Elmbrook wants to ignore your opinion – yet again

The survey is here! The survey is here! Except that it only counts if you answer, and the only way to find it is to go the Elmbrook Web site. So does that mean if you don’t frequent the site, they don’t want your opinion?

I inevitably have trouble with the way one or two things are worded by Communications Director Andy Smith. Here’s the first page:

elmbrooksurvey1.jpg

Once again they make the assumption that declining enrollment will cause program cuts. Yet again they assume budget cuts when in all of the years of living in this district I haven’t seen the total budget decrease.

Go ahead. Take the survey. Comment with your concerns. They say they will listen, right?

Comments

  1. I notice there is nothing in the survey about reducing the number of non-resident students or addressing the fact that participating in Chapter 220 has been found by the Supreme Court to be discriminatory. In fact, just the opposite. They use this opportunity to spin our high number of non-resident students as a positive. Under the question “What evidence do you use to judge the quality of education in the school district of Elmbrook,” they list “Positive open enrollment trends (more non-resident students wanting to attend the district than residents wanting to leave)” as one of the choices!
    For all of you out there who were fretting last spring about a decrease in property values if we didn’t pass the referendum and re-build our high schools…you’ve missed the real issue. Open enrollment is what will ultimately decrease our property values, because it allows families to send their children to our schools with out actually having to live here. Why buy a house in Brookfield and pay high property taxes when you can live somewhere else and still get the Elmbrook education for free?

  2. BrkfldDad says:

    Jeez, where’s the “Acknowledge and eliminate budget waste and pork, without falsely threatening the student’s education” challenge and issue?

  3. BrkfldDad, if I know you I must really like you!

  4. Where is the pork; I’d like to spend some of it.

    I’d like foreign language restored to elementary schools. I’d like a fully accessible BCHS. I’d like not to pay quite so much in fees for free public education. I’d like smaller class sizes. I’d like administrators who aren’t so overloaded that I can ask questions without worrying that I am keeping them from some other important task. I’d like a gifted and talented program that meets the needs of gifted and talented students. I’d like to pave the parking lots when they need it instead of after they have become hazardous to students with disabilities. I’d like if I didn’t need to donate kleenex and sanitizer and cleaning supplies; I’d like if teachers didn’t have to buy supplies either! I’d like shorter bus routes, too. I’d like to have choral music without having to buy a sphagetti dinner–or serve it–to raise funds. I could go on. It all costs money, so show me the pork; I want some!

  5. Kathryn, there’s been a budget surplus of millions for the last couple of years. I think it has more to do with how the board spends the money than how much they get to spend. Let me know and we can look up the articles together. I can’t post them because they are in the MJS archives.

    Just to add to your list, I want toilets that flush and lavatories with running water. I’ve run into a couple that don’t work.

  6. Hi Dan –
    I believe you are confusing Chapter 220 with Open Enrollment, and as a result misunderstood my comment. These are two separate programs. Chapter 220 brings students from Milwaukee schools into suburban schools. Open Enrollment means a child from ANY community can enroll in ANY school district (as long as they provide their own transportation.) (For instance, I could enroll my child in the Sheboygan schools if I was accepted and willing to drive them every day.) Chapter 220 is based on a student’s race/ethnicity. Open Enrollment, on the other hand, is open to any student regardless of race/ethnicity.
    It is my opinion that Open Enrollment could ultimately contribute to decreasing property values in our community. This is because many (if not most) of the Open Enrollment students coming to the Elmbrook schools are from surrounding communities like the Town of Brookfield (especially the Brook Park Estates neighborhood), and Pewaukee – which have lower property taxes than those paid by City of Brookfield residents. Prior to the Open Enrollment’s inception, the only way a person could attend schools within a certain school district was to actually live within its boundaries (and pay the associated property taxes.) To some extent, Elmbrook’s high achieving schools made the cities of Brookfield and Elm Grove desirable communities to live in. Desirable communities enjoy higher property values. Open Enrollment, however, is poised to upset this balance. If there is no longer the need to live within the boundaries of Brookfield or Elm Grove to enjoy the benefits of its high achieving schools, there is the potential that living in our communities (with its associated high taxes) could become less desirable than living in one of our surrounding communities and simply using our school district.

  7. Libby is right–Our city is desirable to live in.

    But with Open Enrollment, you can just move to Menomonee Falls, Wauwatosa or Milwaukee and experience the benefits without having to pay the costs.

  8. Agreed on the property value arguement – when we moved here in 2004 there was pretty much a $50k-$75 premium on a house in Brookfield vs. Menomonee Falls or Pewaukee. Everyone explained it to me as the schools.

    The real question I have is how many Brookfield residents actually have school aged children vs those who maybe once did, but are now cranky old empty-nesters who complain about how their taxes are spent on anything related to the schools? These are the same people will also complain the second property values decrease.

  9. closetobrookfield says:

    As someone closely connected with the SDE, I feel I can comment on a few of the issues raised in the above posting regarding pork in the school district.

    1. Studying foreign language is great at the elementary school level, but the way that it was implemented before at the elementary level in the SDE was not effective. Because our elementary schools are not foreign language immersion schools, the way that foreign language is currently offered is probably the best for student learning and retention. Also, elementary staff are currently having a difficult time fitting everything into the day. Something would have to “go” in order for foreign language to be brought back in.

    2. Why can’t the handicapped accessibility issues at BCHS be paid for out of the current operational budget?

    3. Public education is not “free.” Someone is paying for it. Unfortunately, many forget this. I do agree that there are too many fees issued in the SDE, for instance the $10 fee for all students involved in music or solo/ensemble, etc.

    4. Smaller class sizes are good to strive for at the primary level when students are first learning how to read. When you are talking about reducing a teacher’s load from 30 students to 25, most teachers don’t change how they teach, they would just have slightly less work. A teacher who has good classroom management will easily be able to handle a class of 30 kids, if that is the high number. Now, if the difference is between a group of 45 students and a group of 25, then it would be great, but this is not was is usually meant when class size is brought up. What would be the optimal class size?

    5. The building principals are overloaded partly because of all the meetings they are required to attend at the central office. Every week, it seems like they are either out of the building for meetings at the central office, or out of the district, for whatever reason. These things take them away from the students, parents and teachers in their respective buildings. I’m not sure that the answer to this problem is to hire more administrators.

    6. The district is moving away from the old model of a separate, pull-out program for gifted and talented students to a model of the individual classroom teachers using strategies within their classrooms to challenge the gifted/talented child. This is happening because teachers and parents have realised that if a gifted/talented child can only be “reached” in a special pull-out program that happens at 1:00 on Tuesday afternoons, what happens the rest of the time that child is in school? If there is money to spent on gifted/talented education, it should be spent on training the classroom teachers on how to implement those strategies into the regular lessons.

  10. Closetobrookfield: Thank you for sharing your insights. I hope you took my point to be that I am not convinced that SDE is wasting money right and left. I understand, also, that “free appropriate public education” is not without cost–but it is supposed to be free to the student.

    As to your observations: maybe smaller class sizes would address several issues? Teachers who were not struggling to fit everything in might have time for foreign language. Teachers who were not struggling to fit the needs of so many might have time to address the gifted students.

    I agree with you about the need for training teachers to differentiate for gifted and talented students. Some of our schools are working on that more than others. I agree with you that a once a week pull-out is inadequate. Unfortunately, we haven’t really made the transition to reaching these children in the classroom either; our ideal for these kids is far removed from their reality.

    I don’t know why we can’t pay for accessibility at BCHS. I only know that every few years I see a cognitively disabled student separated from his/her friends and shipped over to East because he/she is also physically disabled. It is heart-wrenching.

    I was actually thinking of administrators at CAO when I made my comment. I don’t know if having more of them would free up any principals or not, but CAO seems to be a real bottleneck–and not because they aren’t working hard.

    I’m not sure what an optimal class size would be for elementary school. For high school, I think 16 would be ideal–though probably not feasible, I admit. How can a teacher facilitate a meaningful class discussion with 30 students? One could lecture to 30, but a dialog that included everyone would be very challenging. Even 25 would have to be an improvement. Just my opinion, of course.