Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
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
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.
Friday, March 26, 2010
FYI Jake just emailed that these coyote decoys only cost about $60 each- nice!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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
Our current Board Policy 343.2 can be found here: http://www.mononagrove.org/cms_files/resources/343.2.pdf
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.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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
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
- 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.
- I don't believe that our Monona sixth graders were receiving the exact replica of programming and experience as they would be at GDS.
- 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.
- I strongly believe that our teachers and by extension, our students will benefit from enhanced collaboration time together.
- I strongly believe that our lowest students and highest students will benefit from increased resources at their disposal.
- I strongly believe that our district's teachers should be spending their time in a classroom, not behind the wheel of their car.
- 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.
- I strongly believe all students benefit socially from having a larger peer group to chose from.
- 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.
- 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.