On the Agenda — MMSD, the Week of May 24, 2010

No Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education meeting this week, but three other governance meetings, the most interesting of which is the “Strategic Planning Steering Committee” on Wednesday at 5:00 (Goodman Center,  149 Waubesa Street).   The other meetings were/are a Four-Year-Old Kindergarten (4-K) Advisory Council Meeting that took place this morning and a Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) Advisory Committee Meeting at 6:30 on Wednesday at MSCR (3802 Regent Street).  All the meetings are listed here, with initial agendas.  Don’t forget about the final Public Hearing and vote on the 2010-11 Budget, next Tuesday, June 1.

I’m glad to see 4-K going forward.  I was talking with a pre-school teacher yesterday and she was skeptical, but I think it will happen for 2011-12.

I was little confused by the term “Strategic Planning Steering Committee,” but it turns out that it refers to the “committee of the whole,” all those who participated in the first round.  For those who need a review, the district Strategic Planning page is here.  There are no documents linked on the meeting notice, but the committee members were sent this 50 page packet (with a different agenda than the one in the notice) along with the Core Elements document.  I don’t see much new here.

That’s disappointing.  It appears that one purpose of the meeting is to give an update on progress.  In the linked documents there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of action steps (or whatever the jargon is) that should be nearly complete by now, but no information about what has and has not been done.  Maybe there will be a presentation on the progress, but even with a four hour meeting there won’t be much time for much detail.  Some advance info would be nice for the committee members.  It would also help interested community members, who can’t make the meeting.  The strategic plan does call for “a consistent, ongoing
process for telling stakeholders what the district is doing, reporting progress, and seeking input and feedback.”

From the agenda and the remarks by Superintendent Dan Nerad at the May 10 Board meeting (video here, at about 47 minutes in) it appears that another purpose of the meeting is to begin downsizing the ambitions for the plan, the district and education in Madison.  Nerad cited resource issues.  It needs to be recognized that these resource issues are self-imposed, they have revenue authority they aren’t planning on using.

Thanks to a successful referendum that was largely sold as a means to fund strategic planning and implementation of those plans, the revenue authority is there to do much more, instead they are talking about doing less, over $13 million less next year.

Have they looked at the most recent WKCE achievement data?  Less ain’t gonna fix that (and much, much else).

This is a sad moment.  Our educational leaders are not acting (in Kathy Liska’s words) as “guardians of our schools,” but as “guardians of the taxpayers.”  Quoting Johnny Rotten, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated.”

Don’t forget that on June 1, you can join me and Kathy and others to make one last ditch effort to get the Board to put something more positive into this budget, to reverse this acceptance of declining expectations, to drown out the tea party in the Board Members’ heads.

Thomas J. Mertz

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