One hot day this summer, Deney, Sarah, Josepha, drove all the way from the Free Press newsroom off West Broadway to Appleton, Wisconsin, ready to learn about space and geology. We embarked on this journey to attend the annual Wisconsin Space Grant Conference, titled “Uncharted Lands: Geology and Space.” While we were in the city, we visited the Weis Earth Science Museum to learn about fossils, rocks, and minerals. The Museum is named after Leonard and Donna Weis, who donated the first gift to the Weis Earth Museum and later became its directors. Joanne Kluessendorf is the museum’s founding director. All of the exhibits in the museum were donated by T. John Barlow, Clyde Stephenson, and Donald G. Mikulie.
Around 11:30 a.m., fourth grader Karleese, 9, was given a vocabulary word he had never said before. “In-thoo-see-as-thic?” Karleese said as he hurdled each syllable of the word on his computer screen. His mother Kaulia Powell, 37, coached from the end cushion of the couch where Karleese’s Wednesday English lesson was being held. “Enthusiastic…you got it!” said Powell patiently. Karleese calmly repeated the word as best he could.
JUST Bikes, formerly known as the Madison Bicycle Equity Group, unveiled four self-fix bicycle station, new bike racks, and recognized graduates of the Mobile Bike Repair internship program on Wednesday at Centro Hispano. The projects were made possible by Madison Community Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Year of Giving grant “Mad About Bikes.” Mad About Bikes provides access for all riders, regardless of economic status, and helps them take advantage of Madison’s Platinum-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. The $84,200 grant included a 1,100-bicycle giveaway in March, the installment of public fix-it stations, bike repair internships for community youth, starter bicycles for beginning riders, safety education and repair training for riders of all ages, and an electric-assist bicycle outfitted as a repair vehicle that travels throughout the city. Just Bikes’ Fix-it Bicycle Stations are equipped with various tools needed to keep bikes in working shape. The other fix-it stations were installed during the summer, and are located at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, Bayiew Community Center, and Lussier Community Education Center.
The Madison Community Foundation is issuing its largest grant ever at $1.1 million to support the community schools initiative in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools will be matching the grant one-to-one through fundraising efforts and donations over the five-year grant period. “We’ve been talking for decades about how to improve the schools, we’ve put a lot of funding directly in schools. What I think is different about this is that it’s the whole community coming together...maybe we can really make a difference,” said Tom Linfield, the Vice President of Community Impact with the Madison Community Foundation
Hawthorne Elementary and Lake View Elementary will both be designated as community schools for the 2018-19 school year, joining Mendota Elementary and Leopold Elementary, which have been community schools since the 2016-2017 school year. Hawthorne and Lake View were selected because of their dedication to family engagement, potential community partners, and support from parents, staff and the administration, explained Community Schools Manager Aronn Peterson in a written interview.
Local watchdogs and litigators say a City of Madison initiative and its multiple committees should provide the public with greater transparency. In a unanimous 2017 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that committees created by local governmental bodies in Wisconsin are themselves governmental bodies subject to the state's open meetings law. Wisconsin open meetings law states: “All meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”
Public bodies are required to give notice of the time, date, location and general agenda of all meetings at least 24 hours in advance. Even when, “for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical…in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of [a] meeting.”
Madison-area Out-of-School Time, or MOST, is a City of Madison initiative. According to the City’s website, the group was started by Mayor Paul Soglin.
The United States Education Department Office for Civil Rights investigated the Madison School District starting in 2014 and began conducting a compliance review in 2016. The Education Department found “statistically significant racial disparities in advanced placement enrollment at every district high school and such disparities were pronounced in the areas of math and science.”
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At issue is Madison School District compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, specifically, “whether the district discriminates against African-American and/or Hispanic students with respect to access, referral, identification, and selection for the district's Advanced Learner services.”
The Civil Rights Office also looked for discrimination in “access to foundational courses that are essential to prepare students to take rigorous courses and to provide them with the skills necessary for success in college and career.”
The Office for Civil Rights issued a letter on December 29, 2016, describing the results of their investigation. The letter was sent to Madison Schools Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham. The letter references previous Madison District actions to scale back its use of prerequisites for advanced high school courses, implementing instead a system of “recommended skills and experiences.”
According to the letter, MMSD “proposed to voluntarily resolve the investigation” by agreeing to implement new efforts to increase access to advanced learning opportunities for Hispanic and African American students. These efforts are detailed in a Resolution Agreement, which Superintendent Cheatham signed on October 21, 2016.
Ald. Samba Baldeh is gathering citizen input to help shape what will be known as the Imagination Center in the Northeast side of Madison. “The City is growing very very fast so it really was overdue for us to have a library in this area. It’s important that we have resources for after school programing that can cater the possibility of people of color who sometimes struggle after school to have a personal place to go,” Baldeh said. The Imagination Center has been a year in planning, receiving a budget of $500,000 last year for outreach to gather information on what citizens want to see in it.
Thanks to the new “Scholars of Promise” program, 150 students at Madison Area Technical College have access to new opportunities. Created by Madison College along with University of Wisconsin-Madison, qualifying students who complete their associate degree will be admitted to UW-Madison, free of cost, to continue pursuing their education. President of Madison College Dr. Jack Daniels and UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank finalized the groundbreaking decision. “Though financially disadvantaged, these individuals can now pursue the dream of a college degree and the career of their choice,” Daniels said. The first Scholars of Promise class is made up of “hard-working, resourceful and persistent” students, said Daniels.
“You are brave,” “You are worth it,” “Breathe,” “Create;” these are a few of the uplifting words and phrases that adorn Mount Horeb High School’s new mental wellness mural. After witnessing the effects of mental illness on peers, a group of seniors at Mount Horeb High School wanted a to create a mural with the power to soothe, uplift, and give hope. Between March 19 and 23, Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) assisted 1,000 students, as well as many community members, in fulfilling that artistic vision. An official mural dedication will be held at the school on May 8. Lead artist Amy Zaremba was touched by the project’s overwhelming support and said the turnout of volunteers was “really amazing.”
“And the kids didn’t just come here and sit around,” Zaremba added.