"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Halloween all the time this weekend.

Jack O Lantern Jamboree was a hit last night and the little goblins are knocking at my door tonight. I love to see them in their costumes and see the creativity flowing from some folks. Be safe out there!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Public Comment Protocol for Tomorrow's meeting.

I have asked and discovered that for the Tax Levy agenda Item only tomorrow, public comment is possible. If you have any final words of wisdom for the School Board before they set the tax levy, tomorrow at 4:30 pm in the District Board Room is the place to be. The committee meetings of the whole do not have a public comment section, so you can leave and go get supper after the vote!

In news on other fronts, look for my byline in the Review. I have decided to give it a whirl at being a freelance reporter. After I discussed the challenge I had with taking what was an editorial full of opinion about the proposed tax levy and making an article of it a few weeks ago, my good friend said, "Melissa without an opinion? Huh!" Thank you so much. Some of you liked my article and gave me encouraging words. Thank you kindly for the encouragement. My editor says I can still blog, just not the same thing I write for the paper, naturally. I told her my blog is more of a commentary on district policies and procedures. She told me to put in a plug about my new gig, so here it is.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tax Levy to be Set Monday Night, 4:30 pm, District Board and Training Center

Please note that the tax levy is slated to be set on Monday night at 4:30 pm. The state aid should be available (which I haven't seen yet) which will allow them to calculate the final levy needed to meet the budget forecast. I did a quick search online and have not found updated figures.

Nobody on the school board has contacted me about the protocol for public comment prior to setting the tax levy. I hope to be able to make a statement, but I won't hold my breath in anticipation. As one friend put it, that opportunity was at the annual meeting, which everyone basically blew off. Indeed.

There will be a state DPI representative at the meeting to discuss open enrollment with the board. I hope I can stay long enough for that. I have to stay for the duration of the "Board Development" meeting to get to that part of the meeting. Again, not my forte. But I'm curious about the vision statement they have agreed upon. This has been a difficult task and needs acknowledgement for their persistance, if nothing else.

Policy also has a few controversial items up for discussion, including the policy governing evening and weekend activity time restrictions and protection of instructional time. In a valiant but undoubtedly pointless effort, some of the members of the board are trying to enforce policies CURRENTLY IN PLACE that essentially tell the adults involved that they can't monopolize these kids every afternoon and evening, sometimes until midnight and expect this to have no effect on a kids academic standing. Please. Yes, it's a choice the kids have to make. Be in the play and lose class (academic) standing or stay out and lose a vital part of the school experience. Play soccer and miss some 20% of the last part of advanced biology or sit out of soccer for the sake of understanding the class. These are not really choices teenagers should have thrust on them. Adults should know better than to ask so much of these kids. The system is broken in so many ways, I can't begin to speak coherantly about this problem. The ones in charge are clueless. "But we have no control over who's in our conference. If we leave to be home by 10:00, we'll have to forfeit the game." When the hell are the adults in charge going to begin acting like adults? What Einstein runs WIAA anyway? Why would you have kids routinely going 1.5 hour-2 hour drives away for conference games? Stop the insanity. IT'S A GAME!!!!!

Drama is no better. Owning the kids for a week before the play or musical causes impact on their academic standing. You cannot expect students in a block schedule to eschew homework more than 10% of the quarter and escape with an unscathed GPA. "Oh, they have plenty of time to work on their homework in the green room." Are you for real? That place is bedlam. Plotting multivariate equations is probably best done in peace and quiet.

Sadly, the "battle lines," if you will, are firmly drawn in the sand, complete with stereotypical personality types. Protectors of academic achievement are cast as unidimensional people overly focused on GPA (nerds). Sports enthusiasts are cast as dumb jocks who never grew beyond their "glory days" as the high school sport star. Drama is and always has been, well, dramatic. You'll NEVER change that thinking. Has anybody thought to ask the kids what they think of this? They couldn't do any worse than the adults "in charge."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Administrator Evaluations

There is a topic of conversation that routinely arises this time of year. "Why is the administrator evaluation on the agenda every month for 4 or 5 months and intermittently throughout the year?" Click on the post to view the policy regarding Evaluation of the District Administrator. It is a pretty inclusive process that is time consuming when the board members remain the same. With the addition of new board members, the level of complexity rises exponentially. New members want history and help with the process. The evaluation paperwork is extensive and when done correctly, takes about 20-30 hours to complete. Research into the goals and results must be done. Data must be compiled and presented and, most challenging, result in a consensus united front to present to the administrator. This process is mind-numbing when there is only one boss. Now think of it being done with 7 bosses, all of whom have been around less time than the administrator and each of them with a different slant on their priorities as they pertain to the district. Seven people arriving at consensus on the sometimes contentious issues in an evaluation is always difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Mr. Pierick takes a very methodical approach in the evaluation process and the resulting package presented to Ms. Carvin in the three years I participated in the process was thoughtful and produced a useful working document. I'm not sure everyone agrees with that, but at least there is a monumental effort to make the process meaningful. This is why it gets on the agenda so frequently. There is no issue beyond trying to provide a useful administrator evaluation to help the district run as smoothly as possible. Every time the board personnel changes, another level of challenge is introduced. So be patient and trust your board to be the good bosses they are by doing the thorough job we ask them to do. Don't read anything into the evaluation popping up frequently on the board agenda. They are following policy and taking their boss roles seriously!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Early Start Time of 4:30 for October 25 School Board

Click on the post to view the agenda for Monday's meeting. Please note the early start time. They are trying to accomodate the board members with high school choir students so they can attend the choral concert at 7pm. First item will be setting the tax levy in light of the latest budget information from the state based on the third Friday in September enrollment figures. I don't know what the protocol will be for public statements prior to the board vote. I will attempt to find out and post the information prior to the meeting, as well as the figures that will be used for the state aid contribution for the 10-11 budget.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Administrators' Reports for Tonights Board Meeting

Click on the post to view the administrators' reports for the meeting tonight. I would have provided these earlier, but as of 9pm last night, they weren't available. Speed reading is called for. The third Friday count was 20 less than expected, 9 less than last year. I haven't had time to read them all yet, so I'll have to power read before the meeting. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Teachers' Unions Skewered in "Waiting for Superman"

In today's Wisconsin State Journal, there is a good review of the documentary "Waiting for Superman." Click on the post for the review. The author tries to paint a balanced picture of the movie, but it's clear that public education fares poorly and teachers unions are the culprit. The premise the director offers is that getting a good education is like winning the lottery. Mr. Guggenheim stated that his own children won the lottery because he could afford to send them to private school. I have not seen the movie nor read much about it, but I have made similar statements in this blog. The quality of public education ought not depend on the luck of where one lives. High quality education is an intrinsic right of every American child whether they live in Massachusettes or Louisiana. A country with the ingenuity to put a man on the moon ought to have the sheer fortitude to solve school finance woes. Perhaps putting a man on the moon is precisely why we cannot provide equitable high quality public education across America. It is, after all, a matter of priorities. A second review (http://host.madison.com/article_4f91a6a8-1179-5e4e-9212-4f0641507d12.html) is available as well that warns that the film is flawed because of its simplistic approach of demonizing the unions. An article in the Sunday paper featured Virtual Schools in Wisconsin and how the Madison School District projects to lose about $700,000 this school year in open enrollment out to virtual schools alone. (http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/article_8710534e-d2f4-11df-98d6-001cc4c03286.html)
A third article last week featured parents of Madison West gifted and talented students who filed a complaint with the DPI charging that the school violates their childrens' right to an education by denying them access to gifted programming.

( http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/article_0b363c3e-d0b0-11df-8157-001cc4c002e0.html )

Madison needs to wake up and smell the coffee. All of these news items point to a powderkeg waiting to blow in the world of public education. The underlying issue is money, even if the movie director points out that is not the issue. I know it doesn't solve every problem in education, but everybody has to make tough choices when spending limited funds. Do we buy textbooks to replace the 25-year-old outdated biology texts or purchase PT equipment? Do we hire a 5th grade teacher or a reading specialist to increase test scores? These questions are usually brought to the board one at a time, not diametrically opposed to each other. But ultimately, these are the kind of questions that must be answered during the Program Based Budgeting process. The Board relies on experts to help suss out these tough questions. These experts often stand there wringing their hands, explaining that they need it all. Then they tell the board that not providing this or that resource may result in a law suit. For this, they get paid the big bucks. That effectively settles the question and some very useful program or resource is cut to make way for a litigation free public school experience. This may be good guardianship of our tax dollars, but is it good guardianship for our childrens' education?

Then there's the teacher compensation package. I remember right after I was elected to the board, the district switched to a much less expensive insurance provider. I was thrilled thinking of all those thousands of dollars the district saved. Then I discovered that the district saved no money in this move at all because money saved on insurance cost went right back into the salaries. What the heck is the motivation for the district to find the most cost effective insurance provider if the district doesn't realize the savings? Why should they try to be good stewards of tax funds if the teachers get it either way? The only ones who benefitted were the teachers, who effectively got a raise because of Deb Olsen's hard work in finding a more cost effective insurance provider. It was a harsh but instructive introduction to the world of school finance.

In anticipation of teachers who wish to take umbrage with my position, it's duly noted. I am not very sympatico with your desire for free insurance. The last time I had fully funded health insurance with my employer was in 1985. And schools tout 21st century skills! Sheesh!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Agenda for 10-11-10 Board Meeting

Click on the post for the agenda to be addressed at the Board Meeting on Monday October 11 at 5:30 in the Board and Training Center located next to the District Offices in TRIS. Highlights include the discussion of a possible Band and Choir trip to Florida in the spring, second reading of several policies, third Friday count, Board Goals Action Plan presentation, and much more. Please join the board to get the skinny on these and other topics happening in your school district!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree on October 30 Will Keep Me Occupied This Month!

I wanted notify my readers that October is my busy month. I usually help with two projects every October which keep me very busy. This is the third year I have helped to fit the dresses for the young women in the formal high school band and choirs and the 5th year I have lent a hand with Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree publicity. The Jamboree is the big Fall Festival fundraiser sponsored by the K-5 PTO. Either one of these activities will keep one occupied and both of them strain the resources. Fortunately, it is at the beginning of the school year when I have more enthusiasm!

Anybody who wants to volunteer to help with the Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree, please let me know and I'll get your name to the volunteer coordinator. It will be held October 30 from 6-8 in the Grove Campus Field House. Who could resist food, games and seeing all those little goblins in their Halloween attire?

If my posts are fewer this month, all this fun volunteer work will be why. I do love getting into the schools and seeing all the students in their element. It's a good perspective to have. Scrutinizing the budget sort of depleted my resources and blog fever in the last month. The next board meeting is scheduled for October 11. No agenda has been published yet, but should be available by the end of the week. I'll post a link to the agenda when it's available.