Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some changes

I have missed updating you, as my family and I took some time over the spring break to be together.  My granddaughter visited me here in Milwaukee.  I was proud to show her around the city.  My son and I took in a Brewers' game.  Glad to see our Brew Crew beat Houston on a Saturday night at the ballpark.  I still love my Phillies, though the Brewers are my solid number two team!

Meanwhile, it's been a process of tying up the loose ends of our budget for next school year.  We adjusted our projection for how large the state's proposed budget cuts are in terms of impact on MPS, from $74 million to $81.6 million. You can see why we had to go back to our departments for more reductions.

I have two budget items to share with you.

First, summer school will look different.  Fewer locations will be offered for the elementary grades. We had to scale back the number of sites to save money, but we found a way to triple the value.  That's because the sites for elementary summer school will be locations that also serve summer meals and programs run by MPS Recreation.

Second, we have closed the book on school closings, mergers and relocations for the year.  This is it, as I have told our principals.  We will make no further adjustments to the roster of schools for 2011-2012. The Board has approved closing seven schools and relocating six others.  Additionally, a total of six schools are merging.  Look here for a draft list of all the changes.

We are preparing a Companion Guide for Parents on our budget proposal.  It should be ready in days.  More on that later.   

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Joint Finance Committee

I testified before the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee today.  The committee was in West Allis for one of its public hearings on the proposed state budget. 

The meeting room was packed.  I was able to follow Mayor Tom Barrett at the podium.  Speakers were given two minutes each.  I wish there would have been more time to provide feedback on a proposal that would cut district revenue in the amount of $166 million over the biennium. I trust, though, that the discussions will continue.  

My statement to the members of the committee can be found here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The good stuff

     We are getting down to the last two weeks of budget preparations.  We are still on target to deliver a proposed district budget for Fiscal Year 2012 by the end of this month. 

     Today I did briefings for Central Office staff, to let them know what cuts we are considering, and to get a feel for their questions and concerns.  A question was raised about furlough days, and whether we had considered them as a cost-saving measure.  We have looked into the use of furlough days.  The difficulty we had was in getting buy-in from all labor groups.  A furlough day is successful only when ALL employees would be off for the day.  For the record, a single furlough day would save the district $3 million.  It is possible the idea could come back on the table, but currently, furloughs are not in our plan.

     In the midst of all the budget talk -- and I must tell you that the budget is all-consuming lately -- we cannot lose sight of the "good stuff".  By that I mean the great things that our kids are doing.  I am not referring solely to the recent WKCE results where we saw an upturn in reading scores.  I am talking about how our children show their talent.

     I went to the student performance of "Hairspray" last weekend at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.  I was blown away!  It was, hands down, one of the best school productions I have ever seen.  It was a packed house.  These kids could win a Tony Award -- and they are OUR kids!  Here are some pictures from their production.  
     We cannot lose sight of the good stuff.  Our kids performed very well this past weekend at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.   But it is not just them.  Students across MPS are taking the stage, storming on to basketball courts, grabbing headlines in forensics, debate, robotics and poetry contests.  They are in marching bands and drum lines.  Please make a point of celebrating our children's endeavors whenever you have the chance.  This is your personal invitation from me to come to the party. You may see some future Tony Award winners when you do!