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Marquette School to be axed?

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Postby Henry Vilas » Sat May 19, 2007 7:50 pm

I often disagree with Wisconsin State Journal editorials, but this one seems spot on.

Only two explanations exist for the board's flip-flop. Either board members failed to do their homework when they made their original decision, or they caved in to well-organized, loud opposition.


Lapham parents lobbied hard a couple years ago to prevent the alternatives from moving into underutilized space in their school. Let's see how that mix will work now.
They now have a dubious plan to shoehorn the alternative programs into space at Marquette, Lapham and the district's headquarters. And they plan to offset the cost of undoing the consolidation by cutting elsewhere in the district.

It's telling that $82,000 of those cuts remain to be specified.
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Postby Bill Rotherman » Sun May 20, 2007 12:26 pm

I don't think these are easy decisions. What is easy is to take one side of a contentious issue and rant and rave that the school board is terrible because they don't take your side of an issue. If you watched Lawrie Kobza's presentation at the last meeting, you could see how a very logical argument could be made for the consolidation.

I thought it was somewhat ironic that people were outraged at Moss and Cole, but there seemed to be no mention of Silveira, who got elected in part by heavy support on the near east side, and supported the consolidation even on the second vote. This tells me that she is exercising independent judgment, which she should be applauded for.

And yes, you can say that Moss and Cole "caved," but if you've read what they had to say about it, they were put in a very difficult situation the night of the first vote.

What we should be aiming for is a school board that can exercise good, independent judgment without too much political influence. I think they are moving in that direction; at least I hope so.
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun May 20, 2007 12:33 pm

Does anyone know where the WSJ got their $500,000 in savings figure? I've never seen that amount mentioned in any of the discussions. I have a feeling they're rolling something else in there to inflate the potential savings from consolidation.
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Postby Henry Vilas » Sun May 20, 2007 12:51 pm

ShaneDog wrote:Does anyone know where the WSJ got their $500,000 in savings figure?

From the article cited above.
The consolidation was going to allow the district to use Marquette for alternative programs currently housed in rented quarters. The total savings was to be more than $500,000.

The half million represents the current rent for the Brearly Street Alternatives site and for the Park Street Work and Learn program.

So what happens next year, as these budget shortfalls are an annual thing? Until state spending caps are removed, cuts will continue (unless, of course, spending referenda are put on the ballot and approved by the taxpayers).
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun May 20, 2007 1:38 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:
ShaneDog wrote:Does anyone know where the WSJ got their $500,000 in savings figure?

From the article cited above.
The consolidation was going to allow the district to use Marquette for alternative programs currently housed in rented quarters. The total savings was to be more than $500,000.

The half million represents the current rent for the Brearly Street Alternatives site and for the Park Street Work and Learn program.

So what happens next year, as these budget shortfalls are an annual thing? Until state spending caps are removed, cuts will continue (unless, of course, spending referenda are put on the ballot and approved by the taxpayers).
But, and correct me if I'm misunderstanding this, they are still planning on moving the programs from the Brearly Street Alternatives site to Lapham and Marquette. So wouldn't that make the savings only $200,000?
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Postby Henry Vilas » Sun May 20, 2007 2:49 pm

ShaneDog wrote:But, and correct me if I'm misunderstanding this, they are still planning on moving the programs from the Brearly Street Alternatives site to Lapham and Marquette. So wouldn't that make the savings only $200,000?

The Brearly Street building rents for over $400,000 a year. One program from that site (the Work Learn Center) is scheduled to move to Marquette. The other three programs plus the Wee Start Day Care go to Lapham.

Rent for the Work Learn on Park Street is less than 100 thou a year. That program is scheduled to move to the Doyle Administration Building.

Thus a savings of around half a million dollars.
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Postby burstingsun » Sun May 20, 2007 3:50 pm

ShaneDog wrote:
Henry Vilas wrote:The half million represents the current rent for the Brearly Street Alternatives site and for the Park Street Work and Learn program.

But, and correct me if I'm misunderstanding this, they are still planning on moving the programs from the Brearly Street Alternatives site to Lapham and Marquette. So wouldn't that make the savings only $200,000?

I'm surprised people aren't questioning the decision to house alternative high school programs in elementary schools serving kindergarten through 5th graders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even an PHD in education to figure out that this might not be a great combination.

I'm guessing we might be hearing a lot more swearing in Marquette and Lapham's elementary school classrooms. And that will likely be the least concerning behavior picked up by the smaller children.
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun May 20, 2007 4:22 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:
ShaneDog wrote:But, and correct me if I'm misunderstanding this, they are still planning on moving the programs from the Brearly Street Alternatives site to Lapham and Marquette. So wouldn't that make the savings only $200,000?

The Brearly Street building rents for over $400,000 a year. One program from that site (the Work Learn Center) is scheduled to move to Marquette. The other three programs plus the Wee Start Day Care go to Lapham.

Rent for the Work Learn on Park Street is less than 100 thou a year. That program is scheduled to move to the Doyle Administration Building.

Thus a savings of around half a million dollars.

Right. But that's not what they are claiming. They are claiming that the previous decision, to consolidate, would save $500,000 more than the current decision, not to consolidate. The current decision, not to consolidate, but to move some of those programs to Marquette, Lapham, and the Doyle Administration building still saves the $500,000, right?
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Postby Dulouz » Sun May 20, 2007 4:37 pm

Shane is right. In fact, the consolidation would have really netted only about 81K in true savings

Of course, the hubris is more about the supposedly afflucene of the near east side(read WSJ hates PD, PD stronghold is the 2nd and 6th district, ergo screw the 2nd and 6th district). While Marquette and Lapham neighborhoods have gotten richer, they are hardly affluent compared to the downtown condo dwellers and the west side. We deserve neighborhood schools-pure and simple!


Henry: it is nice to see you on the side of accountability. Maybe if you had that view when you were sucking off the teat of the taxpayers and got MTI to accept GHC over WPS, we wouldn't need as drastic cuts.
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun May 20, 2007 4:50 pm

Dulouz wrote:Shane is right. In fact, the consolidation would have really netted only about 81K in true savings

Thank you. Now when you think about it, $81k doesn't sound like an awful lot. The whole narrative they are trying to spin is flawed. Not all cost-cutting measures are equal just because they save the same amount of money.

There are all sorts of unquantifiable costs associated with closing a neighborhood school that are not reflected in a budgetary figure that indicates that closing this building will save the district X amount of money. I haven't seen anything from the WSJ addressing that issue.

I don't have any kids, and probably never will, but I believe that it is vitally important to preserve neighborhood schools. I don't know what sort of savings would make the proposition of closing a neighborhood school make sense to me, but it would definitely have to be somewhere near 7-figures or more.
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Postby Henry Vilas » Sun May 20, 2007 4:59 pm

Dulouz wrote:Henry: it is nice to see you on the side of accountability. Maybe if you had that view when you were sucking off the teat of the taxpayers and got MTI to accept GHC over WPS, we wouldn't need as drastic cuts.

So you think having K-3 kids mixing with at risk middle school students at Lapham is a better solution than the consolidation of low enrollment, under-utilized schools. Time will tell.

As far your cheap shot concerning teachers' health insurance: they have a choice between GHC and WPS. Those who choose WPS pay a much higher premium and also have a higher deductible. But thanks for falling into the GOPer trap and blaming teachers for district deficits, which affect most, if not all public schools throughout Wisconsin. (Including those without the WPS choice for health insurance.)
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Postby ShaneDog » Sun May 20, 2007 5:21 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:
Dulouz wrote:Henry: it is nice to see you on the side of accountability. Maybe if you had that view when you were sucking off the teat of the taxpayers and got MTI to accept GHC over WPS, we wouldn't need as drastic cuts.

So you think having K-3 kids mixing with at risk middle school students at Lapham is a better solution than the consolidation of low enrollment, under-utilized schools. Time will tell.

Ok, but back to the topic at hand. I still don't see $500,000 in savings over the current plan (not to consolidate). Their editorial is predicated on the fact that there's this huge cost savings that those rich progressive, whiny parents are causing the school district to lose out on.
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Postby Lucy Mathiak » Sun May 20, 2007 5:27 pm

If you go back to the Superintendent's proposal, the savings included:

$232,000 - annual rent, now saved because the alternative programs WILL go into district space at Marquette and Lapham

$119,000 - one principal, now a wash because the assistant principal position at Sherman Middle School was slated for reassignment because enrollments dropped below the level at which Sherman was entitled to a middle school

$90,000 - EXTRA COST of new bus routes to get kids from Marquette side of isthmus to the Lapham side, now a no-cast because there are no new routes

Assorted clerical and other support staff cuts, plus an end to the voluntary small class size at Lapham (not part of consolidation but also cost saving).

The plan that I put forward during the budget deliberations illustrated that it was possible to achieve savings and keep the pair open. Many of those elements were part of the reconsideration decision. E.g., it does NOT cost more to keep these schools open if we restructure how the space is used. We did that in our vote.

As for criticizing Cole and Moss, I would make a plea to cut them some slack. Before they were sworn in, I pleaded - publicly and privately - with other board members to slow down the process because I believed that it put the new board members in an unprecedented no-win situation. For reasons that were not explained, district and board leadership prevailed with a plan to fast track the budget.

As a result, two members of the board with less than one monthly meeting cycle under their belts, were asked to participate and vote accurately in a process that is among the most complicated that the board undertakes in a fiscal year. Regardless of what they did and did not do, They were put in a terrible position from the outset, and it showed in some of the subsequent events.

Yes, the board could have stayed the course. I find it ironic that the same community that criticizes the White House for staying the course on bad policy in Iraq, is so very comfortable criticizing two new board members for recognizing a bad policy decision and having the courage to asking to change course.
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Postby snoqueen » Sun May 20, 2007 6:56 pm

I have no kids and no longer live in the Lapham-Marquette district so I don't have a dog in this fight (except as a taxpayer). Still I believe the board, upon reconsideration, made a sound decision. As part of the city, the school district needs to be working in harmony, not at odds, with the overall city intent to redevelop and support existing neighborhoods in preference to greenfield residential development at the perimeter.

That greenfield development is EXPENSIVE in terms of utilities, emergency services, loss of agriculture base (especially as Dane County gets more and more income from organic agriculture) and degraded natural resources, which result in a less desirable destination for new business and new employees. Mayor Cieslewicz's office has done a pretty good job not allowing itself to be controlled by the perimeter-development realty interests, unlike a certain prior administration I can think of.

In the short run the decision is questionable on budgetary grounds; in the big picture it was a very good one. I appreciate the courage of those who were willing to change their votes, and I do appreciate the reasonableness of the opposition view on its own terms. I hope in the future the coordination of the school board's decisions with the big picture will not be limited to just taking the cheapest course in the short run. It's an easy position to argue but not necessarily the best to live with.

I know the choice this time was not a downtown school versus a new perimeter school, but it's never going to be that clear cut in most instances. Supporting the downtown school is the way to strengthen existing neighborhoods that will keep attracting families downtown if they have a strong and appealing school.

On another point, I'm not sure placing the at-risk kids close to the tiny kids is so dangerous. A few of the at-risk kids have babies of their own and might benefit from being near other little ones, but the whole there's no reason to think the bigger kids as a group will ever be using the playground or lunchroom or even most of the halls together with the tinies. Neither group is probably very interested in the other.

I'm more concerned about mixing middle-school and at risk populations because middle school kids are so impressionable, are old enough to get into trouble, and are interested in mixing with older students as they try to act "mature," copying them by using tobacco or other drugs, and the like.
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Postby Dulouz » Sun May 20, 2007 8:40 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:
As far your cheap shot concerning teachers' health insurance: they have a choice between GHC and WPS. Those who choose WPS pay a much higher premium and


My real cheap shot is that you, like many of the teachers under contract, are content to simply collect your wages and benefits without comment--until it might hurt you individually.

Howabout challenging your leadership to propose real reforms that might make some short term sacrifices for teachers but really save the district?

Howabout strategic planning instead of crisis management?

Howabout talking about self-mangaged collectivized schools instead of a admistration heavy bureaucaracy.

Your whole career and retirement is based on the rape of the tax payer for the demogougery of MTI. Let me know when you actually want to make a commitment to school kids that doesn't involve a paycheck.
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