Sunday, January 24, 2010

State of the District Presentation Monday January 25, 2009

Foreshadowing Governor Doyle annual State of the State address, Superintendent Nerad will present a State of the District address tomorrow night. The event will feature about 45 minutes of address and 15 minutes of audience  Q & A. The document associated with the address is posted on-line for people who would like the written information.

State of the Madison Metropolitan School District
Presented by Superintendent Dan Nerad
Monday, January 25, 2010
5:30 PM
Wright Middle School Library
Fish Hatchery Road

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

4K Update: New Questions and Some Answers

At our January 11 monthly board meeting, we made two decisions about how we would proceed on implementing 4-year-old kindergarten. The media of that meeting are available on the School Information System blog, so I won't repeat them here.

Implement 4K in Fall 2011

The board voted to defer implementation of 4K until fall 2011 due to concerns about whether the district or many of the community providers could be ready to go in less than 7 months (assuming time for registration and orientation in August.

I voted to defer until 2011 for several reasons. I support 4K. I would have liked to be able to implement in Fall 2010. However, I also had to listen when people who had pushed hard to start in 2010 -- especially those from the early childhood education community --  asked us to wait a year so that there is adequate time to do all of the steps that are necessary to "get it right."

This was not inflexible balking by providers miffed because we were voting in January. Community providers told us from the beginning that they would need to know by November at the latest so that they could do the work needed to open in September. With the vote in January, some providers felt that they could still start in September. Others said they could not be ready by September, and still others couldn't commit one way or the other. Add to that, the reality that there would be an RFP and selection process before community providers would know if they would get a 4K contract from Madison, and it was cutting it close for many people.

School district administrators said that MMSD-run programs could be ready to go by September 2010, but with no sites selected it was not clear how that would work. Working with the district's estimate that c. 1600 4-year-olds would be enrolling the first year, and the requirement that at least half of those students will be taught by MTI teachers in MMSD facilities, 800 students would be in MMSD-taught programs the first year. That means that the district would need to complete any renovations to meet code (at sites not yet selected), purchase and install any furnishings or storage, work with parents and complete the enrollment process, purchase classroom materials, and hire and train teachers and numerous support staff, in sufficient numbers to meet the need of 800 students. All in less than nine months.

It may be that I am an overly negative (rhymes with witch), or that I am too dull to understand how very well poised the district is to carry all of this out while reviewing proposals and awarding contracts, but it seemed optimistic or even reckless to rush forward to September 2010. If we are serious about the dire need for 4K, then we also need to be serious about making sure that students enjoy high quality well-run programs from Day 1.

Years ago, I learned a wise saying from the printers that I work with: "there's always time to reprint, but there's never time to get it right." From that saying, I learned the very real observation that people (formerly me) who are willing to put up with the extra cost, time loss, and inconvenience of reprinting a job that went to press with clear and fatal flaws, often are not willing to slow down and take the time to make sure that any problems are ironed out before the job goes to the printer.

That same concept kept coming back to me during the push to forge ahead. Simply put, my preference is to slow down, build in time to fix any problems, and get it right so that students and families have an orderly transition to a high quality program. We have affirmed a commitment to 4K, and we also confirmed a commitment to solid 4K programs when we voted to slow down and get it right in 2011.

Defer Approving a Finance Plan Until We Have More Information

4K is projected to cost $12.2 million during the first year. These are significant resources, especially given the budgets of the past two decades. The investment in  early childhood education is a valid expenditure. At the same time, however, I feel a need to respect the resources that we will be using and make sure that we are allowing enough time to use them well. Given  the agonizing that we have done over $50,000 expenditures in past budgets, I also feel a need to make sure that we have a well-thought-out plan before we commit to spending $12 million.

The plan, as presented, would finance 4K using $3.5 million in new property tax levy, $4.5 million through reallocation of property tax funding included in the annual budget, and $4.2 million through borrowing.

People who read my post of January 7, know that I was feeling positive about the financial plan. That feeling evaporated as colleagues on the board asked persistent questions about how the financial plan would work, what the tax impact would be, and how it will all work.

I know how I missed an important piece of the package but that doesn't change the fact that I missed the added property tax component during the discussions leading up to last Friday afternoon. Simply put, I understood to be the choice of borrow OR raise property taxes; I missed that we were talking about borrowing AND raising property taxes.

That is a big distinction.

There are a range of perspectives among board members on the following point, so I need to stress that I speak only for myself when I say that I am very uncomfortable with levying additional recurring property taxes to pay for 4K. Yes, we are able to levy at a much higher level than is currently the case. We could tax enough to not need to borrow to implement 4K if we so choose. But that is not a financing plan that works for me.

The dilemma I feel is that I remember well the conversations and forums that preceded the 2008 referendum. I remember the concern for property tax burdens among many of our constituents at that time, which was before the economy tanked. I am among the state employees that is taking a 3% pay cut disguised as furloughs, and have friends and relatives among the other government sectors who also accepted pay cuts. Friends in the business and nonprofit sectors are seeing layoffs, reduced hours (and earnings), and jobs leaving. My friends and relatives who are retired have seen their investments and pensions shrink. I'm not sure that I know anyone, or many people, who are earning more this year than they were in 2008. Meanwhile insurance payments, childcare and college tuition, gasoline, and other basic expenses are going up.

Under the circumstances, I cannot take lightly the impact of adding to property taxes no matter how passionate my commitment to public education may be. And I note that it would be very unfortunate if willingness to fund 4K through property taxes were to become a litmus test on love of public education.

I also am reminded of an eloquent statement made before the 2008 referendum, which reflects much of my own thinking about what that referendum meant and how it relates to the 4K funding crunch that we now face. It also is very relevant to why I support deferring decisions on the 4K financing package until we know the results of reorganization and work to find cost savings in district programs; much of this information is slated to be presented in February.Writing in August, 2008, fellow board member Ed Hughes said:
If the referendum passes, we will have breathing room. We should have three years when the specter of budget cuts is not hanging over our heads. This will enable the Board and the new administration to put into place the process we currently contemplate for reviewing our strategic priorities, establishing strategies and benchmarks, and aligning our resources.

Superintendent Nerad has described a proposal that contemplates a broad-based strategic planning process that will kick off during the second semester of the upcoming school year. This process will be designed to identify the community's priorities for our schools, priorities that I expect will reflect a concentrated focus on enhancing student achievement. Once we have identified our priorities and promising strategies for achieving them, we'll likely turn to examining how well our organization is aligned toward pursuing our goals. This will likely be the point at which we take a long, hard look at our administrative structure and see if we can arrange our resources more efficiently.

It will take a while - certainly more than a year - for us to undertake this sweeping kind of review of our programs and spending in a careful, collaborative and deliberative way. If we do go to referendum, and the voters authorize the increased spending authority we seek, then the obligation will pass to the Board and administration to demonstrate that the community's vote of confidence was well placed. There will be much for us to do and it will be fair to judge our performance on how well we take advantage of the opportunity the community will have given us.

I believe that we will find a way to make this work, in part because implementing 4K was identified as one of our strategic priorities. I also know that I will need a lot more information about the larger MMSD budget picture, the superintendent's reorganization plans, and the way that those plans will affect the budget, before I can begin to speculate on where that $3.5 million will come from.

The way that Wisconsin funds 4K creates an additional wrinkle, in that the district will receive increasing state aid/student over the first three years of 4K operation. Trying to get a handle on the projected costs and amounts of funding from all sources for the first five years is a challenge. The assistant superintendent for business services is working on the figures, but we do not have them at this time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

4K in Madison : Some Answers but More Questions

On Monday night, the Madison Board of Education will vote on whether to implement 4-year-old kindergarten. It has taken the Madison school district years to get to this point, and for some time it looked like 4K would not happen. Several obstacles were removed in the past year, however, and the district was able to work with community early childhood educators and with Madison Teachers, Inc., to arrive at a model that is acceptable to the district, the community, and the teachers' union.

That's the good news. On Monday night, there are two outstanding issues that will need to be resolved: financing for the first two years and, the start date for the first 4K cohort. I speak for myself, but believe that my board colleagues would agree that the need and value for such a program was resolved some time ago, so the issues are not whether to implement 4K, but rather the best way to proceed. 

Financing 4K start-up 

Wthout going into detail on the painful irony involved in Governor Doyle and Superintendent Evers promoting 4K as part of Wisconsin's Race to the Top application, it is fair to say that a good deal of the past half year has revolved around valiant district efforts to secure 4K start-up funding from the State of Wisconsin. It hasn't gone well and there is no state start-up funding, nor  can we use state ARRA funds, which could cover the costs but cannot be used for 4K. The district will receive phased-in state aid for students enrolled in the program, but must underwrite the full cost of 4K during the start-up phase, to the tune of around $3.5 million.

Sort of ironic, then, that the Race to the Top gurus place so much value on a program for which we cannot get state funds? Oops! Wait a minute! We 'might' get some 4K funds IF Wisconsin gets Race to the Top funding. As I said, there are some ironies to be considered here.

Add to the financial picture the loss of 15% of our state aid last year, and anticipated loss of another 15% next year (and who knows about the future), the financial stress that many taxpayers are under, and the poor economic recovery, and it is clear that the cost of 4K cannot simply be passed along as property taxes. (The estimate is that it would be around $40/year on a $250,000 home in year 1).

In November, administration proposed a financial plan that would cover start-up costs through phased-in reimbursement for community partners. The board rejected this plan as an unreasonable financial burden on local early childhood educators, and one that would make it impossible for many community partners to be part of the Madison district's 4K program. Since these are the most experienced providers, and they do not need the construction or equipment purchases that will be necessary for programs operated by MMSD, this did not seem like an appropriate way to handle start-up costs.

The good news is that financing the start-up costs is the area in which we are closest to a resolution. Last Monday, Assistant Superintendent Erik Kass presented several options to the board for financing start-up. The options are related to other work that we are doing to refinance district debt (take advantage of low interest rates and free up resources for uses other than interest payments), and provide choices that are more palatable than adding to the property tax load. The board will choose the financing option on January 11 at the regular meeting.

Choosing a Start Date 

This is an issue that has come to the board in the past few days, and several of us have requested information from administration to ensure that we understand whether the structures are in place to implement 4K in 2010 as originally planned, or it would be better to wait until 2011 as some local providers are requesting.

When I go back and look at the information that we received from the working group of community providers and district staff that worked out the models for implementing 4K, community providers were clear that they would need to have a decision by November 2009 in order to implement in Aug-Sept 2010. These are providers who have existing programs with experienced teachers in place and facilities that meet standards for pre-school facilities. Presumably the programs that would be housed in Madison schools would need even more time because those programs would need to post jobs and hire staff, remodel facilities, and purchase supplies and equipment for multiple sites.

I do not know what the board will ultimately decide for a start date, but I can tell you what I need to know and have asked administration to answer so that I can make an informed decision:
1) Do we know how many of the potential community providers are enrolling or have already gone through the enrollment process for their 4-year-old programs for fall 2010? I know that we've only heard from one, but don't have a feel for how many programs would be affected by our late decision (I suspect that programs that have already gone through enrollment would have trouble participating because they've already committed their slots for next fall). 

2) Would we have an RFP ready to go if we decide to start in 2010? If so, how long would it take from the time the RFP is released and the time that providers are selected? Going back to the November 2009 date, do we know how notification of a contract award in Feb 2010 (or later) would affect participation rates among community providers? 

3) If the RFP has not been developed, can you tell us how long it will take to get the RFP finalized and distributed?

4) Are the master contracts that will be signed  developed, or is there still work to do on the contract language? E.g., if we were ready to award contracts tomorrow, would the documents be ready to be filled in and signed?

5) Have the sites for the MMSD-run programs been selected? If so, how many will need remodeling or other renovation to be fully equipped and ready as 4K classrooms by August?

6) What will be the process and time line for hiring and mobilizing the teachers and aides for MMSD programs?

7) If it appeared that it would be impractical and/or counterproductive to try to start in fall 2010, could we still borrow the money and hold it in a separate account until it is needed to meet the additional 4K financial obligations?

Other board members have asked their own questions, and I expect that we all are looking forward to learning the answers. On a personal note, I find it troubling that there were not were not quick and easy answers to the questions that I asked, which I would expect if the plans were well underway and ready to implement for 2010.

If we aren't far enough along to implement in 2010, it is not the end of the world but we need to know that now. What is important is that the board has the information that it needs to approve a program that will get it right for the first class of 4K students.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inflicting Good on the Poor: As Research-Based as We Wanna Be

For years, MMSD staff have advocated for their proposals and programming choices by arguing that they are research-based data driven best practices. At times, I have wondered whether the research selected has undergone critical review. That is, do the people selecting the research stop to ask whether the research is methodologically sound with verifiable results, much less whether it was conducted on populations or under conditions that are comparable to the Madison public school district.

I've also wondered at an understanding of research that ignores entire bodies of data or work that falls outside of the narrow educational research paradigm. (Prime examples of the latter case include the district's unwillingness to consider the considerable body of research on how children learn to read that is carried out by cognitive psychologists, linguists, and communicative disorder researchers. But that's another post.)

My questions about the level of critical review of the work selected to inform programmatic choices reached new levels this week, after TJ Mertz raised serious questions in his AMPS blog about the only resource identified by name in the TAG Plan update's section on including underrepresented populations.

At the top of page 4, the update states:  
Support for underrepresented populations: Research and review of support models for students from underrepresented populations is on-going. District staff (high school teachers and resource teachers) are conducting a book study of Removing the Mask  by Ruby Payne. 
So what's the big deal? For starters, Ruby Payne is an interesting choice for a district that embraces research-based best practices. Simply put, she does not conduct research
herself, cites little work that is more recent than the late 1960s - 1980s range (thereby missing a lot of the advances of the past 3 decades), and mis-appropriates the research that she does cite. 

Much of her work is self-published through the Aha!Process business that she heads, and which has become quite a cottage industry peddling its (unreviewed) books to districts who contract with her or one of her employees for in-service training. I note that one of the key areas of specialization for Ms. Payne and her associates is in-service training for school districts that are under the gun to improve student achievement while confronting growing issues of poverty and inequality within the classroom. (Sound familiar?)

A quick Google Search turns up several critiques of the Ruby Payne industry, but this one caught my eye: Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne's Claims about Poverty by Randy Bomer, Joel E. Dworin, Laura May & Peggy Semingson — 2008. Based on a qualitative analysis of the content basis of Payne's teacher education in-service training program, the authors conclude that

"...her truth claims, offered without any supporting evidence, are contradicted by anthropological, sociological and other research on poverty. We have demonstrated through our analysis that teachers may be misinformed by Payne's claims. As a consequence of low teacher expectations, poor students are more likely to be in lower tracks or lower ability groups and their educational experience is more often dominated by rote drill and practice." (emphasis added)
This does not bode well for serious or successful efforts to identify gifted and talented students among the full spectrum of the Madison district's student population.

At a minimum, the assertions of her work should be openly discussed and debated if her works are to shape district practice, starting with her beliefs about how people end up in poverty and/or stay there. (I note that these beliefs are completely counter to the materials that the superintendent presented to us when he first arrived, re. board understanding of poverty as a factor in student achievement.)

Her article, "Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty" embodies many of her central themes, which are repeated in her study guide and other materials. Particularly telling are the insulting and stereotyping statements that she promotes about lower class, middle class, and upper class cultures. Indeed, why would we both er if she is correct that "To move from poverty to middle class or middle class to wealth, an individual must give up relationships for achievement."

Certainly, I have to ask what practice would be dictated if MMSD accepts her bold and unstudied assertions about conflict resolution, for example:

Generational Poverty:
Physical fighting is how conflict
is resolved. If you only know
casual register, you do not have
the words to negotiate a
resolution. Respect is accorded
to those who can physically
defend themselves.

Middle Class:
Fighting is done verbally.
Physical fighting is viewed
with distaste.

Upper class:
Fighting is done through social
inclusion or exclusion and
through lawyers.

I cannot speak for others on the board, but I would hope that we would all be profoundly uncomfortable with the logical conclusions that would flow from such overly-broad and under-documented understandings about poverty. I do believe that we need to inquire about this choice of materials and question how this resource was selected and where it will lead us if we embrace the models that are likely to emerge from its tenets

Monday, January 4, 2010

Update From Board President Arlene Silveira January 4, 2010

Reading Programs: The Board received a presentation on Reading Recovery in the district. A number of questions were raised about our reading programs and how programs worked together to ensure we were meeting the needs of all of our students.  Therefore, the Board requested a full evaluation of all reading programs at the elementary level so we have a better understanding of the big reading picture.

Superintendent Goals:  As part of the Superintendent evaluation process the Board, in conjunction with the Superintendent, developed goals for the Superintendent. There are a lot of details associated with each goal. The Goal area and targeted Results of each goal are below:
1.       Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students who are proficient and advanced in reading.  Results: Increased proficiency and advanced proficiency on WKCE or its replacement, other district assessment or standards-based tests.  By 2012-14, 100% of students will meet this target.
2.       Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students at all grade levels who attend school at 96% or more.  Results: Increase attendance for students in every grade, with a specific focus on the students in key transition grades.  By 2014-15, 96% or more of students will meet this target.
3.       Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation in four years.  Results:  Increased percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation.  By 2014-15, 90% or more will meet this target.
4.       Goal Area: Completion of a review of the District's organizational structure and organizational systems/processes and develop a plan to align the work of the Administration to the District's mission and Strategic Plan. Results:  This goal will be assessed by Board approval and successful Administrative implementation of a Plan that aligns the work of the Administration with the District's mission and Strategic Plan and to principles of quality organizations, and is fiscally sustainable over time.
5.       Goal Area: Board relations.  Results:  Development and implementation of a sustainable system for improving and demonstrating effective communication with the Board of Education.
6.       Goal Area:  Implement the Strategic Plan action steps targeted for year one as approved by the Board of Education.  Results:  A report in June 2010 outlining progress toward implementation of the action steps including any evaluation of new programs that has occurred using the approved performance measures.
7.       Goal Area:  Leadership development goal.  To focus on encouraging the heart in others and challenging the process. 

What's Up in January?:  2010 will be a busy year.  Items of interest on our January agenda:  Decision on the implementation of 4-year-old kindergarten; Race to the Top funds; initial presentation of an environmental charter middle school; core performance measures associated with the strategic plan; and kick-off of the 2010-11 budget process.

Thanks for all you do for our children.  Please let us know if you have any questions or comments at .

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Charter Mania

On Monday, the Board of Education will have a presentation by the planning group that is proposing an environmentally-focused project-based charter middle school. The Badger Rock Middle School is the first charter proposal to come before the board since the Studio School debacle a few years back. From what we are hearing in the community, it is not likely to be the last (more on that later).

Proposed Charter: Badger Rock Middle School

What we will be deciding now: The board will be asked to approve the group's initial proposal, which will form the basis of a planning grant application to the Department of Public Instruction. If the planning grant is awarded, the group will carry out additional work necessary to develop and design the charter school in greater detail, and develop a proposal that would come before the board requesting approval of the creation of the school and its charter.

The project in a nutshell: The Badger Rock Middle School is envisioned as one piece of a larger center for sustainability and urban agriculture education under the Badger Resilience Center umbrella. Partners in the project include the Center for Resilient Cities, Growing Power of Milwaukee, Madison Urban Land Trust, and other community partners. Business and community partners that will be involved in helping to develop resources for the school include Sustain Dane, MG&E, the Madison Area Community Land Trust, South Metropolitan Planning Council, Madison Children's Museum, Community Groundworks at Troy Gardens, Madison Community Foundation, City of Madison, Edgewood College, and UW-Madison. Not bad.

The Planning Team includes highly experienced teachers from MMSD and other districts, community members, and members of local non-profits. The Advisory Committee includes heavy-hitter Gloria Ladson-Billings, and a host of UW-faculty and staff, and current and former MMSD teachers. Also not bad.

 The school would be part of the Badger Resilience Center complex that will be located on the currently vacant Badger School property just off of Rimrock Road behind the Badger Bowl on Madison's south side. The facilities have been vacant for some time, and a good deal of work will need to be done before the center realizes it's goals of establishing a vibrant working farm, community center, and cafe + the school.

The initial proposal articulates a model that combines traditional instructional methods with hands-on project-based learning designed to fully engage students. The classrooms are described as multi-level, to allow students to work at a range of capabilities and collaborate across ranges of knowledge and expertise. The school would innovate on the calendar, running year-around with a number of breaks that would bring the school year into alignment with the number of days of instruction that are standard in the rest of the district.

Students would be drawn from the surrounding neighborhoods and city wide; organizers expect the largest number of students to be drawn from the Sennett Middle School attendance area.

So, nu? In some ways, it is a comfort to consider the initial proposal in the context of a potential planning grant with no other guarantees. There is a lot to like in this proposal, and an impressive number of talented educators have donated their time and talent to work through various iterations of the proposal. And that work has paid off in an initial proposal that, in my personal opinion, should be fleshed out with a planning grant.

At the same time, there are a number of questions that need to be addressed before the proposal can  be approved as a charter. And that is just fine. That's why it's called an initial proposal.

Some of the questions have to do with the challenges of meeting the standards identified in the middle school redesign project that was carried out a few years ago. With a proposed maximum of 120 students, this would be among our smallest middle schools and would surely encounter the same challenges of curricular breadth with limited staff allocations that we have seen in Spring Harbor and Wright.

Other questions involve the challenges of meeting the objective of recruiting students and engaging families in the school neighborhood. It can be done, but at this time the planning group does not include significant representation from the families that are at the heart of the proposal.

Still other questions hinge on the impact of the very real budget shortfall that MMSD will face in 2010-11, and the constraints and policy decisions that could emerge as we work to do the least damage to instructional programs while managing inadequate resources.

And Rumors of Charters...

 For the past few months, a Long Range Planning Committee has been meeting "discuss student enrollment and building capacity trends of the MMSD schools located within the La Follette High School attendance area, and to generate and evaluate ideas for long-range planning related to the space and programmatic needs of these schools, including possible school boundary changes." 

The following discussion is my personal perspective, and is offered to explain why I cannot be more specific about the ideas that are being considered.

In a departure from past practice, the Board of Education has not been involved with the process of identifying committee members, and has not received notices of meetings, so our information is a bit sketchy. I have requested the names of committee members and any minutes of past meetings, but have not yet received a response to that request.

Early on, we heard rumors and off hand comments suggesting that at least part of the focus included the possibility of creating charter or magnet schools to address overcrowding in the LaFollette attendance area. When the Badger Rock School proposal surfaced, I assumed that this proposal was the basis for the rumors.

A week or so ago, we learned that the Badger Rock School proposal was just the tip of the iceberg when we received copies of a school newsletter that specifically talked of the principal's hope of converting the school to a charter school. When board president Arlene Silveira sent the PDF of the newsletter to the superintendent, he confirmed that charters and other innovations were part of the discussions that are underway in that committee, with the implication that there could be more charter proposals (plural) coming to us in addition to Badger Rock School.

Item 2 on the LaFollette attendance area Long Range Planning Committee confirms this information, reading: Discussion of charter schools, magnet schools and other unique programs

At this time, all the board has is the initial Badger Rock School proposal and a general confirmation that more will likely be coming our way. Will update this blog as more information and/or the meeting minutes from the LaFollette LRP surface.

Is the Madison Board of Education Anti-Charter?
Contrary to Nuestro Mundo parent Scott Milfred's frequent assertions that the Madison Board of Education is hostile and unwilling to consider charter schools, a significant number -- if not all -- of the current board are willing to consider charter proposals. When we went through the Studio Charter proposal a few years ago, we created a set of guidelines so that future planners and boards would have some ground rules for what would be expected in a successful process. I read the proposals critically -- I do not believe that charter schools guarantee academic excellence, and I need to care whether the proposed school does not violate our equity policy or generate a significant draw on scarce resources. That said, if there is a proposal that shows promise of creating a high quality school that serves the full range of our district students, I am willing to approve a charter. I cannot speak for other board members, other than to say that the rumors of our opposition are largely fiction.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Proposed changes to intra-district transfer and open enrollment policies

On the January 4 Planning Committee Agenda: Proposed changes to the policies on intra-district student transfers between schools and full-time inter-district open enrollment

Policies that affect the ability of families to transfer between MMSD schools or participate in open enrollment opportunities usually get the attention of parents, especially those who are dissatisfied with the school that their child is currently attending or the school that their child will eventually attend because of the attendance area chain.

The Equity Policy that the Board of Education approved a few years ago makes it district policy that all schools will be equally desirable, but from a parent-eye view that goal is still "in progress" at best. Some of the concerns stem from real and unaddressed issues in specific schools, others stem from parent perception of other students and families who are part of a particular school community. In still other cases, parents request transfers so that the school is closer to their place of work or meets other logistical criteria that is helpful to the family.

In recent years, we have seen increasing numbers of families transferring at the elementary level in order to get into a different middle school and/or high school attendance area. This has created new problems of disparity and resource between schools, and problems with crowding. This past year, there was discussion of whether MMSD could continue to approve transfers without consideration of the overall impact to schools and district resources.

The answer from administration appears to be 'yes,' since the proposed policies change little except for some administrative details about how transfers are managed and approved. I may reconsider this position, but as of January 1 it does appear that this is more cosmetic surgery than change. Whether it meets or supports the Equity Policy remains to be seen.

Items of Note in the January 4 Committee Agendas...

On January 4, we have our first committee meetings of 2010. That is less exciting than the action-packed agendas for our January meetings.

To put this post in context, last year we streamlined our committee structures to create three major committees, all of which meet on the same night. This has helped to focus discussions and vet issues before we cast our final votes at the monthly board meeting the following week. As we try to accomplish even more, however, this has meant some long meetings as we try to do the work that was formerly spread among 6 committees that met on different day.

So, a few items of note on the January 4 agendas (believe it or not, there is even more on the full agendas that are available on-line.). I will be writing separate entries about some of the more complex topics.

Planning and Development Committee 

Operational Support Committee 

Student Achievement and Performance Monitoring Committee