Thursday, April 29, 2010
Committee Chairs will be appointed by next week. With the re-establishment of our standing committees, the Board of Education will return to a one-meeting-a-month format beginning in June 2010. These meetings will continue to alternate between the District Office in Monona and the Glacial Drumlin IMC in Cottage Grove every second Wednesday of the month at 7pm. While our year-long experiment with the a two-meeting-a-month format did not entirely elicit the efficiency and comprehensive inclusiveness that I had hoped for, I am glad that the Board was willing to try a different approach. I never bought into the nonsense that the elimination of standing committees was an effort to stifle public input. Quite to the contrary, I am rather proud of the groundbreaking advances the Board made this year in opening up our budget reduction proposal debates to the staff and the public. I heard many comments from folks who are quite appreciative of the opportunity to speak at our public budget hearings, an option that had not been offered in our district since I've lived here. Sometimes trying new things works, sometimes it doesn't, but you'll never know until you try.
The Board approved revisions to Board Policy 185- Standing Board Committees. We also voted 7-0 to remove the expansion of our school walk zone to two miles from budget reduction consideration for 2010-2011.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
- Reducing the number of stops on routes (largely enforcing Board Policy of 0.2 miles to the closest stop for K-4 and 0.5 miles for 5-12)
- Reducing bus idling times
- Making use of alternate bus maintenance and servicing opportunities.
- The possibility of reducing a midday run.
This is an excellent example of when asking for more detailed and thorough information can produce favorable results. Instead of just going with the flow and extending the walk zone as was originally recommended, affecting a couple hundred elementary-aged children and their families in the balance, the administration looked for better solutions and found them. And that's a good thing.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I continue to receive phone calls and emails from concerned district residents (from BOTH Cottage Grove and Monona) that have been kicked off this email list because they have asked the administrator/s to identify themself/selves. Parents from Cottage Grove are angry that the MGSD.Community is linked to the Cottage Grove PTO, which is supposed to represent the entire population of Cottage Grove elementary parents. I have heard complaints from parents angry that the Cottage Grove PTO is using the funds raised equally by all to distribute literature with an email link to the MGSD.Community. I have heard concerns from Monona parents who feel like MGSD.Community is bent on marginalizing their place in this district. I have received emails from district residents that won't even allow me to quote from them anonymously because they are scared of the political backlash from the MGSD.Community. I have read comments from our parents and community members who are just straight up sick and tired of all this sixth-grade bullying. Here are some quotes:
"It disturbs me greatly that I have attended almost all Cottage Grove PTO
fundraisers, etc... and the money that I have donated is being used to work
against me having a voice or even being informed of the issues. I believe that
the money raised by the Cottage Grove PTO could be used in better ways to help
the children, and if any more money is being used to promote this anonymous
email list, I see no other option but to cease all donations of money to the
"How dare you take it upon yourself under the guise of 'community' to write
a message that openly creates an us versus them war. The only people who are
truly going to suffer with this battle are the students of the district. If you
are Community minded then act like it. Be creative, not destructive; offer
compromise, not confrontation; no attacks, just constructive dialogue."
And the response from the MGSD.Community, normally quite prolific in their correspondence to the select few? Strangely, suspiciously, uncharacteristically silent. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Why? I spend quite a lot of my time on my blog, trying to increase district communication and parent involvement for all sides of every issue. You know my name, where I live, who my children are, the fact that I have a ridiculously adorable chihuahua, that I'm obsessed with Star Trek and that I love tacos. My address is 4718 Tonyawatha Trail. My phone number is 249-7536, not that anonymous posters ever call me because I don't have an identity blocker or a voice scrambler installed on my line, alas. I am just a pleasantly normal person who is willing to stand up publicly for what I believe to be right. Agree, disagree, love me, hate me, question my fashion sense, tell my kids I suck, whatever. All my cards are on the table. I've got nothing up my sleeve.
MGSD.Community, who are you? You will endorse political candidates. You will put your email link on "Get Out The Vote" literature using PTO funds. You will send out informative missives to only those who pass the secret test. You lambaste certain Board members. You provide analysis-by-zip-code of our tax contributions. All under the banner of caring for our school district. "MGSD.Community Cares About Our Schools"? I disagree. You are contributing immensely to the division that this district suffers under. You are polarizing our taxpayers. You are alienating our parents. You are drawing precious energy away from the important issues at hand. You will not publicly walk the walk, but you're long on talking the talk. I ran for the Board of Education with the honest desire to help heal this district. You continue to pick at the scabs. How can this district come together to genuinely confront the seemingly insurmountable issues that face us financially, academically, racially and socially while you continue to sit back and stir the pot? This is a school district of two equally valuable, equally important and equally worthwhile communities that need to work together. For shame, MGSD.Community, you do not speak for the vast majority of us. Where is the "community" in that?
And I know that some will wonder why I am pursuing these questions, before you even get started with the
"Gee, Jessica, why are you picking on the MGSD.Community? Why aren't you picking on the Monona Rag? I cry foul! Why are you so unfair? Why are you biased? There's a conspiracy afoot! You're mean! Mean people suck!"
The reasons why I'm not picking on the Monona Rag are very simple:
- I'm not picking on anyone. I'm asking questions that I am only growing increasingly more curious about the longer they go unanswered.
- The Monona Rag doesn't send home their blog address in half of our district's elementary students' backpacks on paper that was paid for by the Cottage Grove PTO.
- The Monona Rag doesn't lit-drop half of the school district with literature paid for by the Cottage Grove PTO.
- The Monona Rag doesn't refuse to publish my comments and also won't kick me off their blog when I ask questions about their identity.
- That being said, listen up Monona Rag! If you're going write a fashion review of the School Board meetings, you need to include the shoes! For those of us who are willing to rock the four inch stillettos while seven months pregnant, you'd better recognize! And what's up with your fixation on the Wiz?
So MGSD.Community, 'fess up. Who are you? Is your email list derived from the PTO email list? What is your association with the Cottage Grove PTO? Why are you using PTO funds to promote a political agenda? If you are truly all about caring for our schools, let's work together. For the betterment of all of the Monona Grove School District, not just where you live. And if that's not what you had in mind, do all of us uncool non-cheerleading, dorky-jeans-wearing kids a favor and change your email group name to the SpecialInterestOnlyByInvitationForOnly SomeOfTheTaxpayersForOnlySomeOfTheSchoolsForOnlySomeOfTheTimeAndOnlyIfIAgreeWithYou.Community.com. So then we'll all know where you stand.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
After a year-long experiment to run all district business through the full board, it appears the school board will reinstate some committees in the near future.
Citing a desire to reduce redundancy and hold more policy discussions at the full board level, School Board President Fox and a split board voted to eliminate committees last year. After a brief discussion on April 14, it appears President Fox is ready to reinstate at least some of those committees in the near future."
Read the rest of the article directly here: http://www.herald-independent.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=21&ArticleID=1674
Pending Board action on the 28th, please apply for committee seats at www.mononagrove.org.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Note: the top photograph of the actual light post with banner is just a representaion of how the placement will look. The banner itself was not selected.
Bill Would Require Anti-Bullying Policy - Education News Story - WISC Madison: "Bill Would Require Anti-Bullying Policy
Senate Passed Measure In October
Updated: 11:43 am CDT April 15, 2010
Madison, Wis. -- Wisconsin schools would have to report all bullying incidents to the state under a bill up for final passage in the state Legislature.
The measure before the state Assembly on Thursday would also require schools to adopt policies banning bullying.
The bill was recommended by a panel of school, law enforcement and community officials who met in 2008 to discuss changes designed to increase school safety.
The Senate passed the bill in October. The state announced last year that it would be making free anti-bullying curriculum available to all Wisconsin elementary and middle schools."
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The gist of the matter is is that some posters have inquired regarding any potential conflict of interest between my position on the Monona Grove Board of Education and my seat on the Monona Park and Recreation Board and my appointment to the Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee, specifically in regard to the closure of Maywood Elementary.
I think part of this may be cleared up in a couple of sentences: I believe that the vote to delay the decision to close Maywood Elementary until next budget cycle IS in the best interests of the Monona Grove School District. If I did not believe that to be true, I would not have voted to delay the decision. I understand that some district residents are vehemently opposed to that decision. I understand that some district residents vehemently support that decision. I understand that the vast majority of our district residents are somewhere in the middle of these two extreme viewpoints. It is a decision that has been made. You can support that decision or you can disagree with it, but it has been made. I am quite confident that the Monona Grove administrative team and the Board of Education will revisit this issue during our district's next budget cycle.
Now, on to the potential conflict of interest between my role on the Board of Education and my seat on the Monona Park and Recreation Board and my appointment to the Monona Family Attraction Committee. During one of our many Board training workshops this past summer, I had the opportunity to ask our district attorney, Michael Julka of Lathrop and Clark, a widely respected school law expert, about any potential conflict of interest between my positions, which I detailed thoroughly and in minute regard. He assured me immediately that there was no such potential for conflict. So, unless I decide to run for the Mayor's spot (joking!) or decide to start selling my own science curriculum (joking again!) or start my own subversive underground educational facility in my basement (still joking!), I am entirely confident that legally and ethically, I am not in danger of violating any conflict of interest.
So, as for the volunteer work that I do for the City of Monona:
- I am a long time organizer and volunteer for the Monona Parks Pride park clean-up program. We pull weeds, haul sand, pick up trash and rake leaves. Conflict of interest =zero.
- I have put on several special after-hours children's events promoting literacy and library familiarity at the Monona Public Library. Aside from driving myself insane by having to create 250 rhyming, chronological scavenger hunt clues, conflict of interest=zero.
- I have served on the Monona Elementary PTO since my oldest son started at Maywood five years ago, both as co- Vice President and co-President of the PTO Board. I decided to step down from my position when I was elected to the Board of Education specifically to be protective of the long-standing reputation of the Monona PTO as being a politically neutral organization. The Monona PTO has done a spectacular job of circumnavigating the roiling political waters in this district, especially during this past election, and can safely say that they speak for all of the parents of Winnequah School and Maywood Elementary. Kudos to them! Conflict of interest=zero.
- I was appointed to the Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee in 2007 and have also served on the Broadway Banner sub-committee and the City Marketing sub-committee. Thus far, as a committee, we have helped design the ill-fated and admittedly heinous city logo that was uniformly rejected by the City Council, helped design the gorgeous new City of Monona website (http://www.mymonona.com/), worked tirelessly on a city beautification project that will install light post banners on the Broadway Corridor and finally, put on an absolutely fabulous and very successful Fall Family Festival that featured, among other things, a pumpkin scavenger hunt, storytelling, live music from the Hang Loueys, local farmers market, crafts, prizes and live alpacas. Missed seeing conspiring to keep Maywood open on the agenda? That's because it wasn't on it. Conflict of interest= zero.
- Monona Park and Recreation Board- member since 2007. We talk about the typical Park and Rec things: operating budgets, long-term park planning, geese mitigation, pool locker room shower heads, teen smoking at the Skate Park, coyote decoys, splash pads, memorial plaques, drainage issues, warming houses, park encroachments issues, the Kon-Tiki Regatta, fall zones- you get the drift. The City of Monona and the Village of Cottage Grove both have reciprocal agreements with the Monona Grove School District regarding field use (like allowing MGHS sport teams to use public fields for practice) and building use (such as allowing adult league sports use of the barren wasteland that is the Nichols Gym) Colloborative relationships are what we should be striving for, not suspicious of. If I ever feel as if I am in danger of even coming close to a conflict of interest regarding field use for the high school soccer team, that would say, create a huge windfall of ill-gotten monetary gains for the City of Monona, I will abstain from voting. Hasn't happened yet, and I don't expect it will. Conflict of interest= so far zero.
I want to start a community canning kitchen in Monona because I want to perserve my extra tomatoes with a little help. Could this undermine my role as a Board member? Doubtful.
I am also very interested in starting a community garden in Monona, from which we could take the surplus to the aforementioned canning kitchen, can it and donate it to area food pantries. Conflict? Hope not.
I am also trying to drum up interest for a community dog park in Monona. Hidden agenda? Don't think so.
Are we done yet? I never realized that working to make the place where I live and raise my family and the school district that will educate my children better would be so fraught with suspicion. If you have any further questions about my own personal conflicts of interests or ethical leanings, please call me at home. 249-7536 If you have any immediate concerns about what I am doing, please feel free to stop by any of my meetings this week. Times and locations already posted.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The canning kitchen is a self-help facility equipped for the preparation, preservation, and heat processing of seasonally available fruits and vegetables, pickles and relishes, sauces and syrups, and of course jams and jellies.
The resources of the Canning Kitchen enable you to bring in homegrown produce or what you have purchased to preserve them for future consumption.
The foods are processed by using the 'home-style' method of canning by using traditional water bath canners and dial gauge pressure canners on commercial gas ranges.
How Does the Community Canning Kitchen Operate?
The Canning Kitchen is supervised during all hours of operation by a knowledgeable, experienced assistant who will help and educate you each step of the way with the latest, safest methods and processing techniques.
The kitchen is equipped with all of the necessary tools and appliances that you will need to preserve fruits and vegetables, sauces, relishes, jams, etc., pea shellers and juicers are also available for your use.
You bring your own canning jars, produce, and recipe ingredients such as; spices, vinegars, etc. If you need help with ingredient amounts and requirements, please call ahead.
After you wash and prepare your produce, you will fill your sanitized canning jars and apply the lids. "
"A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours are wasted."
- James T. Kirk
And while I don't necessarily agree with that statement entirely, even my kids have learned to scatter when the dreaded words "the second week of the month" are spoken. Because they know that's when the mothership leaves the home planet for intergalactic negotiation and the occasional battle.
- Tuesday, April 13th Monona Park and Recreation Board- Monona Community Center 6:30pm
Unfinished business includes an edible garden grant application request (love it!) and continued discussion on the Park and Open Spaces Plan, specifically regarding Maywood and Frostwoods Park. New business will cover a recommendation for a vendor for the Ahuska Soccer and Football Field fence project, as well as a park bench donation and replacement program. We will also be hearing several updates from the city staff on various projects currently in the works.
- Wednesday, April 14th Monona Grove Board of Education - Glacial Drumlin IMC 7pm
New business includes discussion and possible approval of a new charter for the Monona Grove Alternative School and the implementation of its grant application to DPI, ninth grade biology beginning the 2010-2011 school year, 2010-2011 teacher preliminary notices of layoff, the revision of Board Policy 185- Standing Board Committee Guidelines and the Board Exhibit 186- Questions for Potential Citizen Members on Standing Board Committees. We will also be having a Board discussion with Glacial Drumlin Principal Renee Tennant, Monona Grove High School Principal Paul Brost and Diversity Coordinator Charlie Ellis on the district racial issues.
- Thursday, April 15th Monona Family Attraction and Retention Committee- Monona Public Library 6:30pm
The committee plans to meet to discuss final approval of the Broadway banner designs.
Friday, April 9, 2010
"Overall, the association between low parental caring and bullying perpetrationI left feeling encouraged that Dr. Espelage's opinion is that maintaining a positive school climate serves well to moderate and minimize the negative influences of family neglect and negative peer pressure. Oftentimes we hear it is near to impossible to combat the negative influences learned/observed at home or from peers. Clearly, our school climate can be a successful influence on the prevention of bullying.
is minimized when students are in a positive school climate. Furthermore, for
students from schools with positive climate, bullying perpetration is less
likely to be associated with negative peer influence."
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Friday April 9th at 7:30pm
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Current WKCE results were released today and can be found linked to the same article.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The Herald-Independent - Cottage Grove and Monona, Wisconsin: "Proposed charter school possible through Aldo Leopold Nature Center partnership
Meeting of city, school district, state, ALNC and other interested parties will be held April 6 to determine a realistic timeline for the proposal."
Read the article directly here: http://herald-independent.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=50&ArticleID=1649
Monday, April 5, 2010
That being said, it seems that much of the current discord snowballing around right now can be traced back to questions concerning the appropriateness of a literature drop in Cottage Grove over the weekend. It seems that Jennifer Pickel and Peter Sobol's political literature were inadvertently stapled to a PTO flyer, most likely by a volunteer who didn't realize the error. Peter has already succinctly addressed this concern on his blog:
Hey Peter, how can you and Pickel staple your political lit to PTO flyers? The PTO is endorsing the two of you? Isn't that against the rules? And why aren't you doing that in Monona, only Cottage Grove?
April 2, 2010 11:38 PM
Peter Sobol said...
I've not been endorsed by the PTO, and yes that would not be appropriate. I do know that the PTO is distributing a 'Get out the vote' flier about all the CG races - which is their perogative. It shouldn't be stapled to mine, however, that's not appropriate - and I had nothing to do with it. I assume it is individual volunteers doing the distribution just making it easier to do. I've asked that people stop."
Okay, so problem addressed and solved, right? Wrong. Apparently the bigger concern is the inclusion of a link to the mgsd.community on the flyer. As far as I know, that group endorsed two of the three candidates, hence qualifying their group as a politically active entity. As this flyer was clearly paid for by the Cottage Grove PTO, people are questioning the link between the two groups and the appropriateness of that link. Still with me? So who is the mgsd.community? I don't know. And I think that really is the underlying problem. What is this organization? Who runs it? Who is responsible? I have heard several concerns from parents in both Cottage Grove and Monona that whoever is moderating this group won't identify themselves and is pulling people off their email list if they question their identity. In fact, I just received one email on this group that the author wouldn't even let me quote from anonymously because she was so concerned about being identified as a naysayer. Huh? I was elected to serve the entire Monona Grove School District community, but I'm not on their email list. Why not? If their email address is printed on a Cottage Grove PTO flyer, does the mgsd.community speak for everyone in the Cottage Grove PTO? Every single one of them? Who is this group? Can someone please explain? And maybe, just maybe, this whole waste-of-my-time political literature debacle will be put to bed. As for the rest of this very public spat that continues to be played out in the blogosphere, I have only these words to all of those involved: knock it off already.