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Opportunities and Risk with the Departure of Madison School District Superintendent and Staff

Jason Shephard: This week, nearly 25,000 Madison schoolchildren will settle into the routines of a new school year defined by anticipation and anxiety about big changes to come. After eight years as superintendent, Art Rainwater, 64, will retire in June. Last week, the Madison school board moved decisively on its new top priority by agreeing on key details for the replacement search and setting a half-dozen deadlines leading to the hiring of a new superintendent early next year. Rainwater's announcement in early January of his plan to step down has given his loyal deputies ample time to consider retirement or new jobs. In recent months, Rainwater has lost three top aides: chief of staff Mary Gulbrandsen, legal counsel Clarence Sherrod...

Mary Gulbrandsen Reflects

Retiring Madison School District Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen: I can use the words privileged and honored when I think of all of the people with whom I have been lucky enough to work, but it is much more than that. I have learned so much from the occupational and physical therapy staff, the psychology and social work staff, the R&E staff, the SAPAR staff, the principals, the teachers, all of the central office staff, the management team with whom I have closely worked the last nine years and last, but not least, the group with whom I started, the health services staff. For me, the most difficult part of leaving the district is realizing that I won't see the...

Board of Education Activity in 2006-07

A few weeks ago, the Madison BOE received a summary of what the board and its committees had done in its meetings during the past year. I am posting the entire document as an extended entry as community information. It provides a lot more detail, a good overview, and a glimpse at the pieces that didn't make it into the print and broadcast media....

Boundary changes for Lake View & Chavez?

A story by Susan Troller in the Cap Times reports: Two elementary schools at opposite ends of the Madison Metropolitan School District are bursting at the seams and may face boundary changes next year to deal with crowding. Lake View Elementary on the northeast side of the city and Chavez Elementary on the southwest side are both well over their intended capacities, with Lake View at 116 percent and Chavez at 108 percent. Lake View has an enrollment of 309 students, but is designed for 266. Chavez, with an intended capacity of 602 students, has an enrollment this year of 652 students....

"Candy isn't Dandy in Madison Schools"

Susan Lampert Smith:Expect details of the Madison School District plan in the coming week. Here's what my sticky fingers were able to pry out of Mary Gulbrandsen, student services director: Soda pop has already vanished from Madison school vending machines. Candy is no longer sold in school, and in two years, no school group will be allowed to sell candy for fundraising. (Horde your hockey team candy bars - soon you can sell them on eBay as collectors' items!)...

Fall Referendum: Madison School District Boundary Changes

WKOW-TV:Regardless how people in Madison vote this November the school board will make boundary changes, forcing some students into new schools. Two options were chosen Monday night to deal with overcrowding. The first option reflects what the district would look like if the referendum passes. The second option on the table is in case it doesn't passSusan Troller:bout 510 students will move if the new school, located west of County M in a rapidly developing area of new homes, is approved and built. If the referendum fails, over 225 students will move and program changes, including converting art and music rooms to classrooms and increasing class size, will be necessary to gain capacity, said Mary Gulbrandsen, the district's chief of...

School board divided again over plans to reduce overcrowding

Kurt Gutknecht, writing in the Fitchburg Star about the recent Board and public discussion of the East / West Task Forces:There was a sense of déjà vu when the Madison Metropolitan School Board met Jan. 30 when the schism that fractured it last year – and which appeared to be a key factor in the defeat of a referendum last spring – surfaced again. Four members of the board appear solidly in support of another referendum and two members appear steadfast in their opposition, although the board hasn’t officially acted on the matter. The possibility of a divided board has already alarmed supporters of a new addition to Leopold Elementary School, who think it will provide additional ammunition to critics....

East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

Video | MP3 AudioMonday evening's Board meeting presented a rather animated clash of wills between, it appears, those (A majority of the Board, based on the meeting discussions) who support Fitchburg's Swan Creek residents and their desire to remain at a larger Leopold School vs. those who favor using existing District schools that have extra space for the 63 Fitchburg children (no other students would move under the plan discussed Monday evening), such as Lincoln and/or the Lincoln/Midvale pair....

West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at a PTO Meeting

Summary of a West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at the Thoreau PTO: MMSD Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen participated in a well attended Thoreau PTO meeting recently to discuss the options that the West Attendance Area Task force is currently evaluating. I thought the conversation was quite interesting and have summarized several of the points discussed below:The May, 2005 referenda failed due to poor communication. What will the District due to improve that? There was some additional discussion on this topic regarding whether a referendum could pass.Why don't the developers (and therefore the homeowners in these new subdivisions) pay for the costs of a new school? Discussion followed that included much larger building permit fees, a referenda question that...

And the (West HS English 10) beat goes on ..."

Here is the email I wrote earlier today to Ed Holmes, Art Rainwater, Pam Nash, Mary Gulbrandsen, and the seven members of the BOE, followed by the reply I just received from Ed Holmes: I wrote: Hello, everyone. I wonder if one of you would please send us a status report on the plans for 10th grade English at West for next year? Many of us have written to you multiple times about this matter, but without any reply. We are trying to be patient, polite, collaborative and upbeat (despite the fact that we are feeling frustrated, ignored and stonewalled). Specifically, would one of you please tell us:...

West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

Here is a synopsis of the English 10 situation at West HS. Currently -- having failed to receive any reply from BOE Performance and Achievement Committee Chair Shwaw Vang to our request that he investigate this matter and provide an opportunity for public discussion -- we are trying to get BOE President Carol Carstensen to put a discussion of the English 10 proposal (and the apparent lack of data supporting its implementation) on the agenda for a BOE meeting. Aside from the fact that there is serious doubt that the course, as proposed, will meet the educational needs of the high and low end students, it is clear we are witnessing yet another example of school officials making radical curricular...

The Seven Options of the West/Memorial Task Force

The MMSD Web site says that the West/Memorial task force "identified seven options for additional analysis" by MMSD staff. I asked Superintendent Rainwater's Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen for a list of the seven options, and here is her reply:The West Memorial task force has not even seen the seven ideas that were put forth by the seven small work groups, as they were the last thing that we did at the meeting on Thursday night. We are just pulling the ideas together and are going to work with some of the members to actually create options. As soon as we have something that is in a form to send out to the task force, it will be posted on...

Mary Gulbrandsen: MMSD Power Broker

No one appreciates Mary Gulbrandsen's contributions to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) more than her boss, superintendent Art Rainwater. When we included Gulbrandsen in Madison Magazine's 2004 People You Should Know list, Rainwater was the first to let us know we'd made an inspired choice. As MMSD chief of staff for the last two years, Gulbrandsen's influence on all aspects of Madison's K-12 schools is undeniable. From long-range planning to finance and operations to performance and achievement, district administration minutes suggest Gulbrandsen has spent the last two years in meetings. But seeing her in action on some of the most difficult issues, like the school environment for kids and families of color, proves what a skilled administrator she's become....

More on East / West Task Forces

Sandy Cullen:Elementary schools considered most at risk are Emerson, Lapham and Lowell - which are at or below 67 percent of their capacity for students - as well as Lindbergh, Cohen said. "We're rallying around Lindbergh," he said, adding that the school serves "probably the most fragile" population of low-income and minority families, including many from Kennedy Heights just across the street from the school. Mary Gulbrandsen, director of student services and chief of staff to Superintendent Art Rainwater, said the Madison School District has no hidden agenda to close one or more East Side schools, as some parents fear. Much more here....

Members of West/Memorial Task Force

At large representatives representing an ethnic group who reside within the attendance areas: Prasanna Raman Brenda Gonzalez Name Community member without children in the district: Tim Otis Student Liaison to the Board of Education: Connor Gants School & Representative Chavez - Rich Rubasch - Jennifer Sheridan (Alternative) Crestwood - Marisue Horton - Mary Kay Battaglia (Alt.) Falk - Dr. Matthew Raw - Karl Woodruff (Alt.) Huegel - Laura Lenzen (Alt.) Muir - Ann and Brett Larget Orchard Ridge Stephens - Carol Quintana Jefferson - Wilma Gurl Spring Harbor - Don Jorgensen Toki - Sue Mowris Memorial - Mary/Scott Whitcomb - Mary Fahey (Alt.) Franklin/Randall - Michael Maguire Leopold - Rusty Shoemaker-Allen Lincoln - Lori Mann Carey Midvale - Jerry Eykholt...

Planning for MMSD Legislative Committee for 2005-06

As chair of the MMSD School Board's Legislative Committee for 2005-06, I post information about state and federal laws and legislative issues related to the Madison Schools on this blog under Hot Topics , Madison School Board Legislative Committee blog. In June I asked MMSD staff for the committee, Joe Quick, for his ideas on future directions for the committee. My questions and his answers are available under as well as news reports and background materials....

Long Range Planning Committee Advisory Members

On August 30, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board met with its advisory members for the first time. Advisory members in attendance were Dawn Crim, Joan Eggert, Jill Jokela, Lucy Mathiak, Pat Mooney, and Jan Sternbach. Teresa Tellez-Giron (nominated by Board member Juan Lopez) withdrew before our initial meeting. LRP Committee members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston Jr. were present as were several other Board members. The advisory members introduced themselves and asked questions about their role and the work of the committee. Unfortunately, the MMSD staff had not been able to get written materials to all of the citizen members. Lack of common materials limited our discussion. We briefly discussed the role of the...

Diary of an Advisory Committee: the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board Reaches Out to Citizens

In the late spring of 2004, I had the idea that inviting a group of citizens to work with the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board might help the Committee ask better questions of the administration and explore more options during the next year. In 2004-05, the Committee will consider the possibility of another referendum to fund maintenance of the district's buildings and try to solve overcrowding problems at Leopold Elementary School. It will also develope a 3-5 year long range plan for presentation to the Board by the end of the spring semester In this log, I will relate our progress toward this goal....

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