Elmbrook Superintendent Matt Gibson’s consolidation memo

From Dr. Gibson:


Preliminary (High Level) Facilities Analysis as it
Informs the Organizational Plan

Baseline – The district operates two high schools, two middle schools, six elementary schools, Fairview South (FVS), Central Administrative Offices (CAO), and the North Avenue Building (NAB) for a total of 13 facilities.

Target Question – What is the feasibility of consolidating the functions of any of these facilities over the next five years to save costs?

High Level Givens – Based on current projections, two high schools, two middle schools, and five of the six elementary schools appear to be givens to retain their current functions.

High Level Questions –
• Will the district need all six elementary schools long term? If less than six elementary schools are needed, which school(s) is most feasible/flexible to consider for consolidation? See longer-term scenario on next page.
• Short-term, is it feasible/flexible to incorporate the functions of FVS, CAO, and/or the NAB into less than three facilities? See shorter-term scenario on next page.

[Click on this chart to enlarge.]

Longer Term Scenario – In the longer term, if less than six elementary schools are needed, which appears to be the case sometime between years 2011-12 and 2013-14 (last three years of financial plan), which school(s) is most feasible/flexible to consider for closing/consolidation?

Based on the table of actual and projected capacities and sections on the previous page, none of the six schools is a clear candidate for closing/consolidation through 2010-11. If either smaller school (18 sections each) were closed/consolidated thereafter, most elementary attendance boundaries and the resulting feeder system would need to change. If resident enrollment doesn’t exceed projections in 2009-10 and/or if updated five-year enrollment projections done in 2009-10 don’t exceed current five-year projections, both smaller schools (36 sections total) could be considered for closing/consolidation. In this scenario, most elementary attendance boundaries would still need to change but the resulting feeder system would not change. Pending review of 2009-10 resident enrollment and November 2009 enrollment projections and any openness to revisiting 4K, an elementary school closing/consolidation study may be recommended to occur during second semester 2009-10. If the study prompted a school closing/consolidation recommendation, it would need to be processed with the community and adopted by the board with sufficient lead-time to deploy changes, e.g. constituent interests such as attendance boundaries, feeder systems, any grandfathering, student transportation; and administrative matters, e.g. staffing and budget.

Given the above discussion, open enrollment would be driven by its current formula of space availability in existing sections for 2009-10.

Shorter Term Scenario – In the shorter term, is it feasible/flexible to incorporate the functions of FVS, CAO, and/or the NAB into less than three facilities?

At first analysis, FVS is a secondary school function and the residential site and facility don’t appear compatible to the CAO and/or North Avenue functions.

The CAO and NAB appear to be compatible functions with one another if:
• The front half of the NAB (centrally located in business district) were remodeled,
• Meeting space was added (without needed for referendum) if needed after space analysis (see attached floor plan),
• City requirements for architectural standards didn’t exceed necessary compliance,
• Some CAO functions that don’t require immediate proximity to the superintendent/assistant superintendents or one another were relocated to other available spaces in the schools,
• CAO functions/staffing were reduced to the extent possible (for both budget and space reasons) without impacting the student learning goal area,
• The private Montessori school were put on notice for 2010-11; as an option, they could be offered Burleigh School (compatible function with early childhood program) on an annual basis (without remodeling) pending space availability (including any functions from CAO) and mutual interest.
The operational cost savings of this scenario would be taking one facility (the CAO) off line. Preparation of the NAB and moves (from NAB to Burleigh and from CAO to NAB) could occur during 2010-11 after the high school projects are completed. Staffing savings from reducing CAO staffing to the extent possible could be spread across the first two years (2009-10 and 2010-11) of the financial plan. Operational savings from taking a facility off line could start in year three (2011-12) of the financial plan and continue.

For reference, the NAB front half is currently rented to a Montessori school and the back half is used as a warehouse (truck parking, salt storage, large freezer).

Another alternative could be determining the availability and cost of renting office and meeting space in the district for the central office functions. The NAB or comparable facility would still be needed for the warehouse function.


A few of you whine about blogs, but this is the kind of detail you can’t get from a newspaper. The document wasn’t available on the district Web site when I asked (though undoubtedly it will appear now!)


  1. Tinkerbell says:

    When is a consolidation NOT a consolidation?

    When Elmbrook “adopts” Amy Montessori school into Burleigh Elementary!

    I understand the NAB or North Avenue Building is at the North end of the BCHS fields. I understand this is leased to the private Amy Montessori preschool. Would you be able to find figures on that rental amount, term, etc?

    If I understand correctly, at this time when it may be most reasonable to consolidate our elementary schools, in the same memo the author is also contemplating utilizing some of our existing elementary school classroom capacity NOT to welcome displaced students from potentially closed elementary schools, but to relocate a private business – Amy Montessori preschool!

    Wake up people. Smell the coffee.

    Put another way, why would the district’s primary concern be that of offering space to it’s rental tenant, AMS, if NAB was sold? Do they not believe the leadership of AMS capable of making their own business decisions as to location, location, location? Again, what are the terms of the rental agreement with NAB? (Find out quickly, before a new contract is signed!)

    It would seem to me that moving AMS into Burleigh Elementary would accomplish the following: 1) Utilize capacity which might otherwise be available for Elmbrook elementary students… possibly forcing the community to keep additional elementary schools in operation long after economically feasible. 2) Incur costs to adapt/remodel Burleigh for additional numbers of preschoolers… possibly forcing preparatory costs for 4K , hidden in the guise of this “consolidation” project. 3) Increase community distrust of the district administration.

  2. The Lorax says:

    I’ve been saying it for years, CAO should be closed, that space is way bigger than they need.

  3. Those are all good points, Tink, worth keeping an eye on.

    It is also possible that he was looking to maintain a good relationship with that segment of the community, maintain that revenue stream, or have a back up plan for fulfilling a contract.

    The last time I heard him speak to a group about finances (several weeks ago at a meeting I attended), it was my understanding that EVERYTHING is on the table for discussion, including school closings, larger class sizes, staff reductions, new sources of revenue such as charter schools and internet academies. Everything is up for consideration.

    That memo seems like responsible consideration of some of the options, to me.

    By the way, I like your suggestion of a few days ago about grouping kids according to interest and ability rather than just age. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the stratification produced by grade levels.

  4. Tinkerbell says:

    while I clearly allowed for the possibility that moving AMS to Burleigh may be related to contract, I do not recall commenting on grouping and stratification, or even reading it.

  5. “• Some CAO functions that don’t require immediate proximity to the superintendent/assistant superintendents or one another were relocated to other available spaces in the schools,
    • CAO functions/staffing were reduced to the extent possible (for both budget and space reasons) without impacting the student learning goal area,”

    Those points worry me. Getting anything done over there now can be really frustrating to me. I wish we had another administrator or two so there was a bit less on their plates. I’m sure that’s not going to happen, but let’s not tie their hands.

    (Yes, I know you said without impacting student learning…I’m just sayin’)

  6. I might be wrong, but I thought you suggested grouping GT students as a way to improve differentiation without increasing expenses. The stratification part was my spin, i.e. separating students by age creates it’s own set of problems.

  7. Randy in Richmond says:

    I’m curious. Who would determine and make the decision on which child goes where based on ability and interest? I’ve never heard that idea proposed before but I envision a ‘smart class’, a ‘jock class’, a ‘dumb class’, a ‘musical class’, a ‘geek class’, etc. I never thought I would use this word in a positive light but I strongly favor the ‘diversity’ of mixing pupils of all interests and in the same age range. A jock sitting and learning next to a piano player is a good thing. This doesn’t even address the tremendous disparities in just a year’s difference of age in younger children.

  8. Randy, I agree it could go wrong. The system as we have it goes wrong, too, but we are used to it. Those tremendous disparities are part of the problem.

    A class room where every student is the same age is an un-natural environment. I am conservative enough to believe that a family is the best environment for socializing a child (barring extremes, of course.) Families have a range of ages. A family in a community interacts with a larger range of ages. Children learn to be responsible for themselves and for others. A mixed age classroom would present similar opportunities, though not substitute for family.

    Our school system promotes separation by age group. It promotes a pecking system. It discourages children from speaking up for themselves in a polite fashion with anyone other than their age peers. We have ‘buddy’ programs in the elementary schools to attempt to remediate some of these problems, but you can only do so much with activities that occur only once of twice a quarter.

    Students at the extremes of ability get left out. We know enough to provide separate instruction, at least part of the day, for our kids with cognitive disorders because the classroom teacher lacks both the time and expertise (and often patience) to differentiate appropriately for those students. We generally fail to meet the needs of the high end students, again because of time, expertise, and sometimes patience. This school district has an awful lot of high-end students, well beyond the statistical average. We have test scores that place these kids years ahead of their age group, but we don’t have programming to meet the need.

    Many of our best and brightest aspire to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It is a good school, but it is not the University of Michigan or Purdue or Columbia. We could do better, if we would.

    I have a first grader who spends two hours a day doing math he learned on his own last year. We have a strong math program, but it address the middle of the pack, the slow and the smart. The talented are left out. I know older kids who fail classes because they are bored out of their minds and refuse to do the homework.

    If it were a business meeting that you had to sit through everyday, accomplishing NOTHING, how long would you put up with that?

  9. “I know older kids who fail classes because they are bored out of their minds and refuse to do the homework. ”

    I was never close to failing, but the rule applied to me.

    As for your citation of specific universities, we’re not that far behind Michigan and we’re way ahead of Purdue. But then again, it’s all a matter of perception.

  10. You are closer to the university issue than I. I tend to evaluate the Big Ten schools on the reputation of their engineering program–20 years ago. (That’s a shocking realization!) I think the generalization holds: many of our students don’t look farther than Madison.

  11. I believe MIT and Cal Poly are the engineering elite schools today. However, Madison has world renowned programs in many areas and is one of the finest universities in the country. It also boasts more Fortune 500 CEO’s than any other university in the country, ahead of Harvard, now that Carol Bartz has been named CEO of Yahoo. Madison is accepting about the top 5% now so the other 95% of the graduating classes will have to look elsewhere.

    My spouse is an engineer, so I realize the value of his engineering degree. I also know that local businesses have laid off many engineers within the past year, with the downturn in the economy and the shipment of manufacturing overseas. Students nowdays will have to have a lot of skills in their quiver to adapt to the rapidly changing job climate. One of the most valuable skills with be foreign language, since you never know when your engineering job will be take you outside the US. Spouse speaks French, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, and he’s had to use all those language skills when dealing with suppliers all over the world.
    He has not used his advanced differential equations since graduation, however.

  12. Well, the CEO standing is impressive! Thanks for the update, Winegirl.


  1. […] Kilkenny published Elmbrook Schools’ superindendent Matt Gibson’s email on school consolidation at Fairly […]