James Brown – “I Don’t Know” (click to listen or download
With only 24 days remaining till the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter and only 9 days until the MMSD administration is required to issue an analysis of their proposal (and that is assuming the analysis is issued on a Sunday, otherwise we are talking only one week), there are still many, many unanswered questions concerning the school. Too many unanswered questions.
Where to start?
All officially submitted information (and more) can be found on the district web site (scroll down for the latest iterations, and thanks to the district public info team for doing this).
The issues around instrumentality/non instrumentality and the status of staff in relation to existing union contracts have rightfully been given much attention. It is my understanding that there has been some progress, but things seem to be somewhat stalled on those matters.
From my perspective, the biggest unanswered questions concern which policies and statutes Madison Prep is seeking waivers from. Inclusion of this information is a requirement for the submission of “detailed proposal” under the district’s policy. I am at a loss to understand how things have come this far without this requirement being fulfilled.
It is also a common sense requirement since the very definition of a charter school is a school that is exempt from some policies. It really is essential to know what those policies are.
The last official statements from the Urban League was in the planning grant submission and asked for a blanket waiver of all MMSD policies and select exemptions from state law. They read (click to enlarge):
Well, we all know that the teacher contract statutes have changed greatly since the February date of the planning grant application and now or soon all school staff will labor under the conditions Madison Prep was seeking for their staff. I do have some concerns and issues about graduation and promotion standards that are not clearly or directly answered in the most recent “Business Plan” or the subsequent “Education Plan” (which tellingly was an addendum to the “Business Plan”).
The MMSD policies are of greater import. These cover everything from nepotism, to discrimination and much more. In this case student discipline, suspensions and expulsions are one area of particular concern. I want to know what they want waived, why and what they intend to do instead.
I’ve written about some other unanswered questions here (in fairness, the more recent submissions partially answer these) and at the same link you can find more on what the Board is required to consider and the process. I think a reminder on the latter is important.
According to their policies, among the things they will be considerings are:
…an analysis of how a decision to establish or not establish the proposed charter school will impact families to be served and the overall programs and operation of the District.
…at a minimum, consider the information included in the detailed proposal, the information provided by the Superintendent, whether or not the requirements of Board Policy have been met, the level of employee and parental support for the establishment of the charter school, and the fiscal impact of the establishment of the charter school on the District.
Board Members also have many questions which have not been answered. You can and should review the here on them district web site. Many, many questions, few answers. I have been told by Board Members that additional questions have been submitted, but not posted (nor it goes without saying, answered). Look for updates.
Other community members have questions too. The topics I’m hearing most about include the adequacy of Madison Prep’s planning for special education students, the wisdom and legality of gender segregation, the potential for discrimination against LGBTQ students, the budgetary and other impacts on the district and the students in the district, the selection of students and who will be served, the IB program in general and in relation to struggling students, the attrition analysis…and much more (again, in fairness, we have more information o some of these now than we did two weeks ago). People I know have asked both MMSD and the Urban League about many of these and have not received satisfactory answers.
The clock is ticking…the district and the Board and the community deserve adequate information in a timely manner; the Board needs it in order to make a decision.
I believe that the lack of timely information on crucial matters in-and-of-itself recommends against granting the charter. Under the constitution and the laws of the state the elected Board is charged with the educational well being of MMSD’s 25,000 students and the with fiscal responsibility for the funds provided by taxpayers and others. In seeking a charter, the Urban League is asking the Board to transfer these for up to 840 students. This should not be done lightly and it is incumbent upon the Urban League to demonstrate that they are prepared for these responsibilities. That so many things remain unanswered at this point does not inspire confidence.
Thomas J. Mertz