Madison school board use new procedures to govern public comments in November meeting

New procedures for public comments at Madison Metropolitan School District board meetings were used last month following criticism from community members who allege their voices were disrespected and silenced in the past. In previous meetings, School Board President Mary Burke has announced the names of the participants as they approached the podium followed by the name of the person next in line to speak. Burke, according to complaints, has had trouble pronouncing names of participants in previous meetings. A seemingly annoying or frustrating occurrence for some, represents a long history of disrespect and discrimination for others. To avoid future insults, whether intentional or not, last month the board changed the way speakers are introduced during public comments.

Partnership between MMSD and MATC brings STEM degrees to a diverse group of high school students

College students really are getting younger. This year, 26 students from East High School and La Follette High School spend their days taking classes at Madison Area Technical College’s Truax Campus. They are the first cohort of MMSD’s Early STEM Academy Program.  

By the time they graduate high school in May of 2020, they will have not only earned their high school diploma, they will also have earned an Associate’s Degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) field. The STEM Academy is the result of an agreement between MMSD and MATC to create a dual enrollment program for high school students.

Stopping the school to prison pipeline in Madison schools using restorative justice

Every 53 minutes, a gentle chime invites students into the hallways of East High School, where their principal, Michael Hernandez, stands to the side of one corridor and greets them. “Hey, did you get those credits to transfer,” Hernandez asks one student and shakes the hand of another. He looks for one student in particular in order to spot a rare smile. “I know a few students who walk down the hall because they know I’m going to joke around with them,” Hernandez said. Students walk past “even if they don’t have a class down that way, because they know someone is going to acknowledge them.”

Hernandez is a stark contrast to the stereotype of the authoritarian school leader, but he represents a  change in Madison’s schools.

Dane County’s Bookmobile is gearing up for expanded service

Dane County’s miniature library-on-wheels is on the move. Starting on November 2, the Bookmobile will make weekly stops in Maple Bluff. Local residents will find the Dane County Library Service’s mobile library on Oxford Place adjacent to the fire department on Friday’s from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

“Typically what the Bookmobile does is serve the communities in Dane County that don’t have a municipal library of their own,” said Tracey Herold, the director of Dane County Library Service. When the Bookmobile launched in 1966, it served areas like McFarland and Fitchburg, which lacked their own public libraries at the time. The Bookmobile currently serves 16 different municipalities where public libraries don’t exist, or it doesn’t make sense to establish a library, which incurs continual expenses.

SSFP Reporters Visit the Weis Earth Science Museum

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.

More Black familes are choosing homeschooling, citing bias and desire for culturally-rich education

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 Unveiled the Last of Four Self-fix Bicycle Stations that were Constructed this Summer

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.

City of Madison After School Services Initiative Criticized for “Lack of Transparency”

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.