Community Conversation on Education, November 9th, 2010

Sonny Boy Williamson “Don’t Start Me Talkin'” (click to listen or download)

[Note, no “On the Agenda” post this week, you can access the agendas here.]

I’ll be attending the November 9th Community Conversation on Education sponsored by the Madison Metropolitan School District, the United Way, UW-Madison School of Education, MTI and the Urban League.   I have a lot of misgivings.  To begin with, it is advertised as “sparked by “Waiting for Superman” and I have little desire to take part in anything that is “sparked” by such a dishonest endeavor (see also the Not Waiting for Superman site).  It also strikes me as yet another instance of Madison being reactive, when we should be proactive in public education.  Then there is the whole mysterioso aspect, where you sign up and then get the agenda.

Perhaps most importantly, I don’t see this leading anywhere, or at least I don’t see a plan for it to lead anywhere.  After 200-300 people talk about education, what next?  The recent local record isn’t good.  Task Forces, strategic plans, advisory groups, budget hearings all bring people in, and then they are sent away.  In many instances they are sent away with little evidence they have been listened to or had any influence (I’m thinking of the hundreds of people who testified on the budget in particular).  Community Conversations are not community involvement and the latter has been sorely neglected recently.

Genuine community involvement takes a sustained effort and requires that those giving time and energy also be given influence and power.  Maybe this is the start of that happening in Madison.  I hope so.  If it is, then I suggest that district officials check out some of the publications from the Annenberg Institute to learn about the next steps (more specifically, this series of publications).

Meanwhile, I’ll go and have my say (despite the song at the top, I won’t “tell everything I know”), listen, learn and hope.

Thomas J. Mertz



Filed under Best Practices, education, Local News

2 responses to “Community Conversation on Education, November 9th, 2010

  1. Rebecca Kemble

    Leave alone the thousands of hours of volunteer time spent on task forces, etc. being more or less disregarded, what about the hard, unambiguous decision of the electorate (landslide referrendum vote) being second-guessed and undermined by district leadership in their budgeting decisions?

    Did you notice that the framing of the agenda changed from last week? The first agenda that went out said the four speakers would speak on the topic of, “How can we assure high-quality education for children in Madison?” The agenda sent out today says simply, “Perspectives on Education.” Also, Floyd Rose has been replaced by Salvador Carranza as moderator. The website “” is a page on the MMSD website.

    Whatever we may think of this exercize and how it has been organized up to this point, it is important for us to show up and share our many collective years of experience with working toward “assuring high-quality education for children in Madison.” This is not a new conversation, and though we may be weary of being amongst the handful of people who keep showing up for these conversations in the various forms they take, we still need to do it.

    See you tomorrow!

  2. Yes, I noticed the change and have uploaded the new agenda here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s