On the Agenda — MMSD Board of Education, Week of February 8, 2010

Week two of the agenda rundown experiment.  The big important things are the La Follette Area attendance info (now including East Area and West Area) and the Budget Timeline.

As explained in the first post in this series, the Madison Metropolitan School district Board of Education first sees most agenda items when meeting in committee and then meets the following week as the Board of Education to reconsider and take action.  Last week was a committee week and this week is a Board week.  I’m not going to repeat the commentary from last week — I suggest reading that post if you haven’t already —, but will give some updates — big updates on the La Follette Area assignments, ones that stretch into the West and East Areas —  and add a few things.  There are also some new items to cover (and one In missed).

List of all meetings for the week is here, Monday’s Board meeting is here.

The Board will meet at 5:00 PM in closed session to consider an extension of Superintendent Dan Nerad’s contract and student disciplinary matters.  The contract extension will be voted on at the open meeting.

The open meeting will begin at 6:00 Pm, Monday February 8, 2010, Doyle Administration Bldg. 545 W. Dayton Street Madison, WI 53703 in the Auditorium.  There will be public appearances at the beginning.   Like almost all Board meetings, these will be carried by MMSD-TV.  Here it is.


  • The Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools Employee Giving Campaign is underway
  • The Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation calls for applicants for its College Access Champion Award for teachers
  • Eleven Madison students have qualified as Presidential Scholar Finalists
  • The Schools of Hope 5th Annual Multicultural dinner will be held on March 3, 2010


*A Proposed Board Policy Modification regarding Public Appearances at School Board Meetings (Board Policy 1222)—Appendix LLL-8-26.

Two minor changes.  One specifically bars people from ceding time to other people.  All speakers are allotted 3 minutes, so this says that you can’t get a group of 10 and have one person speak for a half hour.  The other encourages people who have written testimony to summarize and submit.   Last time there were proposed changes, I protested vociferously.

These seem reasonable, but I do have two observations.  Even worse than last time, these changes will be voted on with little or no opportunity for the public to weigh in.   The first hint was the posting of the agenda after 5:00 PM on Friday and the vote is Monday….if you wonder why people feel alienated from the district, consider what it says to change the way public input is taken without giving the public a real chance to have their say.  Second, it would seem to me that A) These have not been big problems in the past and the B) The administration should have much more important things to do than mess around with this (like the Equity Report, which has now been informally promised for March, 21 months late and right in the middle of the budget mess).

Student Achievement Data: Value Added Analysis (Report Only).

I said a lot about this last week, so I’m just going to offer a video on the use of Value Added in teacher compensation from Prof. Daniel Willingham and two semi related links on “standards” and “accountability.”  Here is the video:

Teacherken’s (Ken Bernstein) essay “students should graduate with a résumé, not a transcript” at Daily Kos is a must read for anyone who thinks “transform, not reform” should be more than a slogan.

Over at the Educational Policy Blog, Nancy Flanagan has a good consideration of Richard Rothstein’s Grading Education Getting Accountability Right.   She also has a smile inducing “New Rules” column at EdWeek.

Update on Fine Arts Task Force Recommendations (Report Only) and (later in the agenda) Fine Arts Task Force budget amendments (separation requested at committee level) the budget stuff has been revsied, the previous recommendations are here.

Let me start by saying that having these two items at different points in the meeting may appear orderly, but makes no sense.

Lots of discussion last Monday.  The big change I see is that there is no longer $20,000 for support staff time.

2009 Summer School Report and 2010 Summer School Recommendations and Budget Proposal.

Usage of the Infinite Campus Electronic Student Information System.

Following up the comments from last week, I’ll note that I checked again and none of my son’s teachers at West have anything but grades up.

Evaluation of District Reading Programs.

This comes with a recommended timeline and process that begins with hiring a consultant, continues with further outside services and ends with a report.

Five-Year Education for Employment Report.

MMSD Strategic Plan Mid-Year Report.

OK, I will repeat some things.  I think the Core Measures are pretty good and it doesn’t look like there will be much more than conceptual guidance from the Strategic Plan process come budget time.  This is good, bad and inevitable.  Next year there will be some data on the Core Measures and other things, but this data will not give easy answers (see more here).  I generally think this is good, data shouldn’t “drive.”  The bad is that some will feel that it is a promise betrayed and tat it would be nice if there were easy answers, whether from data or elsewhere.

La Follette Area Schools Long Range Planning Recommendations to address the Facility/Enrollment and Programmatic Needs of these Schools.

There was a lot of dissatisfaction with this at last week’s meeting, much of it for reasons similar to those I expressed.  Here and elsewhere it was very heartening to hear Board Members cite Equity principals from the policy and event some concepts  from the Equity Task Force that did not make it directly and explicitly into the policy.  Lucy Mathiak deserves special mention and praise.

The two big equity things here are technology allocations and attendance assignments.  The one real plan brought forward last week involved moving 155 students with 115 of those being low income.  That’s 74% of the kids moved (the low income % for the area is 55%).  Most of the low income students involved are from the Moorland and that area was to be split between two schools.  No resident of that area serves on the committee.  They had no voice in the recommendation to move their children.  I say again, is it any wonder people feel alienated from the district.

We now have plans 17-24 (last week we only had plan 14).  It isn’t clear if these have been reviewed by the committee.  It is clear that there has been no opportunity for community input on these yet.

Plan 17 moves Nuestro Mundo to Lowell.  I like that at least they are “thinking outside the attendance area.”  Does next to nothing for socioeconomic disparities.  About 1,100 students would change schools in this plan (that’s a lot); about 600 are low income.  I don’t believe the Lowell (or any East Area school communities have been privy to this process).

Plan 18 is labeled “Balance Low Income”  and it does that, greatly narrowing the disparities.  728 students would be reassigned of whom 342 are low income.

Plan 19  is “Pair Lowell Emerson, Move Nuestro Mundo.”  Obviously this would mean huge changes for Lowell, Emerson and Nuestro Mundo.  Not the kind of thing you rush into and unfortunately we seem to now be at the rush stage (unless they do another year of band aids). 1,078 students are reassigned; 653 low income.  Overall, little or no change in income disparities among schools.

Plan 20 goes into the East and West Areas. In general I like the district-wide approach for exploring options, but you have to do these things transparently, publicly and with all parties at the table.  This hasn’t happened.  None of it.

On the table in addition to La Follette area schools are, Franklin-Randall, Marquette-Lapham, Emerson and Lowell.  Some minimal changes to income disparity (with Franklin-Randall — one of the lowest low income school communities in the district — in the mix, I would have hoped for more, like maybe keep the Bay View kids in the pair and move some non-low income areas to the Lincoln-Midvale pair). 492 students are reassigned, 272 low income (quick note, I have not been listing English Language Learner numbers because availability of services can shape decision-making in ways that I’m not clear on).

Plan 21  is similar to Plan 20, with a choice component and some tweaks.  It too involves moving Bay View from Franklin-Randall to Marquette-Lapham, current Allis students would go to Franklin-Randall, some Marquette-Lapham to Emerson and some Kennedy to Elvehjem.   242 stdenst involeved; 163 low income.  Again, little change in low income disparities.

Plan 22 moves Schenk students to Emerson and Lowell and Nuestro Mundo to Schenk.  573 students involved; 387 low income; no real change in disparities (I’m tired of writing that).

Plan 23 moves Whitehorse to Sennett, Nuestro Mundo to the Whitehorse/Schenk Building.  That looks like closing a Middle School to me.  893 students moved; 511 low income, no real changes in disparities.

Plan 24 is all within the La Follette Area.  166 students moved; 96 low income, some, but no much change in the disparities.

To be honest, I have only glanced at these plans, but I plan to study them and hope others will do the same.

There is no nice way to say this, but Supt. Dan Nerad has made a mess of the process part of his first Boundary change.  It hasn’t been transparent, it hasn’t addressed equity, it hasn’t been thorough, it hasn’t been public and now that these matters are starting to be considered, the timeline is out the window.  Any way you look at it this is going to be happening in the middle of an ugly budget season, unless there is a restart.  That did not have to happen.  The results may end up being very good, but much work is left to be done and the first steps were bad.

One last thing is that with the probable budget cuts, class size will surely be on the table (along with the allocation of SAGE contracts).  I see no awareness of this in the planning and projections.  Another mistake.

My summation thus far is first too little;  now too much, too late and all too top down.

It isn’t clear at all what the next steps are.  I think there needs to be tweaks to get through next year (if the class size stuff with the budget doesn’t take care of that) and a post-budget restart.  Not a continuation, but a restart; everybody possibly involved at the table, very public, very transparent.

Update on Funding Priorities for the MMSD Technology Plan

I missed this in last week’s agenda post.  About $10,000 million over 4 years.  For next year $700,000 comes from the last year of the referendum, which means mostly local tax dollars and $500,ooo each year comes from general operating budget (more local tax dollars).  The rest is ARRA and other dedicated outside sources (including a Microsoft settlement!).

This is good stuff that needs to be done.  There are other good things that also need to be done.  We are going to find it difficult to do all the good things that need to be done.

Insert obligatory Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and Penny for Kids links along with discretionary School Finance Network link.

I want also point out that Lucy Mathiak again raised issues of equity in the priorities and allocations.  The answer was that all schools would be taken care of.  A good answer, maybe not the best…the best would have been that we have prioritized some of our neediest schools.

Proposal for Naming Book Room at Stephens Elementary School under Board Policy 6701.

Attachment of Three Parcels of Property located off of Sugar Maple Lane to the MMSD under Wis. Stat. §117.13.

2010-11 Projected Budget Gap, Tax Impact, and Efficiencies to Address the Gap and a later agenda item 2010-2011 MMSD Budget Development Timeline and Process.

The first is mislinked off the agenda, so I linked to last weeks and don’t know if there were any changes; the second is revised.  Also of interest is this tax projection document, discussed at length in this post, and there is a little more on the context here.

Here is the proposed remaining schedule.  It may be changed Monday by the Board, it may change for other reasons as things go forward.  Sorry about the multiple images, it was the quickest way to include it in the post itself and I think that this is important enough to justify the aesthetic issues.

I’m not seeing much public outreach in the first phases, and I can’t help but notice that both “final Board approval of reductions” and layoff notices go out prior to the mandated public hearing.  I don’t like it as policy and I don’t think Madison will like it as reality.  At best, the meetings prior will be filled with very confused and angry public testimony.  The anger is inevitable, but the confusion can be minimized if things are done right and the timing of the public input can be such that it maximizes consideration and interferes minimally with Board’s efficiency.  I don’t see those with this schedule.

This is very bad and different budget.  The revenue authority is there to keep cuts to a minimum, but the reductions in state aid mean doing that brings property tax increases that are hard to swallow.  Consequently there will be up to $25 million in cuts on the table and likely cuts made in the $5 to $10 million range (this is guess work on my part).  The results will not be good, but the process can be.

Here are those links again: Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Penny for Kids, School Finance Network and the AMPS “Take Action” page.

Energy Management Services Contract

Structuring the borrowing of funds in connection with the refinancing of the district’s WRS unfunded pension liability and, potentially, to assist with funding the implementation of Four-Year-Old Kindergarten, Revised and Charts.

There was some good discussion last week about how to structure this and the balance between maximize savings and when that savings will do the most good.  I expect that to continue this Monday.  Hard choices and complex matters.

Authorizing the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, on behalf of the Board, to grant written permission to allow Robert W. Baird & Co. to…

This allows Baird to consult with the district, do the bond/debt issues and bid on the bond/debt issues.  I can see what is in it for Baird, not sure what is in it for us, unless the increased competition of one more potential bidder gets us better rates.

Proposal for a Welcome Center and Educational Credit Union Branch at La Follette High School.

It is recommended that the Board approve all three applications pursuant to the terms of the Administrators’ Retirement Plan

Consideration of approval of a one-year extension of Daniel Nerad’s employment contract as Superintendent of Schools as contemplated under Section 2.02 of the Contract, said extension to result in a new two-year contract commencing on July 1, 2010 and expiring on June 30, 2012.

I’ll repeat that I think Dan Nerad more than deserves a renewal (yes I criticize, but the job is hard and criticism doesn’t mean I don’t like and respect him).  I’ll also repeat that I think a pay freeze should at least be considered.  And I’ll add that I would like to see at least portions of the Superintendent evaluation attached to this and discussed with this (I may well have missed it, but I don’t recall much public on that).

Consent Agenda Items

Evaluation of Learning Materials Committee purchasing adoptions.

Also graduations and HS Equivalency Diplomas,  Playground sign, Cooperative Gymnastics and Hockey Teams, Server Upgrade, the allocations for the Desktop Instructional Technology Purchases and the Scholastic System 44 (reading remediation) Pilot Project and grants and donations.

Human Resource Transactions.

Student Senate

Elections, Strategic Plan, Technology and more elections.

Legislative Liaison Report

“Possible Litigation on State-Wide School Funding Being Considered in Other Local School Districts”

I’ve been meaning to write about this but haven’t had a chance.  West Bend is talking with lawyer about a lawsuit a la Vincent v. Voight.  You can read more here:  West Bend Considering Suing State.  For more, check out the friends of AMPS at Support West Bend Schools.

Interesting and illustrative of how desperate things are, but I don’t see it going anywhere.  Despite all the roadblocks, I still favor a legislative strategy.  Here are those links again: Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Penny for Kids, School Finance Network and the AMPS “Take Action” page.

It is recommended to establish an ad hoc committee of the Board of Education to review the School Board Ethics policy.

I have no idea what this is about.  I guess it can’t hurt to review, but it doesn’t seem pressing.  With the district’s role in TIF’s some lobbying rules might be in order.

That’s all folks.  Heck of a lot for one meeting.  Diverse, complex and important work for the Board.

Last week one Board member thanked me for doing this.  After saying you are welcome, I told him I thought that since most of this week’s agenda paralleled last week’s it would be an easy week for me to get the post done.  I was wrong.  Many changes that needed attention and explication.  I hope next week is easy.

Tomas J. Mertz

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Filed under "education finance", Arne Duncan, Best Practices, Budget, education, finance, Local News, Pennies for Kids, Uncategorized

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