Tag Archives: Madison School District

Racial Gap in Teaching Profession?

Here’s a curious story in the Madison paper:

A new report shows the gap between the demographics of students and their teachers is not unique to the Madison Metropolitan School District.

While the gulf between students and teachers of color in MMSD is wider than the state as a whole, the Wisconsin Policy Forum published a report Tuesday showing it’s a statewide problem to address. The report, “A Teacher Who Looks Like Me,” details the lack of teachers in various racial and ethnic groups and explores what the numbers look like at each of the stages in the teacher education process.

[…]

In the 2018-19 school year, which the report uses for its statistics, 30.7% of students in Wisconsin public schools were students of color, while 5.6% of teachers were people of color. Ten years earlier, those numbers were 23.6% and 4.5%, respectively.

Locally, the difference is even more stark. In 2009, MMSD’s student body was 49.5% students of color, while its teaching staff was 10.2% teachers of color. In 2019, those numbers had widened to 57.8% students of color in the district compared to 13.6% of its teachers.

Follow the data. Here’s the full report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The complaint is that the racial makeup of the teaching staff doesn’t match that of the student body. This is true. BUT, the teacher workforce does more closely reflect the racial makeup of the population.

According to the Census Bureau, Madison is 78.4% white, 9% Asian, 6.8% Black, and a spattering of other races. In Madison, the teacher workforce at the Madison School District is 86.4% white and 13.6% other races. So the teacher workforce is slightly more white than the population, but the disparity is only 8%. There is work to do perhaps, but it is not as dire as the story tries to portray it.

Meanwhile, the student population in Madison Public Schools is only 42.2% white and 57.8% students of color.

What does this tell us? First, if we assume that the racial makeup of the student population mirrors the overall racial makeup of the population, it means that a LOT of white Madisonians are sending their kids to private or suburban schools. They are intentionally avoiding putting their kids in Madison Public Schools.

Second, it tells us that if Madison wants the racial makeup of their public school teachers to match that of the student population instead of the city’s population, then they will have to recruit nearly 60% of their teachers from less than 22% of the population. That’s a tall order. One might call it impossible without massive racial bias in recruiting and hiring practices.

I know it’s quaint, but perhaps we could educate our kids that people of all colors and genders are equal and have something to contribute. Perhaps we should teach our kids that how someone looks isn’t as important as what they do and say. As a dude, my education was provided almost exclusively by women. They didn’t look like me, but I sure did learn a lot. Would I have had a better education if the majority of my teachers were dudes like me? I seriously doubt it. When I lived as an expat as a child, almost all of my teachers were women of color and not Americans. Do I feel that I received a substandard education? Not at all. When I have had a substandard teacher, it was because they stank at their job – not because of their race, gender, or nationality.

Chasing an impossible goal of making the racial makeup of our public school teachers match that of the student population is an unattainable goal that has very little to do with actually providing a better education. It’s the content and quality of the teacher that matters far more than the teacher’s race or gender.

Madison School District Relents to Open Records Request After Months of Obstruction

Speaking of opaque government… the Open Records Laws are very clear. You don’t have to disclose your identity to make a request.

An open records lawsuit filed anonymously against the Madison Metropolitan School District last fall was settled in May after the district released the records sought.

A “John Doe” filed the lawsuit against the district last November represented by attorney Tom Kamenick, the president and founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project.

[…]

The records sought mostly related to “weekly updates” from the superintendent to School Board members, with the anonymous requester seeking any and all records presented in such meetings. Doe had also filed requests for curriculum plans, school improvement plans and the annual seclusion and restraint report, among other topics.

Doe had used the website MuckRock and not identified themself, which MMSD cited as a reason not to release the records.

“Despite your disclaimer that ‘this request is not filed by a MuckRock staff member, but is being sent through MuckRock by the above in order to better track, share, and manage public records requests,’ your request has not identified the actual requester,” MMSD replied to some requests, according to the lawsuit. “While the Wisconsin Open Records law does not require disclosure of the requester’s identity, the MMSD contends that the requester’s identity is relevant in its determination of whether there is a safety concern that would prohibit disclosure of the requested documents.”

The purpose of protecting anonymity is that the request itself is an open record and we want to protect people from retribution for asking questions. For example, let’s say you have a kid in the school district and you ask for some requests that make the district administration uncomfortable. We want to provide a way for people to make those requests without opening themselves up to retaliation for merely asking for information.

Black Folks In Madison Object to Hiring of Hispanic Superintendent

Are we becoming a society where we will only be satisfied with people who are the same as us? This kind of enforced segregation is not good for anyone. What does it teach our kids?

A letter signed by 13 black community leaders in Madison expresses concerns about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s hiring of Matthew Gutiérrez to be its next superintendent.

The concerns include how much larger and more diverse MMSD is than Gutiérrez’s current Seguin Independent School District in Texas, student performance scores in Seguin and a “flawed, incomplete” process that “lacked substantive input from the Black Community.”

“We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the Black Community was minimized, if considered at all,” the letter reads. “Given the differences between Madison and Seguin, we expected a greater and broader background of experience, skills and abilities that would move the Madison District further in cultural competency, social justice, and academic outcomes for black students.

“Dr. Gutiérrez is woefully lacking in all of these categories.”

Put it in another light… would it be acceptable for a bunch of white folks to send a letter saying, “We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the White Community was minimized, if considered at all”? Hard to imagine.

I don’t know if Gutierrez is the right person or not. I presume that he is liberal enough for the folks on the Madison School Board. But it is clear that the folks who signed this letter would not be satisfied with anyone who is not of the same race.

WILL to Sue Madison School District over Anti-Parent Policy

Good. It is inappropriate for government employees to take it upon themselves to withhold information about a minor from their parents or legal guardians.

The district’s guidance prohibits school staff from disclosing “any information that may reveal a student’s gender identity to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

“Transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much to share private information,” the guidance states. “If a student chooses to use a different name, to transition at school, or to disclose their gender identity to staff or other students, this does not authorize school staff to disclose a student’s personally identifiable or medical information.”

WILL wrote in its December letter that it was representing a group of 15 parents with students in the district and that the guidance “contains certain policies that violate our clients’ constitutional rights as parents.”

“Specifically, the Policy allows children of any age to change gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, prohibits teachers and other staff from notifying parents about this (without the child’s consent), and, in some circumstances, even requires teachers and other staff to actively deceive parents,” the letter stated.

Madison School Kids Find Hidden Cameras in Hotel Room

Wonder if it was someone in the group or someone from outside?

The discovery of recording devices in some guest rooms of the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Minneapolis has prompted an investigation by police.

Authorities confirmed to ABC News that they’re looking into the matter.

A spokesperson for Wisconsin’s Madison Metropolitan School District told Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP that some of their students found hidden cameras in their Minneapolis hotel rooms while on a school trip.

Per protocol, a school staffer who was accompanying the students on the trip was put on administrative leave as a precaution, the spokesperson said.

“The safety and security of guests and colleagues is a top priority at Hyatt Regency Minneapolis,” Mark Bastic, general manager of the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency, told KSTP in a statement. “As soon as we learned about this situation, we contacted local authorities immediately and conducted a thorough property-wide search for unauthorized recording devices; no additional devices have been found.”

Madison School to Implement “Grading Floor”

If there is no chance of failure, does anyone really succeed?

In an effort to keep students who fail early in their high school careers from falling completely out of school, ninth grade teachers at Madison’s West High School are planning to assign classroom grades of no less than 40%, eliminate extra credit and allow up to 90% credit for late work in required classes.

Madison’s largest high school plans to implement several changes to grading practices this year — primarily meant to keep freshman on-track to graduate during a time when slips in academic performance are not unusual — while other changes school-wide are being sought to create consistent expectations for grading.

Madison School District Sued for Violating Open Records Law

The taxpayers are going to be on the hook for this obvious violation of the law.

Today, the Wisconsin Transparency Project, on behalf of an anonymous Madison resident using the pseudonym John Doe, sued the Madison Metropolitan School District in Dane County Circuit Court. The suit alleges that the District is unlawfully insisting that Doe identify themselves before it will turn over records.

Doe has filed a number of open record requests over the last four months with the District using the online public records database and portal muckrock.com. MuckRock allows its users to send anonymous requests through its website and use the website to receive, track, and share the records provided. Doe’s requests ran the gamut from routine weekly board updates to grant applications and annual School Improvement Plans. The district refused every request because of Doe’s unwillingness to be identified.

State law is perfectly clear that requesters may remain anonymous: “no request . . . may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request.” Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i). The District claims Doe must identify themselves so it can decide whether releasing the records would pose a “safety concern,” but the law does not allow that excuse.

Government bodies are becoming increasingly opaque and refusing to comply with the law. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s District Attorneys are failing to enforce the law. It would only take a few bureaucrats or elected officials being prosecuted and those records would be flying out the door.

Madison Agrees to Pay Teachers More

Heh.

The Madison School District and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to increase base wages for teachers and district employees this year by the maximum allowable amount.

It’s not much of a negotiation when everyone at the table agrees on the maximum amount. Were the taxpayers represented in this negotiation?

Madison School Board Member Compares Police to Nazis

Yes. It’s just like the Nazis and concentration camps. Sure it is. /sarcasm

On Saturday, [Madison School Board Member Ali] Muldrow said on Facebook that “I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.”

Oh, and she doubled down before finally apologizing.

Muldrow initially didn’t back down from her Saturday Facebook comments, saying Monday that “the rounding up (of) specific demographics of people, including LGBTQ folks and folks with disabilities, then institutionalizing them in locked facilities, is being done now in a variety of ways and was also done in Nazi Germany.”

Madison gonna Madison. This person is in charge of educating kids.

Madison School Board Denies President

Only in Madison

Madison School Board members quashed a proposal Monday that could have allowed the board president to block other members from requesting information about the school district they are elected to govern.

During an Operations Work Group meeting, board members agreed not to pursue a proposed change to board policy that would have given the board president the ability to deny or alter requests for district information made by other board members.

District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said the policy change is part of a routine update of policies and is meant to “codify the board’s current ways of working.”

“We work very hard to fulfill all requests in a timely way,” she said. “In the very rare instance that a request is very difficult to fulfill, we run that request past the board president so they can decide the best way to move forward.”

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said the intent of having the president deny a request would be to make it clear that a district employee does not have to tell a board member a request is too difficult to fulfill.

Madison School District Struggles with Budget

It’s pretty difficult to feel sorry for them, but I feel sorry for the kids.

District officials are calling this year’s budget cycle especially challenging because of a one-two punch. There’s limited funding growth allowed by formulas that mix state aid with the amount the district is allowed to collect from local property taxes. And there’s no unused money carried over from previous years.

“When it comes down to it, if there’s something that I think is a priority that is inadequately funded, essentially, in order to fund that, something else has to be cut,” School Board treasurer TJ Mertz said. “That’s what makes this year different.”

The district is taking $1.6 million out of its reserves and cutting staff to balance the 2016-17 school year budget that’s projected at $496 million. Some fear that’s the new norm in an environment where money and increases in tax levy authority from the state are in short supply.

Public school funding in Wisconsin is dictated by revenue limits, the enrollment-driven amount of money that a district is allowed to collect. The state budget provided no increase in that level for 2016-17, five years after Gov. Scott Walker cut the base per-pupil revenue limit by 5.5 percent, an average of $529 per pupil statewide, as part of changes to public school funding.

In 2011, Walker’s Act 10 gave school districts “tools” by which they could balance the funding decrease by reducing expenditures on staffing. Madison has shown a hesitancy to pass on those costs to its employees.

Here’s the crux of it:

“When it comes down to it, if there’s something that I think is a priority that is inadequately funded, essentially, in order to fund that, something else has to be cut,” School Board treasurer TJ Mertz said. “That’s what makes this year different.”

Yes. Exactly. In the real world, there are scarce resources and we have to prioritize what is important and what is not. To date, the Madison School Board has made it clear what they consider most important with their refusal to have employees do things like pay a reasonable share for their insurance and retirement.

They have the tools to fund what they consider important. Now it’s just a matter of them deciding what is actually important and what is not.

Madison School Board to Cut Staff, Increase Taxes

Remember that this is also a district that has refused to take advantage of Act 10 to control their costs.

The Madison School District would reduce its staff by 1.6 percent and raise property taxes 2.5 percent next year under a balanced budget proposal released Friday by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.

The document is Cheatham’s formal recommendation to the School Board after months of informal feedback from board members. The board now will deliberate and weigh public comments before a vote on June 27.

Under the proposal, the owner of the average-priced home, currently valued at $254,549, would pay taxes of $3,045 to support the education of Madison children, an increase of $74 over the prior year.

Madison School Facing Reality

Apparently they are looking their previous mismanagement in the face.

Faced with another tough budget, Madison School District administrators are again asking the School Board to consider making employees contribute to their health insurance premiums.

Many Wisconsin school districts have taken that step to avoid cuts, but there’s been little appetite among Madison School Board members to seriously consider the idea.

That could be changing. With budgets flat and revenue growth negligible, the board may have little choice but to confront the difficult topic, said James Howard, board president.

but…

The result is that the district needs to find about $1.95 million to cover the projected increase. All of the proposals to be discussed Monday would cover that amount.

To offset some of the sting, the administration is proposing salary increases that would result in a “positive net compensation” for “all employee groups,” even with an employee premium contribution.

If it ends up being a new increase, then it really isn’t saving the taxpayers anything, is it?

The Madison School Board has made the decision for years to prioritize even modest changes in benefits for employees above most other things – including adding more staff, classroom supplies, building maintenance, property tax relief, and everything else. To them, all of those things are less important than making their employees pay a small percentage of the cost of their health insurance premiums like virtually everyone else in our society.