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.
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 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.
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.