This blog represents my opinions and my opinions alone, and certainly doesn't represent the collective thoughts of any of the Boards or organizations that I serve on. Unfortunately I make all sorts of miistakes, I'm a picky eater, I can't sing and I just recently found out I have been spelling certain words in my vocabulary wrong my entire life. That being said, I still continue to muddle ever onward. Welcome.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monona's Twelfth Annual Easter Egg Hunt April 3rd 10am

One of my most favorite things in Monona- the annual Easter Egg Hunt!
We had just moved into our home in Monona in March 2005 when our neighbor stopped by, introduced herself and encouraged us to go the Easter Egg Hunt that weekend. I'm so glad we did. My husband and I walked our boys down to the festivities, and while we watched them race around collecting eggs, I remember thinking "Wow, I think we're really going to like living here!"

"The Monona Parks & Recreation Department and Monona Grove Optimist Club are proud to announce the 12th Annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 3rd in Winnequah Park near the M.Y. Dream Park playground. (If the weather makes it impossible to be outside, the event will be held inside at the Monona Community Center) The hunt begins at 10:00 a.m. SHARP! Don't be late or you'll miss all the fun. There will be candy, prizes, lots of fun, and possibly a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny. The hunting grounds will be divided into separate areas for ages 1-3 years, 4-6 years, and 7-9 years. Please come and join us for this free community event. If you have questions please call the Monona Parks and Recreation Department at 222-4167."

Monday, March 29, 2010

And While We Continue To Fiddle Around...

This is what's on fire at Monona Grove High School:

Why aren't the blogs jam-packed with comments on this issue? Where are all the outraged letters to the School Board? Where are our district's priorities? All of the various factions within this district mobilize whenever their interests are in jeopardy, I challenge them all to mobilize together on this one.

Please Get Out The Vote On April 6th!

It's almost over!
Polls are open from 7am to 8pm.
Polling places in Cottage Grove:
Cottage Grove Village Hall 221 East Cottage Grove Road
Cottage Grove Town Hall 4058 County N
Polling places in Monona:
Monona Community Center 1011 Nichols Road
Saint Stephen's Church 5700 Pheasant Hill Road

Friday, March 26, 2010

Is That A Coyote In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Trying To Scare Me?

From Monona Park and Recreation Director Jake Anderson:

"Two 3-D coyote replicas were placed in Winnequah Park today. One by the gazebo and one on the other side of the lagoon. Hopefully they will work, but I already "caught" one gentleman trying to remove the decoy as it "scared" him as he was walking his dog through the park. I'm hoping they will work and stay in the park, check them out if you get a chance. Have a good weekend."

The 3-D coyotes are part of a continuing effort to discourage our geese population from enjoying Winnequah Park and not cleaning up after themselves when they leave. Anyone who has played a game of football, soccer, softball or simply tried to walk through areas of Winnequah Park know what a lasting impression our geese can leave behind. My boys have their own "park" shoes that have a permanent place in our garage after usage. I'm pleased that the city has given up on the fishing-line-sieve-over-the-lagoon strategy for now. While the young anglers of Monona rarely catch anything there, they sure do have a lot of fun trying. Other ideas for geese mitigation include Jake's canine crew of geese chasers that he organized last year to some success and non-intrusive flashing LED lights that will be installed later in the season. So if you happen to come across a coyote in the park, don't panic. They will be moved around frequently. And by the way, for the time being, dogs still aren't allowed in Winnequah Park.

FYI Jake just emailed that these coyote decoys only cost about $60 each- nice!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don't Forget The School Board Candidates Forum Tonight.

The Monona Elementary PTO is hosting a School Board candidate forum tonight in the Winnequah School IMC from 6:30 to 8:30. Childcare will be provided by the PTO. Please take a moment to get out and listen to what the candidates have to say!

Mayor Kahl Presents His Ideas For Creating A Charter School In Our District.

This is the correspondence that Monona Mayor Robb Kahl presented last night at our March 24 Board of Education meeting:

Dear Monona Grove School Board Members and Superintendent Gerlach:

In cooperation with the City of Monona's Sustainability Committee, I am currently investigating the process of creating a charter school for middle school children (grades 6-8) at Winnequah School. While other charter school program options will also be evaluated for Winnequah, the current intent of this potential charter school is to create a program which focuses on Environmental Studies, with an emphasis on Science and Math (Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency/Conservation, and Sustainability) while also incorporating concepts of leadership and social responsibility.
This would mean not just classroom work but working "in the field," a hands-on experience to learning. Specifically, besides utilizing the natural surroundings found in Winnequah Park, we are in the process of reaching out to several city partners: Aldo Leopold Nature Center to utilize their existing and proposed new facilities; the Natural Step to incorporate their process into our classrooms; Veridian Homes to learn about sustainable/energy-efficient building; and Rutabaga to help our students broaden their education by working not only in the field but also on the water. Through this program, the students could also focus on an environmental area or project in need of assistance each term, semester or year to study and help improve through organizing community efforts. Dean Bowles has offered to serve on the board of directors, and we are in the process of requesting letters of support from the aforementioned organizations along with others in order to make this a successful program.
As you know, President Obama has made charter schools a centerpiece of his massive educational reform plan because of the educational value they can bring to a community. State Superintendent Tony Evers calls publicly funded charter schools a "shining example" of Wisconsin's tradition of educational innovation. I support our educational programs in our district. I would hope to build on what we have in order to provide an even better experience for our students. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Sincerely, Robb Kahl, Mayor

Pretty exciting stuff. This is what I was talking about when I was advocating for the development of a district charter school. We need to showcase the inventiveness of this district and our commitment to innovative academic achievement. Say what you will about Mayor Kahl's approach, and I know much has been said, I appreciate the work he has done to create one solution to our budget crisis. Sure is a lot more helpful than sitting around bemoaning the numbers and shooting off anonymous barbs. I would love to see more creative ideas like this one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And One Last Thought For The Day...

I went to my first Monona Grove Strings Festival tonight with my entire family and good friends to watch my wonderful fourth grader play his first orchestra concert, and while I was there, I fell in love with our school district all over again. Thanks!

Proposed Revisions to Board Rule 343.2 Guidelines for Class Size

In response to a comment on my last post:

Our current Board Policy 343.2 can be found here:

and our current Board Rule 343.2 can be found here:

Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Bill Breisch, brought several proposed changes to Board Rule 343.2 to our March 10 School Board meeting. These increases in class size "suggested ranges" and class size goals focus on grades 7-12, and have been prompted by a desire to reduce overload pay to teachers at GDS and MGHS, as well as to reduce MGHS staffing by 2.1 FTE. A decrease in overload pay would realize a $80,000 savings and the 2.1 FTE reduction would be a reduction of $73,500. All seventh and eighth grade class sizes, with the exception of physical education, choir, band and orchestra, would increase from a "class size goal" of 24 to 26, with a "suggested range" of 22-30. Currently most seventh and eighth grade classes have "suggested class size ranges" of 15/16 to 24/26. The "class size goal" at the high school would increase from current goals of between 18 and 24 to a standard 26, again with the exception of phy. ed., band, choir, orchestra and machine courses for tech. ed. The "suggested range" would be 22-30, the same as proposed for GDS class sizes.

So what's the big deal? The district will save money, almost 154K, and changing the goal from 24 to 26 students doesn't sound like the end of the world, right? Right? Hmmm, maybe we should give that another look. I have a couple of concerns with this proposal and much of it has to do with how exactly class sizes are determined.

Board Rule 343.2 Guidelines for Class Size, D. Contingencies:
Grades Seven through Twelve
1. If the average number of students enrolled in a course is one to three above or below the suggested range, the Building Principal shall discuss the situation with the Department Coordinator involved and notify the Superintendent of the numbers. The Superintendent shall resolve the issue and the Board shall be notified.
2. If the average number of students enrolled in a course is four or more above or below the suggested range, the Superintendent shall resolve the issue and the Board shall be notified.

So, according to Board Rule, with the increased class size "suggested range" of 22-30, despite a proposed "class size goal" of 26, a class could potentially reach 34 students before the Superintendent or the Board would be notified. How likely is this scenario? I'm not sure, but I sure don't like the sound of it. I know this is going to fall into the "let's trust our administrators to do their jobs and quit micromanaging already!" category, but I am also concerned about physical sizes of classrooms, sharing lab stations, doubling up on resources, etc.

Monona Grove Board of Education Meeting Wednesday March 24 7pm Winnequah School Cafeteria

Yes, the big one. I imagine that we will begin our unfinished business section of the agenda around 8:30pm, depending on how many public appearances will take place. First order of unfinished business is the discussion and possible approval of the consolidation of Maywood and Winnequah Schools. This will be followed by the possible approval of some/all/none of our administration's budget reduction proposals. Also to be discussed are the revisions to Board Rule 343.2 Class Size Guidelines and 2010-2011 open enrollment applications. A couple of thoughts- I believe that one of our district's greatest attributes is the passionate and dedicated parental involvement in our schools. Our parents can't be accused of being complacent, they really get out there and advocate for their children and their beliefs. I admire that resourcefulness and encourage it. But when that passion starts edging over the line of common courtesy and decorum, as it did at our last Board meeting, people need to take a moment to reel it back in and regroup. I get it. I get the anger, the desire to be heard, the need to be listened to. Those needs ultimately drove me to run for the Board of Education last year. But I have to tell you, sitting on the other side of the table on the 10th, surrounded by all the booing, hissing and heckling, I was mentally running through all the plot lines of MacGyver episodes and trying to devise an exit strategy with the use of a microphone cord, a ballpoint pen and some bubble gum. I am listening, it's just a lot easier to do when I'm not down in a duck-and-cover. Let's keep it clean, people. See you on the 24th.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

At First, I Wanted To Change The World. Now I Just Want To Leave The Room With A Little Dignity

Words to live by.

Candidate Forums Tomorrow March 21st!

The Monona City Council Candidate Forum will take place tomorrow March 21st in the Community Media Room in the Monona Public Library from 4 to 6pm. Questions for the candidates can be phoned in during the forum at 442-6601. Later in the evening, the second Monona Grove School Board candidate forum is scheduled from 7 to 9pm in the Monona Grove High School IMC. Questions for the candidates must be phoned in between noon and 3pm Sunday afternoon to 221-7666 extension 3133. Please get out and ask your questions of the candidates.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Banners Over Broadway

The Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee has been working on a banner project for the Broadway corridor for longer than any of us would care to admit. This is one example of a double banner set that we are considering. We are thinking about including this design along with a similar design featuring our iconic gazebo, and alternating them throughout the year with a spring wetland image, a patriotic banner image from the Memorial Day parade through the Fourth Of July Festival, a harvest/autumnal themed image highlighting our Farmer's Market and Fall Festival and then rounding the year out with our snowflakes lights and a beautiful winter tree image. The committee seems to be in agreement with the selections and plans to send them in for approval of the final proposal and then for recommendation to the Finance and Personnel Committee. Pretty cool, especially considering we are coming in way under budget!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Monona Parks and Open Space Plan

From Community Recreation Director, Jake Anderson:

The Parks and Recreation Board is working on the 2010-2014 Parks and Open Space Plan, a valuable tool to help the city plan on improvements to Parks and Recreation Facilities in Monona. Check out the initial draft at:

This is an initial draft with comments from the Parks and Recreation Board and citizens to be included on-line on a weekly basis.

From me: You can find Jake's master plan for Winnequah Park at the same site!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Next Family Attraction and Retention Committee Meeting Scheduled for Thursday, March 18 at 6:30pm in the Library Board Room

Just in case anyone wants to join us for a little attracting and retaining.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Monona's Park and Recreation Board has been doing double duty lately with extra meetings scheduled to hash out an updated Park and Open Spaces Plan for the city's park system. This is great fun, particularly in light of the fact that we're a pretty mellow bunch and no one throws chairs or heckles at our meetings. Jake Anderson has created a draft (let me repeat: DRAFT!!!) master plan for Winnequah Park that includes new tennis courts, a splash park, a nature preserve, beautiful trails and a possible concession stand/canoe or kayak rental site at the park's end on Winnequah Road. Did I mention it was only in the draft stage? Still very exciting nonetheless. We also discussed focusing on drainage and parking issues at Ahuska Park and really putting some effort in at Schulter Beach Park. I personally would love to see Schulter Beach Park get the attention that it deserves and have the city work toward making it another premiere park in Monona. The bathroom building is slated for improvement in 2014, which it is undeniably in sore need of. I think it would be fabulous to have paddle boat rentals available for families and to turn the beach back into a spot where people actually want to swim. Our park system is such an amazing asset to the city of Monona, we are truly lucky to have these wonderful resources!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Thoughts on the Consolidation of Sixth Grade Programming, or How It Came to Pass That I Have Become The New Judas McDoodle of the City of Monona

Never mind the fact that I never said I wouldn't vote to move our sixth graders to GDS, never mind the fact that the vote on consolidation had already passed by the time it had gotten around to me, never mind the fact that vote was 6 to 1, never mind the fact that I firmly believe it is the best educational practice for our students, never mind the fact that that assertion was repeated and supported countless times to me by teachers, administrators and many parents alike, never mind the fact that pitching the idea of retaining sixth graders in Monona was a great example of giving some watered down Kool-Aid to the masses in order to garner voter support for the referendum, never mind the fact that I did an amazing amount of research and soul-searching before I made this decision, never mind the fact that it broke my heart in half to do so, NEVER MIND all of that. We'll just pretend as if those facts don't matter and it shouldn't be hard to pretend for the majority of angry Mononans that I have heard from. Because it seems that they don't want to hear what I really believe, and that is this:
  1. I strongly believe that all middle school programming should be housed under the same roof as best educational practice and most effective use of resources and teacher time.
  2. I don't believe that our Monona sixth graders were receiving the exact replica of programming and experience as they would be at GDS.
  3. I strongly believe that once housed in the same building, our sixth grade teachers can expand and enhance their programming in ways that were restricted by the inequity of resources between buildings.
  4. I strongly believe that our teachers and by extension, our students will benefit from enhanced collaboration time together.
  5. I strongly believe that our lowest students and highest students will benefit from increased resources at their disposal.
  6. I strongly believe that our district's teachers should be spending their time in a classroom, not behind the wheel of their car.
  7. I strongly believe that our sixth graders will benefit from the earlier integration into the GDS community, which will only be increasingly more overwhelming the later they enter into it.
  8. I strongly believe all students benefit socially from having a larger peer group to chose from.
  9. I strongly believe, by direct suggestion from our Superintendent, that had our Monona sixth graders stayed back at Winnequah, Superintendent Gerlach would advocate for their programming to become an elementary based model, while our district's sixth graders at GDS would continue to receive the same educational benefits of a full exploratory middle school program. That would mean that our Monona sixth graders would enter into seventh grade at GDS unfamiliar with the building that their peers have spent two years in already and a FULL YEAR behind in French, Spanish, Tech Ed. FACE and computer instruction. Really? Can one parent please contact me and tell me that they want this for their child? I refuse to put our Monona sixth graders at such a drastic academic disadvantage. When I said that I thought this was the best decision for our kids, I meant what I said. It's not good enough for my own kids and I'm not going to tell any other parent that it's good enough for theirs.
  10. I don't believe that the decision to send our sixth graders to GDS is just a step in an elaborately organized nefarious plan to close Maywood. We have members on our School Board that can barely stand to sit in the same room with each other, these are the people who are clandestinely conspiring to drain Monona of it's last drop of life-blood? News to me!

And so, because I was so brazen as to actually vote my conscience, I have been lambasted as the next Judas McDoodle of Monona. My supporters are trying to recall my position, they're blasting my name away on all the blogs and Facebook pages, and sending me emails demanding door-to-door apologies to the good citizens of Monona. My fourth grader came home from school yesterday and told me that one of his classmate's fathers said that I was a liar and that I sucked. My ten year old was confused by this, of course, he may have the same feelings occasionally himself, but he was confused as to why someones parent would say something so mean about his mom. I explained to him that people often say things that they wouldn't ordinarily say when they're upset and hurt. He looked at me with about as much sympathy as a fourth grade boy can muster and said "Yeah, a lot of the time I want to punch Avery so I know it can be hard to do the right thing". Thanks, Augustus. You're the best.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monona Park and Recreation Board Meeting March 9th 6pm

Our Monona Park and Rec Board will be meeting this Tuesday evening at 6pm in the Community Center lounge, and as no snow is in the forecast, I'm confident the meeting will proceed as scheduled. We will continue to discuss our Park and Open Spaces Plan for the city, as well as receive Director Jake Anderson's update on the capital budget timeline and current projects. Under new business, the Board will discuss additional requests for capital funding for a pool plumbing project and M.Y. Dream Park maintenance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Three Candidate Forums Have Been Scheduled in March

The Cottage Grove Elementary PTO kicks off this year's School Board candidate forums in the Taylor Prairie IMC at 6pm tomorrow night, March 8th. Incumbents Susan Manning, Peter Sobol and challenger Jennifer Pickel will be present to answer forum questions. The League of Women's Voters will conduct their annual forum at the Monona Grove High School in the IMC at 7pm on Sunday, March 21st. The Monona Elementary PTO will wrap things up on Thursday, March 25th when organizers have scheduled their forum for 6:30 in the Winnequah School IMC. I hope to see many of our district parents in attendance. Free childcare will be graciously provided for at both the PTO forums.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 10 Monona Grove Board of Education Meeting

Our next Board meeting will take place at 7pm on March 10 in the Winnequah School IMC. The Board will continue to discuss our administrative budget reduction proposals as well as the possible consolidation of Maywood Elementary and Winnequah School. We will also have discussion on and the possible approval of the location of our district's sixth grade programming. Principal Renee Tennant was very kind to walk me through Glacial Drumlin School this week and gave me a thorough understanding of how consolidating our sixth grade programming would fit into her building. While her well thought out planning eased my concerns about space and crowding issues at GDS, I still have several preoccupations about the move. I have heard from administrators, staff and parents alike that there seems to be an unwritten rule that no secondhand furniture may be used in the building. As the possible consolidation of sixth grade programming is being presented as a cost-neutral non-budget reduction item, I would love to get to the bottom of the plans to furnish two extra classrooms. Based on Patti McGinnis's 4K-8 Grade Configuration Study of 2009, I would make a guess that it may cost upward of 20K. I have asked for the cost projections from administration; hopefully the Board will have a chance to examine these figures before our proposed vote on the issue. I also continue to be concerned that in light of our recent budget reduction discussions, our district will not continue to financially support the Encore programs that make sixth grade an exploratory middle school program. If our programming is to be cut drastically in the near future, is there a true benefit to moving our sixth graders together in an school that is already coming close to capacity? Even more troubling is Superintendent Gerlach's statement that in the event that his proposal to move all of our sixth grade students to GDS is not approved, it is likely that Winnequah's sixth grade students will have an elementary model for programming, while our GDS sixth graders will continue to be offered the full exploratory middle school programming. This is an educational move that I will certainly not support. I cannot understand how having one isolated group of students in a grade level be exposed to one less year of FACE, Tech Ed., Spanish, French and computer instruction could possibly be sound educational practice. Yet this seems to me to be likely in the future if all of our sixth graders aren't brought together now. I will be bringing this concern up at our Board meeting on the 10th.