is to weigh the pros and cons of this recommendation from the administration. Although I see why current Leopold parents expect great positives from the new building, I believe that these are short-term gains for the school and community and that the negatives of creating an extremely large elementary school may outweigh the short-term advantages. I am particularly concerned that the short-term relief for overcrowding will be undermined when the building reaches full capacity and houses two schools, each of which is far bigger than any K-2 or 3-5 school today. It is my responsibility to ask whether we have the experience to make such a joint school work and what additional resources will be required to assure student success under such conditions.


More Leopold Expansion Discussion

The proposed Leopold Expansion discussion continues:

  • Visiting with some Leopold Parents at a recent event, a number of points were discussed:
    • Parking is currently a problem and will be worse as the school expands.
    • “We keep taking away their playground space. Where are all of the children going to play? They need space to run around.”
    • “Why can’t Madison build a school in Fitchburg (ie, closer to where all the homes are going in)? Verona has – Stoner Prairie, in Fitchburg [Map illustrating Leopold & Stoner Prairie]. Many homes are as far from Verona shools (in Fitchburg) as they are from Leopold.”
    • “Where are all of these children going to go after Leopold?” “Will they be bused over to a Memorial/Middle School combination?”
    • “I’m concerned about the (proposed) shared library and cafeteria. Will they be adequately staffed for a school this size? The previous addition did not address the lunch room and library needs.
    • “I don’t want to pay any more taxes, it seems like every year we have a budget crisis but my taxes continue to go up. Couldn’t they plan better?”
  • Arlene Silviera is puzzled about Ruth Robarts recent questions regarding the size of the proposed Leopold school.

Blog is good for democratic decision-making

I’m volunteering with a conservation group in Mexico, so I don’t have a lot of time to write a post. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to take a few minutes to respond to (Madson School Board Member) Juan Lopez who said of, “I think this kind of forum is destructive.” See the story in the Wisconsin State Journal
I respectfully disagree.
A healthy democracy requires healthy debate. The tradition dates back to the Roman forums where citizens debated freely, and support for the necessity of public debate runs through the writing of our country’s founders and our constitution.
Mr. Lopez and other board members might sense an unusual flurry of spirited commentary on this forum, because the board may not have provided a forum for the honest exchange of ideas. Suddenly, this blog provides the opportunity. Granted, the board holds public hearings, but they are rarely discussions. Instead, people speak and the board listens. It is most unusual from my experience when the board engages the speaker in a real discussion.
I encourage Mr. Lopez and the other members of the board to debate issues vigorously at board meetings, as well as post on this blog, which represents the best of what democracy offers for free and open debate.
Ulimately, the exchange of ideas on any pending school district decison will produce a better outcome than a decision without debate.
Ed Blume
The comments section is open on this post. Please feel free to agree or disagree. I welcome any comments.

Board Governance Lacking – No Timely Information on Taser Incident From Board President to Public: Chooses to Attack Robarts

Bill Keys, President of the MMSD School Board, chose to attack Ruth Robarts today in The Capital Times saying she was not the first board member to be concerned about the taser incident. Bill Keys’ letter seems to be unnecessarily spiteful and misses the point that was raised in The Capital Times’ editorial on February 15, 2005 . The editorial ended:
“Robarts is asking questions that need to be asked. And she is doing so in a thoughtful, forward-looking manner that invites the rest of the board and the community to join in a debate that needs to take place.”
There was no criticism of the School Board – just praise for raising questions publicly, which is what the School Board needs to do in a situation where children’s safety is an issue. The taser incident happened at Memorial High School on January 21, 2005. The incident was first reported in The Wisconsin State Journal on January 31, 2005, 10 days after the incident took place. In that article, Ruth Robarts commented that:
“School Board member Ruth Robarts said she was concerned that she didn’t hear about the incident until a reporter’s phone call.” I find this incredible that she would hear about an issue such as this nearly 10 days after it happened from the press.
In that same article “Member Bill Clingan said it’s appropriate that police authority trumps the school’s, and that the incident is a police issue. But as an individual, he doesn’t like to hear that a youth was subdued with a Taser.”
What’s missing – board governance. Neither Bill Keys, as president of the School Board, nor Bill Clingan, as vice president of the school board, did not appear to notify their colleagues about the incident in a timely manner; because, as it turns out, it’s not clear from public documents when they learned of the incident. How can that be? I would expect the first question Bill Keys might ask Superintendent Rainwater is: Why wasn’t the Board notified of this incident (at least before board members were contacted by the press) and what steps are you taking?
However, after learning about the incident, our School Board officers did not put the incident on a school board special session agenda so that they could 1) hear a public update about the incident from the Superintendent and what he was doing (such as, hiring an outside attorney to undertake an investigation), 2) provide the community with information about the incident that could be presented publicly and 3) have a public board discussion about next steps and what, if any, additional direction from the board to the Superintendent was needed. As an alternative, either school board officer could have written a letter to the paper about what the school board was doing to address the issue, complementing the questions raised by Ruth Robarts and letting the community know that this issue was of great concern to the board and that other board members were equally concerned as Ms. Robarts and were asking similar questions.
Instead, the public heard nothing from the school board president or vice president about an issue of importance to them (student safety) and what the school board would be doing. Rather than taking the opportunity to keep us updated, Mr. Keys decided more than one month after the taser incident to attack his colleague rather than thanking her for what she said, letting the public know what other board members were doing, and updating the public about what steps would be taken.

Rainwater pushes a new school: He’s told to prepare a contingency plan

Lee Sensenbrenner writing in The Capital Times on February 22, 2005:
“You’re manipulating my vote,” said Mary Kay Battaglia, who has children at Crestwood Elementary and Jefferson Middle School. “You’re giving me a choice to move my child and 1,100 others or to vote for a referendum I don’t think is necessary.”…
…Board member Bill Clingan said that the board was neither efficient nor intelligent enough to be manipulative…

Kobza on the Proposed Boundary Changes

I’d like to see more of this – candidates and board members blogging. Candidate Lawrie Kobza on the Administration’s proposed boundary changes. [Disclaimer: I have offered to help all four Madison School Board Candidates with their internet activities. Three of the four have responded to varying degrees]

Truth-in-Advertising: The Proposed Paired Leopold School is a HUGE Elementary School

On February 21, the district administration presented its recommendations for resolving overcrowding problems at Leopold Elementary School and accommodating children from new and future housing developments on the west side of Madison to the Long Range Planning Committee.
During the discussion, I questioned the educational merit of creating a paired K-5 elementary school on the Leopold grounds that will house 1100 students. If the voters approve the proposed May referendum to spend $14.5M to construct a new school at the Leopold site, the school will hold 1100 students in two buildings joined in an L-shape.
Superintendent Art Rainwater dismissed my concern. According to the superintendent, the enrollment number for the proposed pair is a non-issue. The superintendent assured us that �you can find research that supports any size of elementary school from 250 to 650 students�. In other words, there is no optimal size for an elementary school. He pointed to current Madison K-5 schools as a standard.


The Crackers – a For Profit Version of NYC’s Yellow Gates

Leave it to New Yorkers to leave no sacred cows. Read on and enjoy the picture –
Gift to the City � is it Art or for the Birds? “The Crackers” is as much a public happening as it is a tasty snack, defying the domino theory. Peanut butter or cheddar cheese. They poured their hearts and souls into the project for over 26 minutes. It required three dozen crackers and spanned over nearly 23 inches along a footbridge in the park at a cost (borne exclusively by the artists) of $2.50. Is it art? You decide. The installation was completed with no permits or bureaucracy, and fed to the ducks after about a half hour. “The Crackers” is entirely for profit
View “The Crackers” and brighten your day

MMSD’s Kurt Keifer on the Administration’s Boundary Plans

Kurt Kiefer via email:

I’m writing in response to your questions from last week re: boundary change options. Tim Potter, research analyst on my staff who is handling all of the GIS work on the project, provided the details.
a) Leopold at 1040 students. I seem to recall the original plan was 800? (it’s now much less than that) Is this correct?
We are not sure how the 1040 figure is derived. Leopold with current boundaries is projected to have 750 students by 2010. Since the new developments are all within the Leopold attendance boundary they are incorporated in that projection. The McGaw Park development, for which there is no plat yet created, would not be included in the projection. Capacity at the Leopold site WITH a new school would be 1120. Students in Leopold in the various modules ranges from 582 to 875.
b) What are the implications of that growth on cherokee and west?
Depending on which plan you are referring to, yes, there could be an impact on Cherokee and West. Cherokee is currently projected to reach 100% capacity in 2010. The two new, platted developments (i.e., Swan Creek and Oak Meadow) are already in the Leopold attendance area so they are already in the projections. Thoreau already feeds into Cherokee and West so the return of those areas to Leopold would not have an impact at middle/high. The return of the area from Chavez could have an impact. On 3rd Friday, there were 31 and 33 middle high students in this area. On 3rd Friday, 21 of the middle school students were enrolled at Toki and 5 at Cherokee. Of the 33 high school students in this area, 11 attend West and 18 attend Memorial. Capacities at Cherokee and West are 648 and 2173 students, respectively.
c) What about Wright Middle School?
Wright is listed with a capacity of 324 and currently they have 207 students. Wright could alleviate any problems at Cherokee that might be caused by new developments.
d) Some wondered why Velma Hamilton was not affected by any of the

Any changes being made to the elementary schools which feed Hamilton would affect the latter. None of the plans affect Franklin, Randall, Shorewood Hills or Van Hise Elementary Schools. These schools are not experiencing significant changes in enrollments due to changing housing patterns or developments.
Let us know if you have any further questions.
Kurt Kiefer
Madison Metropolitan School District
Planning/Research & Evaluation
kkiefer at

Big props to the very active Kiefer’s – Kurt’s better half Jone’ is an excellent elementary school teacher while son Oliver is the student representative on the Board of Education.

Question for Ruth Robarts: Better fallback plan required, or new building?

Thanks, Ms. Robarts, for calling attention to the problems with MMSD’s fallback proposal for boundary changes on the west side, if a referendum to build a new elementary school should fail. You point out that under the fallback plan, too many kids would be coming and going from some schools, and that the boundary changes would disproportinately affect certain schools on the west side.
Do you know if anyone has come up with a better proposal to handle west side growth, in the event we can’t build a new school?


Why I Oppose the Administration’s Recommendation for School Boundary Changes if the Leopold School Referendum Fails

On Monday, February 21, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board will hear the administration�s explanation of five options for reducing overcrowding at Leopold School and providing seats for students from new housing developments on the west and southwest side of the district. Last Monday, after I asked the administration to withdraw options that it will not recommend, a set of nine options dropped to five. Of the remaining five options, the administration recommends only two choices. Option A (3A2 PDF) depends on passage of a referendum to build a second school building on the Leopold grounds. Option B (3D1 PDF) assumes that the referendum fails. Madison Schools Boundary Change web page.
I cannot support Option B, the fallback option in the event that the proposed Leopold referendum fails. There are important but unanswered questions about how the proposed school boundary changes would affect the middle and high schools on the west side. However, more compelling to me is that this option moves 1137 students to new elementary schools, including 516 low income students, and moves them in a way that will excessively disrupt many of the eleven affected schools.


Roger Price Budget Presentation

Roger Price, the Madison School District’s Assistant Superintendent for Business Services presented a look at the upcoming year’s district budget last Monday night (2.14.2005). Roger forwarded his powerpoint slides (260K pdf) and an excel spreadsheet on tax levies from 1993 to 2005 that he used in his presentation. You can view the presentation (or listen to an audio mp3 file) here.
Barb Schrank took a look at the video clip and has some comments below.

MMSD Budget Forecast – Board Asks Few Questions

Roger Price presented to the School Board a budget forecast (Roger Price Presentation – video/mp3 audio) for the next four years.
Watching the video I was surprised there was very limited discussion and few questions about the substance of the forecast. There was no discussion about or requests for the administration to develop alternative budget forecasts using different assumptions. There was no questions about the assumptions used. There was no discussion about setting a time to review directions to administration for making cuts – for example, what are the personnel policies? There will be no layoffs of administrators. Will that be the same for existing teachers? There was no discussion about when to discuss the financial impacts of programs that are not as effective as others and may be costing more than we can afford for the results. Examples of questions about curriculum – reading: what is being done to appeal federal $2 million, what is being done to review costs of reading and evaluating what is working best for most children, how is curriculum being evaluated at Lapham, how much are new contracts going to cost and relating this to personnel layoffs if referendums are not passed. what programs are not working, what do they costs, etc.
Basically, the majority of the school board assumed that was the gap – $29 million cumulatively over 4 years. No questions were asked about the assumptions used. This is the most important part of a forecast – what the assumptions are, what other assumptions could be considered. Unless you have a good understanding and confidence in the assumptions used, your forecast will be weakened.
The School Board received the information, said thank you and reviewed the dates needed to make a decision about going to a referendum for operating expenses. This is the first time the board has seen a budget forecast for 05-06 – no substantive discussion.
With the exception of the additional years in the budget forecast, which I was glad to see that an attempt had been made to go out several years, this presentation is the same process and discussions that I saw last year. The majority of the Board had no questions last year either – how can that be?
I think I would have lots of questions if I was facing a cumulative $29 million gap between revenues and expenditures in my budget.
Link to MMSD Budget Page

Budgeting and Financial Planning – What’s the Difference?

The Superintendent of a small Massachusetts School District, East Long Meadow, prepared a clear, concise document describing his perspective of differences between budgeting and financial planning ( East Long Meadow MA Financial Planning Overview Document). He described fiscal responsibility of the school district:
“School Committee members, superintendents, and business managers have two levels of fiscal responsibility. The first level is compliance with state and federal law. Compliance ensures that the budget meets state standards and that state funds are directed to legislated accounts and programs. Compliance does not ensure that funds are being used efficiently or effectively, however. The second, higher order of responsibility is that of fiscal stewardship, which goes well beyond compliance and ensures that funds are spent on programs that make a difference and move the district toward its vision. Fiscal stewardship avoids deficit spending and the need for drastic cuts that undermine education. It requires that policy and process are in place to ensure that funds are used effectively and wisely and that deficits are avoided.
How does a School Committee achieve effective fiscal stewardship? The answer is financial planning. You would never build a new house only to tear down part of it because you didn’t budget enough to finish the entire building. Unfortunately, that’s how some districts often handle funds. Some build a district vision for student success one year at a time and often end up spending so much on small projects that they don’t have enough for the programs that would really make a difference. But building a successful district requires a strategic plan, improvement goals, and a financial plan to support the vision–plus the fiscal stewardship to make sure tax dollars are being directed to the most effective programs and departments.”
As MMSD takes its first small, positive public steps developing a multi-year budget, there is valuable information in this budget that can provide guidance for questions to ask about multi-year financial planning and not simply the same budget with inflated expenses.
I sent a copy of this memo to Carol Carstensen earlier this month. I have been asking for a long term financial picture, as has Ruth Robarts and others in the community. I am encouraged to see that the District Administration has taken the first step in that direction on February 14th.

School Board Governance Weak – School Closings

I agree wholeheartedly with the Capital Times February 17, 2005, editorial statement ( Editorial – February 17, 2005that the Madison Metropolitan School district ��seems to be determined to offend every supporter of public education in the city and surrounding communities�� The district administration�s proposed boundary changes and redistricting proposals presented to the board on February 14th was no �sweetheart proposal,� and once again demonstrated the lack of meaningful communication and collaboration between the school board and the public.
The Superintendent and his senior staff work in what appears to many as a heavy handed and an alienating manner, because the majority of the school board lets this happen. Do we want a board that allows the district administration present incomplete proposals and then drive the discussion with the board coming along for the ride? I know I don�t.
If Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Juan Jose Lopez and Shwaw Vang did not support closing schools, then this criterion needed to be communicated to the district administration clearly via a public meeting prior to the development of and release of a district administration report with options for easing overcrowding in schools.
As Chair of the Long Range Planning Committee last year, Mr. Clingan had the opportunity to put in place such an approach for addressing these big planning issues. As Lucy Mathiak wrote in two previous letters ( February 2, 2005, February 14, 2005 )to the Capital Times editor, ��he squandered his opportunity.� This is not a hind-sight comment. A long range planning committee needs to continually be looking long range and adjusting planning as needed.
As hard as the LRPC has worked this year (meeting bi-monthly) trying to meet fast-approaching deadlines, that committee and the public advisory committee has not had an opportunity to discuss strategically and to plan for new buildings, maintenance and redistricting as a package. All of these piecesare interrelated and need to be considered in the context of the impact of various options on decisions about building a new school, closing a school(s), maintenance, etc.
From here on out, I would recommend that board members direct the district administration to work closely with the community and the Long Range Planning Committee prior to releasing a detailed report with recommendations. At a minimum, the Chair of the Long Range Planning
Committee (Ruth Robarts this year) should not be receiving administration recommendations on the fly as they are being released to the public.
Emerson is now off the table for discussion, in part because of Capital Times editorial and public outcry. Also, Ruth Robarts directed the administration to take the option out, because a) there was no support for this option and b) further public discussions would be necessary before revisiting this option.

Emerson Won’t Be Closed

Lee Sensenbrenner:

The proposal, which drew strong, immediate opposition from parents on the northeast side of the isthmus, was part of sweeping enrollment boundary changes that the district plans to decide this spring.

I wonder if this will popup again later, perhaps after the planned referendums? [speculation]

Cap Times: Don’t Close Emerson

From the editorial page:

The Madison Metropolitan School District administration, which seems to be determined to offend every supporter of public education in the city and surrounding communities, was recently forced to back off from a foolish proposal to close two east side elementary schools and a middle school. But the administration is still recommending that Emerson Elementary School be closed.

Madison School Board Candidate Election Site Updates

I’ve added a number of items to the April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Candidate Site:

  • Winkler & Kobza: Madison Teachers, League of Womens Voter’s responses and the North Side Planning Council Questionnaire (Winkler).
  • Video interview with Carol Carstensen
  • Video Interview with Lawrie Kobza

Check it out. Campaign finance information is coming soon.

Search Reopened For East Principal

From the Wisconsin State Journal:
The Madison School District has reopened its search for an East High School principal.
Superintendent Art Rainwater said only four of the 13 applicants met the minimum job requirements, and only two appeared to be viable candidates.
Continued at
Ed Blume

Isthmus: Talking out of School: Don Severson’s Letter to the Editor

Don Severson has written a letter to the Isthmus editor regarding Jason Shephard’s 2/10/2005 article: Talking out of School (Shephard looks at the upcoming school board races in this article). Here’s Severson’s letter to the editor:

Madison School Board member Carol Carstensen complains that critics of the Board aren’t really interested in seeking solutions to complex questions. She states that “I get a little concerned when people say, ‘You should be doing this,’ but then are unable to give me a better plan for how to achieve what they want.” The significant issue here is that Ms. Carstensen is unwilling and unable to consider, discuss and evaluate other processes, approaches, criteria and recommendations for alternatives and solutions.

[PDF Version]


Madison School District’s Boundary Change Scenarios

The Madison School District has posted quite a bit of information, including an executive summary (in html!) on their web site. The details include a number of scenarios along with a school by school analysis. (very nicely done – fewer pdf’s would be wonderful, but it’s a great start).
There are a couple of related meetings Monday, February 14, 2005 that we’ll record and post shortly thereafter:

  • Special Board of Education Meeting @ 5:00p.m. where they will discuss the Board’s Equity Policy and the District’s projected budget gap from 2005 to 2009.
  • The Board’s Long Range Planning Committee meets at 6:00p.m. to discuss the boundary change options.

These meetings are held in the Doyle Administration Building [Map] in room 103 (enter from the back of the building).
Sandy Cullen writes about some parent’s reactions. Lee Sensenbrenner on the District’s 8.6M in pending reductions (or reductions in the increase).

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Lunch 2.17.2005

Jeff Mayers forwarded this event information (calendar) [Candidate information]:
Top two DPI candidates from the 2/15/2005 primary election.
February 17, 11:45 a.m., the Madison Club, Wilson Street, Madison
Join us to hear Jeff Mayers and the candidates discuss the state of
education and the race.
Cost is $15 for Madison Club members and $19 for non-members. Call Loretta to RSVP at the Madison Club, 608-255-4861.
The event is co-sponsored by WHD Government Affairs and Sonic Foundry.

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Fund Raising

The money being tossed around in this race reflects the growing partisan nature of a purportedly non-partisan position (Burmaster was on stage at the recent Kerry/Springsteen rally). Dave Zweifel also weighs in on the changing nature of this elected position.

The DPI Candidate primary is Tuesday, 2/15/2005. Vote – perhaps for Yvarra or Stelzel, two who are running without a serious cash machine….

Given the partisan nature of the job, Zweifel is correct in advocating for a fall election.
Background on the candidates 1/31/2005 campaign finance disclosures: [AP] [Wisconsin Elections Board]

Q and A with MMSD school staff

MAFAAC (Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Coalition)
PO Box 5311
Madison, WI 53705
836-0616 for more information
What: Q and A with MMSD school staff, Valencia Douglas, Jane
Belmore and Marcy Peters-Felice
Subject: How can parents and other community members get involved in school issues; Who is welcome in our schools; How
are decisions made about important issues involving our children;
And how do we file a complaint when we feel wronged???
When: Saturday, February 12th
Time: 1:00-3:00 PM
Where: South Madison Health and Wellness Center, 2202 S. Park St.
This meeting is free and open to the public. We strongly encourage you to come and ask questions of the school representatives.
Snacks will be provided.

School Board Governance Lacking – Fine Arts

Let the School Board know how you feel about the following at
Monday, February 7, 2005, I spoke before the School Board during public appearances. The purpose of my statement was to speak about my concern re. the School Board’s ongoing inaction regarding the fine arts curriculum. During the past six years, there have been cuts to courses, reduced positions, continued threats of cuts to curriculum (such as the elementary strings academic classes) without any engagement or dialogue with the hundreds of concerned community members who have voiced their support for a strong fine arts curriculum and have asked (over and over) for the School Board to work collaboratively with the community to develop a fine arts vision and strategy for fine arts.
If the fine arts curriculum were being treated fairly in light of the District’s overall financial challenges, that would be one thing. But this academic discipline has not been treated fairly and in some cases analyses and a board member’s recommendation are made that appear spiteful (for example, a $500-600 fee for the elementary strings academic classes that are part of the School Board approved Grade 4-12 instrumental curriculum). In the fall the District formed a working group with supporters of extracurricular sports. What’s wrong with this picture? Fine arts is also a great way to explore and develop community partnerships.
I believe the City of Madison and its fine arts community need to be seriously concerned with the District’s continued lack of attention to this important curriculum area and the absence of leadership by the School Board to �think outside the box.� Board members are allowing this curriculum to wither even in light of research showing the positive effect on low income student achievement and have missed opportunities for federal funding of the arts for low income children.
On Monday, I was “politely” told that I should be the one to remind board committee chairs to follow up with items on their agenda. What kind of foolishness is this? Each board committee has a support person from district staff who should review this information with the committee and provide periodic updates – publicly, since the public is expecting follow-up.
This follow-up and continuity is not happening. For example, in March 2003 the Fine Arts coordinator provided an overview of fine arts curriculum and community relationships between MMSD and the community to the Performance and Achievement Committee. Board members asked for a follow-up the next year. This did not happen. During the year, I contacted the Fine Arts Coordinator and asked about progress on a Fine Arts strategy. He informed me that his superiors would tell him when to work on this – they never did. Does that mean the public needs to take note of tasks assigned or commitments made publicly at a meeting and follow whether the statements are being followed up? No way.
I also reminded the School Board that the superintendent said that in the absence of a Fine Arts Coordinator, he had told the board a committee of teachers would be put together to handle tasks. Rather than address my concern, I was “politely” told (dismissed) about how it’s taken so long to find a Fine Arts Coordinator, because the District wants the best person for the position. I say hogwash. The District waited 5 months before even putting up an ad for the position when the outreach portion existed.
Are community members supposed to let the School Board know the teachers’ committee is not in place, there has been no posting for the Fine Arts Coordinator position and MMSD positions on fine arts boards are going unfilled because there is no Fine Arts coordinator and another options is needed? The fine arts teachers did just that in early fall – no action by the School Board.
The Board says they are making an effort to find the best person. Yet, the District abandoned the first interview process that included qualified candidates, lowered the standards (removed a licensing requirement) and re-announced the position. Ads were only placed in newspapers. When asked if the District had placed ads with professional organizations that would know how to contact qualified personnel, the District said they did not have the time to do that. (note: many employers advertise online for positions
these days – is the place to be, generally).
Why does the public have to follow up with everything? Why can’t we have confidence that appropriate steps are being taken? Why are there no mechanisms in place for the Board to provide appropriate oversight?
By his actions (and inactions) the Superintendent continues to show a lack of understanding of the demonstrated positive benefits of fine arts curriculum on student achievement, and fails to reach out to the community to keep the arts strong in Madison�s schools, which is something the community deeply values. In times of scarce resources, the district needs to work collaboratively with the community.
In the area of Fine Arts, it appears the Superintendent needs closer supervision by the Board. Yet, the School Board is not providing oversight either. Maybe I’m being too cranky. Afterall, what difference does it make if the Board abandons fine arts? Plenty.
What are the risks of not doing this? The board runs the risk of missing an important opportunity to improve student achievement and build community relationships with a community that strongly values the arts. Also, the board runs the risk of the district not remaining competitive with surrounding districts that have strong fine arts curriculum for their students. This would be an additional burden and negative impact on our low income students whose families do not have the opportunity to move to the suburbs. We can�t let this happen. Our children’s learning deserves more responsibility and accountability from our School Board.
How does the School Board expect the community to support a referendum when there is inaction year after year? They won�t if the public is not confident in the board’s ability to keep our school district strong by reflecting community values.
Specific comments in my statement included:

A. School Board is Non-responsive to the Community.

For three years, children, parents and members of the Madison community have spoken to board members about the important contribution of the fine arts curriculum to successful learning in core academic subject areas. While the School Board forms community committees to address community concerns about long-term planning, extracurricular sports, afterschool, and even school animals, the requests of hundreds of children, teachers and community members over the past three years for such a committee for fine arts curriculum planning go unanswered.
Abandoned promises. While looking for a new Fine Arts Coordinator, the School Board has let 9 months pass without professional support in the fine arts area for teachers and as a liaison with the community. Yet, the Superintendent said a committee of fine arts teachers would be put into place � this did not happen, and there was no follow-up publicly from the Board even after fine arts teachers spoke to the School Board about needing help last fall. Teachers even provided the School Board with possible solutions.
What has this meant? Diminished Community Outreach. There has been less community outreach and communication between the District and the arts community than in previous years. Representatives from the district�s fine arts professionals have not been on boards. I can only believe that if you had asked any of the fine arts teachers who are experienced professionals (many are involved in the community) to be on these boards, they would have been honored to serve. Even if you need to pay for time, the money would have been well spent.
Diminished Long-Term Planning for the Arts. MMSD lacks a fine arts vision that can only be developed with teacher, administrator, and community involvement. Long-term planning for the fine arts curriculum � looking at what currently exists, and what is needed for maintenance and growth of a strong fine arts curriculum is non-existent.
B. Missed Funding Opportunities.
In July, the Secretary of Education sent all school district superintendents a policy letter on fine arts curriculum. His letter began,
�As I am sure you know, the arts are a core academic subject under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I believe the arts have a significant role in education both for their intrinsic value and for the ways in which they can enhance general academic achievement and improve students’ social and emotional development.�
While we can all agree that we have philosophical and financial issues with NCLB, the points made in the Secretary�s letter reflect the current knowledge, key strengths and benefits to math and reading about fine arts education. His letter also went on to provide links to flexibility in federal grants for fine arts curriculum for low income students and all students and provided links to resources and to research showing independently evaluated improved test scores for low income children. This funding has been available for several years � MMSD�s former fine arts coordinator was not included in grant applications at federal level for fine arts. This is not something you would not undertake independently.

C. Community Enagagement/Partnering

How much longer is the School Board willing to let the District�s fine arts curriculum wither? If resources are as scarce as the School Board continues to warn the public, then action is needed yesterday. Our community values fine arts � that�s clear to everyone. Fine arts curriculum directly benefits children�s performance in school � achievement.
Other districts nationally are independently assessing the proven benefits of fine arts curriculum for low income children�s learning and academic achievement. They are seeing improved results in their test scores. How long is the School Board willing to risk these benefits to Madison�s children?
What�s needed? I believe the Board needs a Fine Arts working group under the Partnership Committee with feedback to the Performance and Achievement Committee. This committee must a) review what exists � existing approved curriculum and standards, b) develop a vision and action plan for fine arts that will lead to a strong fine arts curriculum for our children c) determine costs and d) identify partnerships. I would recommend the first step for the group would be to develop a work plan for board approval. I believe the Fine Arts Coordinator needs to lead this, but I asked the Board to begin now. Even though the Fine Arts Coordinator might be new, there are people with vast experience in this field and strong community ties who can help get up and going and provide the support the Fine Arts Coordinator will need when they are on board.
What are the risks of not doing this? The board runs the risk of missing an important opportunity to improve student achievement. Also, the board runs the risk of the district not remaining competitive with surrounding districts that have strong fine arts curriculum for their students. This would be an additional burden and negative impact on our low income students whose families do not have the opportunity to move around. We can�t let this happen.

California: Mandatory Student ID Cards with RFID’s

The EFF (well worth your support):

Several civil liberties groups, including the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter today expressing alarm at the Brittan School District’s use of mandatory ID badges that include a RFID device that tracks the students’ movements. The device transmits private information to a computer on campus whenever a student passes under one of the scanners. The ID badges also include the student’s name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number. Students are required to prominently display the badges by wearing them around the neck at all times.

Madison Schools Proposed Athletic Field Fees

A reader forwarded me comments that were sent to the Madison School Board regarding the proposed athletic field fees:

As you would guess, many of us who have watched a soccer game, t-ball game or football game and enjoyed the unencumbered spirit and play of our children and have personally mowed the grass, or lined a field, you may oppose the school board proposal of a user fee for the athletic fields during non-school hours.
I sent a letter to the comments section of MMSD school board. Send yours to: comments@ at
My letter to the school board stated:


Stand & Deliver: an Update

I recently watched the 1987 film, Stand & Deliver; A moving, mostly-true story of famed East L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), who finds himself in a classroom of rebellious remedial-math students. He stuns fellow faculty members with his plans to teach AP Calculus. Jerry Jesness dives deep into the story and talks with many of the players. Quite interesting.

Donna Ford’s Visit to Madison

Madison is fortunate to have Donna Ford, Ph.D. visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 8 and 9, 2005. Dr. Ford is the Betts Chair of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) recruiting and retaining culturally diverse students in gifted education; (2) multicultural and urban education; and (3) minority student achievement and underachievement.
Dr. Ford will be meeting with TAG staff and administrators during her visit, and will be speaking about multicultural education at West High School as part of a staff in-service. On Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Ford will be giving a community presentation entitled �Increasing the participation of culturally diverse students in talented and gifted education� at Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. This presentation is open to all interested parents and community members. Translation will be available for Spanish, Hmong, and hearing impaired audience members. Dr. Ford is also scheduled to give a colloquium on Wednesday, February 9 at 11:30 a.m., in the UW Department of Counseling Psychology. This presentation entitled �Understanding culture: Implications for improving minority student achievement.� will be held in Room 154 Education. For further information, please contact Jeff Henriques, or visit the TAG Parents website:
Dr. Ford’s visit to Madison is supported by the MMSD Department of Parent Community Relations, American Family Insurance, West High School, and the UW Department of Counseling Psychology.

The Public Survey Trap and Music Education

In his weekly advice on music advocacy, Dr. Benham, on talks about public surveys. Useful information can be gathered, but they can also be used to threaten the public or be used as a mandate from the public if referendums do not pass. the music advocate needs to keep music off the surveys. Dr. Benham writes,
“In the presence of a financial crisis one of the approaches used to inform the public of the seriousness of the situation is a Public Survey.
The survey may be used for a variety of reasons, some of which may need to be “read between the lines.”
* To inform the public of the financial crisis
* To inform the public of the need to raise taxes
* To establish a basis for a levy referendum to increase funding
* To inform (sometimes threaten) the public of probable cuts if additional finding is not increased
* To get a sense of what the public values most so that the cuts made cause the least negative reaction
One school district in which I worked mailed surveys to all employees and residents in the district. The survey listed 200 categories or programs within the district. The respondent was asked to rank each with a response of “A” (Most important to retain), “B” (Cut here first), or “C” (Save this if possible). After the district levy referendum failed the district mandated cuts in the music program that would have eliminated 70% of the orchestra staff and 48% of the band staff.
What actually occurred is that the results were summarily ignored, not even calculated. The administration proposed the music cuts based on their own educational philosophy and blamed the community for lack of support for music. The music parents requested permission to review the surveys and discovered the following.
* Of the 60,000 surveys distributed only 211 were returned
* Lack of participation by the community invalidated the survey, exposing the administrative action as self-serving
* Of the nine (9) music categories included on the list of 200 in the survey, music was ranked by the community as “most important to retain” on a basis equivalent with curricular status.
* Music categories outranked all extra-curricular activities as “most important to retain”
Continue Reading “The Public Survey Trap”

Update on Lowell Elementary School and Emissions from Kipp Corp.

On Monday evening School Board members heard from parents, professionals and a local business about emissions from Kipp Corporation.
Parents and Clean Air Madison are concerned that emissions from changes in manufacturing and a permit from the WI DNR will negatively affect the health of Lowell Elementary School children. Kipp Corporation maintains they are operating within both state and city guidelines. Both CAM and Kipp made presentations of their positions to the board.
After much discussion by board members, Ruth Robarts made a motion to ask the state Department of Natural Resources to install an air monitoring device at Lowell Elementary School. Her motion, seconded by Juan Lopez, passed unanimously.

Lucy Mathiak on Bill Clingan & Leopold Expansion

Lucy Mathiak:

Dear Editor: I am writing in response to Bill Clingan’s Jan. 27 letter regarding the second Leopold School. A second school is long overdue. It is the right thing to do.
While there is no doubt that Mr. Clingan will be a vocal advocate for the Leopold referendum, one wonders where his passion for this initiative was in 2003-04 when he chaired the Long Range Planning Committee. As chair, he had the power to move the school forward, and he squandered that opportunity.
According to the school district Web site, the Long Range Planning Committee met a total of three times under Mr. Clingan’s leadership. Planning for a Leopold building referendum was not an agenda item at any of those meetings. The committee did not meet again while Mr. Clingan was the chair.

Madison School Administrators: What is the trend?

Before February 1 of each year, the Madison School Board must decide whether to renew its administrators’ contracts. If the Board plans to cut administrative positions, it must give the administrators notice that their employment contracts will not be renewed. Otherwise, the contracts automatically renew for one or two years.
Because continued shortfalls in state and federal aid for schools force budget reductions each year, the number of administrators and the total cost of their wages and benefits is a factor in the budget for the next year.
On January 24, 2005 Superintendent Art Rainwater used the following graph and table as evidence of a trend of reductions in the MMSD administrative staff.


Wisconsin DPI Candidate Forum

Three of the four candidates for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent participated in a Madison Forum Saturday morning. The League of Women Voters Melanie Ramey kindly moderated. Watch the forum here (video and audio clips). You can also read individual questions and watch/listen to the candidate responses.
Incumbent Libby Burmaster was unable to attend, though the three candidates mentioned that she has not participated in any primary events to date. I find this disappointing. These challenging education times require more debate, a more engaged citizenry and leadership.
I was impressed with the three participating candidates. They addressed the issues and were willing to put their names on a position.
In days long gone, it was likely sufficient to rely on special interests and avoid direct public interaction. Our current President certainly avoids any sort of critical engagements. Russ Feingold, to my knowledge, has always mingled easily with the public. [Melanie mentioned that incumbent non-participation is a growing problem around the state.]
The internet era is dramatically changing the way in which we all communicate, are informed and express our points of view. Any candidate seeking office would do well to participate in the conversation.
I also want to thank the local media for their extensive coverage:

  • 3, 15 and 27. Their coverage enabled these three candidates to have a few broadcast words with Madison voters.
  • Isthmus posted the event in their weekly calendar.
  • Sheryl Gasser emailed and mentioned that Wisconsin Public Radio will be interviewing the four DPI candidates individually starting this Monday morning from 7 to 8a.m. through Thursday morning. I’ll post audio links to these conversations.

Take a look at the forum page and email the candidates with questions. The primary is Tuesday, February 15, 2005. Vote!

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Madison Forum – Saturday Morning 1/29/2005 is hosting a Wisconsin DPI Candidate Forum tomorrow morning at 10:00a.m. at the Madison Senior Center. Three of the four candidates: Todd Stelzel, Gregg Underheim and Paul Yvarra have confirmed.
This is the ONLY Madison opportunity you’ll apparently have to meet the candidates before the February primary.
When: January 29, 2005 10:00a.m. (9:30 if you want to chat with the media folks)
Madison Senior Center, 2nd Floor
330 W Mifflin St
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 266 6581
[Map/Directions]. There’s quite a bit of parking around this facility, just behind the new Overture Center.
Please note that the Winter Farmer’s market is on the first floor of the Madison Senior Center, so bring your shopping bag.
Notes, photos audio and video files will be posted here after the event. I’ll post additional media links as they are available.

Need 3-5 Year Budget – Where Are We Going?

Monday night a majority of school board members voted to go to referendum in May 2005, one month after the April 5th election. To be on the ballot in May, the board will have to vote on referenda language by late February.
Why wait one month? In one month, board members expect to have more information about what the financial needs will be for the next year for educational programs and services. In reality, board members will have an estimate of the revenue gap for the operating budget. Carol Carstensen, before voting yes on a maintenance referendum, wants to see what the revenue gap is and what programs/services might be affected by the revenue gap.
To the public this seems like a jumble of information – vote to build a new school in January, vote to redistrict/close school in February, vote to redistrict so there’s a better balance/mix of students in schools in the near future, maintenance for schools that may be closed, and the real budget – the operation budget.

Expert in multicultural and gifted education to visit Madison

A support group for parents of talented and gifted (TAG) students, the Madison TAG Parents Group, is pleased to announce that Donna Ford, Ph.D., will be visiting Madison on February 8 and 9 to discuss the issues surrounding the identification and retention of gifted and talented low income and minority students. Dropout data from the school district classify more than 25% of all dropouts as well behaved high achievers. More than 50% of these students are low income and more than 40% of them are minority students.
Dr. Ford is the Betts Chair of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) recruiting and retaining culturally diverse students in gifted education; (2) multicultural and urban education; and (3) minority student achievement and underachievement.
Dr. Ford’s work has been recognized by many different professional organizations. She received a Research Award from the Shannon Center for Advanced Studies; an Early Career Award from The American Educational Research Association; an Early Scholar Award from The National Association for Gifted Children; and the Esteemed Scholarship Award from The National Association of Black Psychologists. She has published more than 90 articles and is the author of Reversing underachievement among gifted black students (1996) and a co-author of Multicultural gifted education (1999) and In search of the dream: Designing schools and classrooms that work for high potential students from diverse cultural backgrounds (2004).
Dr. Ford will be meeting with TAG staff and administrators during her visit, and will be speaking about multicultural education at West High School as part of a staff in-service. She is also scheduled to give a colloquium on Wednesday, February 9, in the UW Department of Counseling Psychology. On Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Ford will be giving a community presentation at Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. She will be talking about increasing the participation of at risk students in gifted and talented education. This presentation is open to all interested parents and community members. Translation will be available for Spanish, Hmong, and hearing impaired audience members. For further information, please contact Jeff Henriques, or visit the TAG Parents website:
You can find out more about Donna Ford by visiting her webpages:

Editorial: School Board Must Show Unity – A Capital Times Editorial – January 24, 2005

In an editorial in today’s Capital Times, School Board unity is identified as a key factor before deciding on going to a referendum. I couldn’t agree more with this editorial.
At this point in their deliberations, MMSD’s School Board is not ready to make a decision to go to referendum(s), because they have more work to complete and more discussions are needed with the public before making these important decisions. And, I do not count public hearings as conversations with the public.
Board members must be united and they must be able to present a complete, viable package to the public where they can demonstrate other options considered and decisions that led them to this as the best choice for our children’s education.
What is some of the work yet to do? Before voting on Leopold, review updated options for boundary changes and school closings. You won’t have a successful vote on a new school at Leopold if you vote to go to referendum on Leopold in January and come back in February with suggested closings on the east side of Madison. That won’t work.
The “maintenance referendum” is only one part of the operating budget. School Board members need to have the complete budget, and they need to know what the estimate of all revenues are for next year. Waiting for a same service budget won’t get them there and won’t let the Board make the decisions about where scarce resources are allocated. Board members need to begin a process to look out 3-5 years and tell Madison voters what our schools need to be successful, how much that will cost and what options do we have for funding our investment in education.
As a minor aside, the administration continues to tell the board that the maintenance referendum will not cost any additional property tax dollars. Wait a minute – isn’t it the School Board’s decision about how to finance their operating budget. Why wouldn’t School Board members want the “no tax increase option” to go toward the general operating budget.
Let’s get the whole picture – our children cannot afford piecemeal approaches to decisionmaking. Our children deserve leadership and hard work from our School Board members without threats that this list will be cut if you don’t vote yes on a referendum. That option won’t cut it with the voters.
As the Capital Times Editorial writes, “…voters have a right to expect that any referendums placed before the community will have the support of all board members, including Robarts, who was re-elected by an overwhelming margin last year despite the fact that she faced an able opponent and a concerted campaign against her. Robarts is not always right, but she is never so wrong that board members should feel comfortable going into a referendum fight without her.”
Robarts’ Long Range Planning Conmmittee, which she chairs, and the public advisory committee, which she asked the board to form, have been working hard and asking good questions. The advisory committee’s discussions have been substantive and well thought out. The advisory committee’s continued work on the school and maintenance issues will make an important contribution to referendum decisions by board members.
Had Bill Clingan, who, chaired Long Range Planning Committee last year convened his committee from late December 2003 through mid-April 2004, the current members of the Long Range Planning Committee might be further ahead in the process and Leopold Elementary parents would be in a new school in Fall 2006 vs. Fall 2007. Four months of no meetings last year potentially delayed the overall process and opening of the new Leopold School by one year – that’s an unfair burden for the kids.
Continue Reading Editorial: School Board Must Show Unity

Gray Matter and the Sexes: Still a Scientific Gray Area – by Natalie Angier and Kenneth Chang – NYTimes January 24, 2005

I hope scientists researching the differences been the sexes’ gray matter take more time digesting their results than Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, did before he made his comments about the innate difference between the sexes in a recent speech.
“Researchers who have explored the subject of sex differences from every conceivable angle and organ say that yes, there are a host of discrepancies between men and women…,” write Angier and Chang,
“Yet despite the desire for tidy and definitive answers to complex questions, researchers warn that the mere finding of a difference in form does not mean a difference in function or output inevitably follows.”
“We can’t get anywhere denying that there are neurological and hormonal differences between males and females, because there clearly are,” said Virginia Valian, a psychology professor at Hunter College who wrote the 1998 book “Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women.” “The trouble we have as scientists is in assessing their significance to real-life performance.”
Continue Reading Gray Matter and the Sexes: Still a Scientific Gray Area – by Natalie Angier and Kenneth Chang – NYTimes January 24, 2005

San Diego Superintendent Alan Bersin & No Child Left Behind


Haven’t yet had your fill of political shenanigans in California? Then keep an eye on San Diego where one of the nation’s longest serving urban superintendents is facing political trouble. National implications as this episode shows what can happen when push comes to shove on NCLB.
Superintendent Alan Bersin is poised to reorganize several of the city’s chronically underperforming schools. At two of the three schools a majority of teachers have voted to make the schools charter schools to help facilitate this and at all three 60-80 percent of parents voted to do the same. Remember, these are not schools that didn’t do well “on a single test” but schools that have not done right by students for years.


The Art of Education Success by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond

Rabkin and Redmond wrote in the Washington Post on January 8, 2005 that “…the arts are not just affective and expressive. They are also deeply cognitive.”
Districts with music and art curriculum standards and benchmarks tied to other curriculum see improved test scores. The research is showing more and more that children’s learning directly benefits from music and art curriculum.
The authors note that “Successful programs in Chicago, Minneapolis and elsewhere have proven that arts integration is within the reach of most schools and districts. Now research is showing that connecting the arts to learning across the curriculum is a strategy that helps close the achievement gap and make schools happier places by moving beyond a crippling focus on basics and discipline. It is time for more districts and schools to make use of this strategy.”
MMSD’s fine arts teachers know this and gear their curriculum to provide student’s with the benefits in learning from music and art education. If MMSD administration narrowly focuses on reading, math, science, etc., scores and not what contributes to children learning experiences being successful, administrators will miss the benefits of the arts.
Children and teachers have been telling them for the past several years how music and art benefit children’s learning. Hopefully, they are listening.


Arts Are a Core Subject Under No Child Left Behind – Flexibility for Federal Funding of the Arts Exists

In an August Letter to ALL superintendents across the country, Secretary Paige (Dept. of Education) stated that the arts are a core subject area of No Child Left Behind, provided research that demonstrates children who are more engaged in the arts do better on tests, and offered guidance on flexibility, funding for arts
Noting that the arts are a core subject under the No Child Left Behind Act, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige has issued guidance on the law’s funding and flexibility that can be used to improve art education and teacher quality, particularly as a means to improve the educational achievement of economically disadvantaged students through the arts.
The letter cites research that shows arts teaching and learning can increase students’ cognitive and social development and serve as a “critical link” to help students develop crucial thinking skills and become motivated to achieve at higher levels. Research also shows that students who are highly involved in the arts earn better grades and perform better on standardized tests.
Secretary Paige’s letter also reminds superintendents about the law’s flexibility and the funding available to support core subjects through programs supported by the No Child Left Behind Act, including: Title I funds to improve the academic achievement of the neediest students; the Comprehensive School Reform program; and Title II Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants to provide professional development for teachers of the arts.
In Arizona, for example, as part of Superintendent Tom Horne’s current “content-rich curriculum” initiative, $4 million in Comprehensive School Reform (Title I, Part F) funds are supporting arts education at 43 current Comprehensive School Reform schools throughout the state. Additional Arizona Arts Education Initiative school sites are being supported with Title V (Innovative Programs) funding under NCLB.
The City of Madison needs to ask what available funding for the arts under NCLB the Madison Metropolitan District has pursued.
Continue Reading “US Department of Education Press Release: Arts are a Core Subject Under No Child Left Behind”

MUSIC ADVOCACY: Caring Enough to Put the Student First by Dr. Benham

Dr. John Benham, writing on says, “Music Education Advocacy. The concept can make us indignant. Why should anything so valuable to the education of every child need to be defended?”
He continues, “If you�re a parent of a young person interested in playing music, you�ve already experienced first-hand the positive impact of this sort of challenge. If you�re a member of the community with a love of music, you know how much it has benefited you.
But the truth is, we have no choice but to defend school music programs. In a time of drastic reductions in school budgets, music can sometimes be misunderstood as not core to an academic curriculum. But we do know that participation in music is vital to a young person�s academic and social development.”
Advocacy for music education for students is not about what we teach children as much as it is about what children are learning and music education is fundamental to that.
Continue Reading “MUSIC ADVOCACY: Caring Enough to Put the Students First” – Dr. John Benham

Report on Rainwater meeting about East principal selection

An author, asking to remain anonymous, prepared a summary of the meeting on January 18, when Superintendent Rainwater met with community members and discussed the process for selecting a new principal at East High School. The author concluded:
“If you believe that our superintendent cares about East and wants to get it right this time (like he finally did at Sherman and Black Hawk), then you left the meeting feeling good. If you question the process and his decision-making ability given some of his poor choices in the past, you probably left the meeting feeling disappointed, which is mostly what I heard. Nothing has changed.”
“It was not said, but we pay for the mistakes for a very long time. A great principal can turn a school around in weeks, but a bad principal or several principals for several years can really hurt the students going through those schools. It is not just failing to master academics, but their feeling of connection gets hurt as well. It could be argued that some of the problems East is having today stem not only from the void at the top at East, but also from the fact that two of its feeder middle schools and some of its feeder elementary schools have been struggling due to poor leadership.”
You can read the full report by clicking
Report on meeting with Rainwater on East Principal Selection.
Ed Blume
ps. No I didn’t write the report. I didn’t attend the meeting. Ed

Winkler Letter to Keys & School Board on Administrator Contracts

Madison School Board Candidate, Parent and activist Lawrence Winkler forwarded a letter to Board President Bill Keys regarding Madison School’s budget process if cuts must be made for the 2005-2006 School Year.
Winkler provides some useful background information and offers a suggestion to move forward with an improved decision making process. Click below to read his letter or here for a 37K pdf print version.


Music To His Ears by Sandy Cullen, WI State Journal

Janitor Directs Generosity To East High, Trades His Broom For Baton Tonight by Sandy Cullen, January 13,2005, WI State Journal
Jim Ely loves music and the arts.
He also loves Madison East High School.
It’s where he and his wife, Judy, who died of ovarian cancer in February 2003, were high school sweethearts more than 30 years ago, when he took her to his prom and she took him to the TWIRP (The Woman Is Required to Pay) dance.
It’s where they worked together on the 1969 production of “Oklahoma!”
Read the entire article,
Music to His Ears

Dane County School Funding Forum Followup

Margaret Stumpf sent a followup message to the recent Dane County School Funding Forum.

Please check with Channel 10 on the televised version of the State Budget Information Seminar held on WED, Jan 12 at Monona Grove HIgh School if you did not attend. It was very informational. I also have hard copies (as daoe Amy through me) of the infor passed out at the meeting.
All are encouraged to contact Governor Doyle IMMEDIATELY (as the budget is in the works) to encourage him to accept Superintendent Burmeister’s and the Governor’s Task Force on Educational Excellence’s proposals for school fuding.
Letters can be sent to:
Governor Jim Doyle (web email link)
Officer of the Governor
115 East
State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
608-267-6790 (TTY
608-267-8983 (FAX)
They can be sent individually or en mass. As we all know, a lot of what individual districts are able to do is based on state aid, and the lack of in areas that the state had committed to (such as 2/3 special ed funding) that was later revoked.

Update on Hiring MMSD Fine Arts Coordinator – Art Rainwater Briefs Board on Ongoing Delay and Reposting of Position with Fewer Requirements

Art Rainwater informed MMSD School Board members on January 10, 2005 that the Fine Arts Coordinator position would be reposted. Why? It’s unclear, as the following quicktime movie shows. There were about 9 candidates.
Members on the committee, who included MMSD and public representatives, said they forwarded two qualified candidates for the next step toward hiring. Why wasn’t one of those people hired?
Art Rainwater says that the license requirement for the position will be removed to attract a broader category of candiate. My question is – possibly a less qualified candidate? There has been no public notice of a substantive change in the responsibilities of this position. You would think that professionals in the field and the arts community would be involved in major changes were being considered. Read Mariel Wozniakl for information on how removing a license can be problemmatic and what experience an MMSD Fine Arts Coordinator needs to have.
Video of Art Rainwater’s Update on Hiring of Fine Arts Coordinator to the MMSD School Board on Monday, January 10, 2005