- Madison Board of EducationChair, Madison Board of Education
Madison Public Schools are Facing a Major Change - so let's take a pause.
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The Madison Board of Education (BOE) is planning to vote on a MAJOR CHANGE for our schools on October 17, 2017. The result of this vote will significantly impact ALL THREE of the town's elementary and BOTH middle schools. We want the Board of Education to hit "PAUSE" before making this critical decision about the future of our schools.
On November 7, there is a town election, and after that vote, there will be new people joining the Board of Education and a change in the chair of the board.
We are asking the BOE to hold off on the vote of whether or not to close Island Avenue School until the town is presented with a fully-vetted and well-communicated plan. We need to know more about how the closing of Island and repair of Jeffery and Ryerson will be completed and financed. The decision to close Island Avenue School directly impacts the families of Brown and Polson as well, and we feel it is only fair that our newly elected members of the Board of Education give this significant decision more consideration.
This petition is NONPARTISAN; we are simply asking the BOE to hold off on the vote. The decision on whether or not to close Island Avenue will have a direct impact on the future of ALL students of Madison's Public Schools (especially Jeffrey, Ryerson, Island Avenue, Brown, and Polson). It is in our town's best interest to come to a joint understanding about the future of our schools.
Many residents have expressed concerns and asked questions about the next steps. Here are just some of the questions:
- After the upcoming election (on November 7), there will be a new Board of Ed chairperson and, likely, new members on the board. Those people will inherit the task of imposing whatever decision is made if the vote is not postponed, whether they agree with it or not. Why put them in that position?
- Parents, residents, teachers, and students are confused about how the closure of Island Avenue will affect the student populations in our town's other schools.
- How much will it cost tax-payers to close down one school and make updates to the other elementary schools?
- How will class sizes be affected by the redistricting process?
- What will happen to the teachers, administrators, and staff at our current schools? How will this impact morale?
- When would the necessary repairs be made to the existing schools? How much will they cost? What is the time-frame for completion of those projects and how will students be accommodated during that process?
- Our town already has one abandoned school building (Academy - 15 years ago). What are the implications of having two abandoned school buildings in our small town?
- How will new grade distributions in the middle schools (putting grades 6,7, and 8 into one building) affect the cultures of Brown and Polson? Are these changes a reflection of sound educational practices?
- Has all the necessary due diligence been completed to make an informed and prudent decision? School renovation projects and redistricting efforts are complicated, time-intensive, and involved processes.
Given the complex issues and important decisions at stake, which will impact every town resident, we are asking the BOE to take a little time to PAUSE, as the town is still reeling from the results of the recent referendum, and emotions are high. We request that the Board of Education delay the vote on the decision to close Island Avenue until after the elections on November 7.
Please join us. After signing, please spread the word.
A little more information about the Board of Education:
Current Madison, CT Board of Education Members:
Jean Fitzgerald (Chair)**
*denotes up for reelection in November
**leaving BOE but running for Board of Finance in November
Candidates for 2017 Board of Education
Five of the following to be selected; not more than 3 from one party:
Michael Abbondandolo (G)
Kirk Barneby (R)
Jessica Bowler (R)
Alison Keating (D)
Violet McNerney (R)
Matt Parthasarthy (D)
Emily Rosenthal (D)
- Chair, Madison Board of Education
Madison Board of Education
Dear Madison Board of Education,
As many of you know, I have very recently dedicated my efforts to playing “catch up.” I have made a wholehearted attempt to inform myself about the complicated processes that have culminated in the vote on your agenda tonight, and because of that, I feel well positioned to provide honest, objective, yet ardent feedback.
Over the past few weeks, I have spent hours reading notes from BOE meetings and reviewing information from local news outlets. I have studied slideshows, facilities reports, and budget information. I have spoken with parents from all three elementary schools, neighbors whose children attended MPS and have been taxpayers for decades, and board members who sacrifice free time with their families because they are so committed to the well being of our children. I’ve taken part in passionate conversations, not only with some of you, but also teachers, administrators, lawmakers, and our highly-regarded superintendent. In fact, I have dedicated so much of my efforts to ascertaining this information that I harbor a slight fear I will be swallowed-up by the piles of unfolded laundry that are haunting me around my house!
In all seriousness, as a result of my intense focus over the past few weeks - which clearly pales in comparison to the many committee sessions, late-night meetings, and countless hours of investigation and planning the Board of Education and other district leaders have spent on this over the past several years - I have come to the conclusion that misperception has been the root cause of so much of the divisiveness and anxiety that ensued. To make matters worse, the intense polarization that has overtaken much of our country clearly seeped into our beloved town.
One thing I hope we can take from what is happening on the national level is that the issues we debate do not have a simple solution. The answer never lies with either “right” or “left” – and because of that, we only make progress when we fully grasp what lies between those ends of the spectrum. So many residents have strong, varied convictions about why the referendum failed. But those are simply opinions (valuable, nonetheless!) but by no means do they represent a universal understanding. In other words, the beliefs of our townspeople cannot be accurately represented by a simple vote of “pass” or “fail.”
In the absence of clear information, people are left to make assumptions. While most of us did understand the initiatives proposed in the referendum plan, we do not understand what you might be planning next. That is why we are so concerned about the urgency with which you seem determined to take this vote – a vote that will likely set many other things into motion. The perceived silence of the BOE following the referendum vote further cultivates our fear, misunderstanding, and again, misperceptions. Of course it would be unreasonable to expect every detail of your plans be known, but most of us don’t have an understanding of even the broad concepts you plan to pursue. Because of that, your deep conviction to proceed with this vote -- so soon after the divisive referendum -- suggests that it is in direct response to the failed vote.
In Superintendent Scarice’s eloquent letter to the Madison community after the evening of the vote, he wrote, “…I believe that the entire community is counting on us to move forward with the will of the voters.” I wholeheartedly agree, but first, I think we need to determine the specifics of “the will of the voters.” The reality is that we still don’t know what elements of the referendum were truly most relevant to people. Because of that lack of understanding, it seems prudent to take steps to determine why people did nor did not support the referendum before any significant decisions are made. If we can do this, I believe the Board of Ed will be able to develop a proactive, long-term solution rather than one that may be interpreted as reactive and short-term.
As an educator and former school administrator, I have learned that one of the most important things we can do is practice self-reflection. Because without a clear understanding of what worked and what didn’t, it’s impossible to truly grow and move forward. I don’t believe that the short three weeks following the referendum have allowed enough time for that crucial step.
I can’t imagine how heavy of a weight this must be on your shoulders, especially since you are clearly dedicated to doing the right thing for our schools. It is enormously challenging for nine people to balance the needs of an almost-20,000 person community. And yet, what is so incredible about Madison is that despite the size of our town, and despite our different opinions, there is a palpable undercurrent of shared affection for our community. In speaking with so many people over the last few weeks, it’s that affection – and a willingness to fight for it - that has remained constant over the years. Yes, it’s always people who make the difference, but individual people come and go: teachers eventually retire, administrators and lawmakers move on, but through all of that, the excellence of the Madison schools and the passion the community feels for our town remains indisputable. My takeaway from this experience is that it’s that shared sense of community that has made our school system so successful over the long term. And on a personal level, that sense of community was the reason our family ultimately decided to move here full-time after being part-time residents for the last decade.
This important decision seems like an opportunity. To band the community together, once again, and embrace the values that have been constant in our town. To reinforce the notion that our community can come together, whether we agree on all the details or not. To recognize that we truly understand and value the perspectives of the individual people in our town -- their wishes, desires, and fears. To get beyond the misperceptions and misinterpretations and be reminded that communication, respect, and empathy are integral in developing a comprehensive understanding of how to make our community work at its highest level.
I thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our petition. I also hope that you can understand that while my family is a recent addition to the Island Avenue School community, my position would remain the same if I were at any other school in the district.
Kristen Rosecrans Powers
67 Nathans Lane, 110 Taylor Avenue
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