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Friday, February 29, 2008

Madison Central School Board Election: The Conversation

Let's start the conversation now. In case you're new here, my name is Cory Allen Heidelberger. I'm running for a seat on the Madison Central School Board. I've been writing this blog, The Madville Times, for a couple years now. I've always had a keen interest in education. You'll find a lot of posts about education here, and I'm sure I'll write some more as the election approaches. Your questions and comments are welcome on any of them*.

But here's an open post for anyone with any questions or comments about our school district and the school board election. Use the comments link at the bottom of this post to...

  1. Ask me where I stand on a particular education issue;
  2. Tell me where you think I should stand on a particular education issue;
  3. Ask about, propose, and discuss goals and directions for the Madison Central School District in the coming years.

And hey, it's not just about me. Jay, Paul, Tammy Jo -- everybody's welcome here. Students, teachers, taxpayers, voters, jump on in!

Your input, your inquiries, your inspirations: add them to the conversation! Let's talk and test ideas and set the course for the future of the Madison Central School District.

Update 2008.03.13: Chuck Clement of the Madison Daily Leader has sent out the following questionnaire to the four school board candidates:

  1. The Madison Central School Board is currently reviewing its trimester schedule. Do you feel the district should continue with class schedules in this format, or should scheduling change to a semester format?
  2. A committee proposed the construction of a new gymnasium at the high school in 2007. The voters rejected funding plans for this project. Do you feel a new gym is necessary for the district? If not, why? If so, how would funding be accomplished?
  3. The state will require mandatory kindergarten by 2010. What are your thoughts on districts eventually being required to offer preschool as a mandatory requirement?
  4. A Sioux Falls elementary school recently proposed teaching Spanish as the primary language to children in elementary classes [actually an elementary foreign language immersion program at Rosa Parks Elementary]. Is this something you would advocate for the Madison school district?
  5. Do you feel there's a need to change the district's current disciplinary policy [see MHS Student Handbook, MMS Student Handbook, Elementary Student Handbook, District Policy Manual]? If so where?
  6. The newest challenge facing the Madison Central School District, and surrounding districts for that matter, is finding the necessary funding to sustain the AIM High alternative school. This program has historically been partially funded by the South Dakota Department of Labor, but that agency recently announced that funding is being pulled for the next fiscal year. With budgets being an ever-pressing concern, how will districts find the resources to fully fund this program?

MDL plans to publish the candidates' responses the week of the 24th. I'm preparing my answers -- what are yours? Where do you voters stand on these questions? And are there any big questions Clement has missed?

*Comments are open to everyone. Really. I will not delete your comment just because you disagree with me or encourage people to vote for someone else. But the standard Madville Times rules of engagement apply. Be vocal, be passionate, and be neighborly.


  1. Why would you want to get on the board when you were fired while a teacher from the Madison High School? It seems like their is an ax to grind or at least it would be hard to keep that off your mind.

  2. Laura Beesley, Columbia, SC3/01/2008 7:28 AM

    That's because Cory shouldn't ever have BEEN fired. He was the best teacher I ever HAD at that school.

    ...any teacher who knows the physical definition and the proper execution of the term "frolic" is DEFINITELY an instant favorite for me.

  3. In response to anonymous:

    During my many years of service to this nation I have come to understand that an individual who suggests that another individual would committ an immoral act, without any evidence, merely shows what the accuser would do if they found themselves in a similiar situation.

    Cory is an honorable man. He will take an oath to be impartial in board actions and I know, that as an honorable man,he will live by that oath.

    Oh yeah Cory, I'll donate to a fund for you to buy a copy of that report too.

    Joesph G.Thompson

  4. Fred Deutsch3/01/2008 10:24 AM

    Cory, what's your position on the development of "voluntary" pre-k standards by the state of South Dakota? Why?

    Fred Deutsch
    Nat'l School Board Pre-K Committee
    Watertown, SD

  5. joe "where's my laptop?" nelson3/01/2008 10:28 AM

    I have a number of questions in regards to you being on the school board:
    How much influence/sway would you have over curriculum?
    What is your stance on homeschooled children using public school utilities i.e. band/choir/pool/track?
    What do you think should be taught in regards to sexual education?
    Will you push for more funding for the academic extra-curricular activites, such as Drama/Speech/Debate, even if doing so pulls from the athletic fund?
    Would you support taking funds from ALL ectra-curricular activities to put towards education?
    How will you get teachers' pay increased?
    Should the Madison high school offer programs that would allow homeschoolers to graduate with a diploma?
    Will you support mandatory kindergarten?
    To what degree would you have DSU's involvement in regards to taking college classes while in high school? Would you support the school having such programs?
    Will you help establish a vegatarian alternative at all grade levels?
    Do you support mandatory foreign language classes at earlier grade levels e.g. K-3?
    Would you push to get pop machines removed from schools?
    How would you change dicsiplinary policies to be more effective?
    Thank you for your time, I look forward to your responses.
    Very Respectfully
    SPC Joseph Nelson

  6. Thanks, Laura and Joseph! Anon 7:05, all I can say is I'm too busy to grind axes.

    Pre-K standards -- good question, Fred! Some other bloggers followed SB 26, this year's bill on pre-K standards that the House Education committee killed, more closely than I did. In general, I think I would have been o.k. with it, as it laid out guidelines without making preschool mandatory.

    Obviously, Fred, you've worked on this topic. What did the standards entail? What kind of standards are good for preschoolers? My wife Erin was reading a book a couple weeks ago that said pre-school standards shouldn't be like No Child Left Behind standards. All kids, but especially the really little ones, need freedom to play, explore, and learn at their own pace. They also just need good folks to love 'em. If pre-K standards start turning into testing and too much regimentation, then we've got problems -- or so this book suggested (and my gut tells me its right). What do you think?

  7. Thanks too, Joseph T., on offering to help with the report! Hang onto that cash -- I think we can get one for free!

  8. And SPC Nelson -- holy cow! Save some questions for everyone else! :-)

    But, since you asked, here are some short answers:

    "influence/sway over curriculum?" -- darn little: I'd rather let the teachers we hire figure out the best material to use to meet the state standards

    "homeschooled children using public school utilities i.e. band/choir/pool/track?"
    -- Their folks pay taxes too. Let's accommodate as best we can.

    "sexual education?"
    --We've got to pick the right age, but kids need to know how things work and how to keep out of trouble.

    "more funding for the academic extra-curricular activites, such as Drama/Speech/Debate, even if doing so pulls from the athletic fund?"
    --You're going to hear me say this a lot: my goal is -- and the board's goal should be -- to maintain and expand opportunities for students. I will push for support for more opportunities that help kids learn, express themselves, and expand their horizons. But setting out to take away from certain programs to give to others is a bad idea.

    "Would you support taking funds from ALL ectra-curricular activities to put towards education?"
    --I hope we're not at that tight a point in our budget. Extra-curriculars don't take a big chunk out of the budget -- like a single-digit percent, I think? Anyone have that number handy? We get a lot of educational bang for the buck from extra-curriculars; if we need to make cuts, I'd look elsewhere first.

    (By the way, Madison Central has already done a lot of budget cutting in recent years.)

    "get teachers' pay increased?"
    --wishing and hoping? Madison's actually in the top 20 statewide for average pay.

    "offer programs that would allow homeschoolers to graduate with a diploma?"
    --explain: you mean arrange it so they can have a signed MHS diploma instead of a GED? How's that work now?

    "mandatory kindergarten?"
    --it's coming, effective 2010 (SDCL 13-27-1)

    "DSU... college classes while in high school?"
    --heck of an idea. I did it my senior year (DSU Calc I & II!). If kids want the challenge, let's do it!

    "vegatarian alternative at all grade levels?"
    --I need to look at the menu, see what we're offering now. How about a community garden/FFA/biology/public service tie-in for the kids? Suggestions?

    "mandatory foreign language classes at earlier grade levels?"
    --Wish we could -- but, elementary teachers, is there room in your curriculum for that? Does NCLB leave room?

    "pop machines removed from schools?"
    --not high on my priority list, though water was good enough when I was a student at MHS...

    "change dicsiplinary policies to be more effective?"
    --before I answer, let's ask: are the disciplinary policies effective?

  9. You've got my vote, Cory. I agree with pretty much all your stances.

    I think we were told at one time that extracurriculars take a little over 4% of the budget, or maybe it was around 2%, when the opt outs were going on. I'd have to dig back thru my old files to find that now. I do think it takes considerably more than under 1%, especially considering the teacher time/pay, facilties, uniforms, uniform cleaning, instruments, bus wear and tear, gas money, buildings and upkeep, etc. devoted to them. Not to say extracuriculars aren't important, but I would like to see them not taxpayer funded but supported by those who participate in them. I know that brings up a lot of other points, but I doubt that a "free public education" was ever meant to include all the expenses now associated with the extracurriculars. Actual education is getting more and more expensive with technology, and the first priority of scarce tax monies should be academics.

    I don't want pre-K standards, which would most likely be followed by schools being mandated to offer free pre-K, maybe followed by mandating parents to send kids to pre-K. Kids needs to be kids for at least a part of their young lives, and parents needs to be responsible for their care (babysitting, daycare, or staying home with them) during that time, not gov't funded pre-K programs.

    Where do you stand on the new gym when (not if) it gets brought back up? I actually thought it was a good layout etc, but expecting only certain taxpayers to fund it was what killed it IMO. How would you favor paying for it?


  10. Hi, Nonnie!
    "Actual education is getting more and more expensive with technology, and the first priority of scarce tax monies should be academics."

    Absolutely. But if we have extracurriculars that support academics (consider the student brain power at work at the State Debate Tournament, which I judged this weekend), and if those activities only cost a tiny fraction of the total budget, we should do all we can to keep them.

    Pre-K: I've heard folks express that fear of increasing gov't control over raising kids. I agree parents should have as much time with their kids. Of course, in an economy that almost requires two incomes, that's awfully hard for folks to do.

    New gym? Talk about that project died last April. I offered my Plan B last April, but no one sounded interested. Does anyone foresee another campaign for a gym?

  11. joe "teach them Latin" nelson3/02/2008 1:29 PM

    In regards ro a diploma, perhaps the MHGS would setup a list of criteria that homechooled kids would need to meet in order to get a diploma from MHS, including vigilant an consistent reporting by the homeschoolers with someone at MHS, possibly the guidance counselor? Those parents are paying taxes too, and I think thta if their children can meet the standards of MHS, there should be some sort of program for them, especially if the kids are invovled in extra-curricula activites with MHS.
    And just so we both know, I know squat about MHS, programs offered, etc...

  12. I wonder if there's any demand from the area homeschooling parents for a program like that.

  13. Homeschoolers earn a "Home School Diploma" -- I believe that's what it says on it. It's a very attractive looking diploma. In my humble opinion, it makes no sense to allow them or any student the opportunity to recieve a diploma from a high school the individual doesn't attent. If you were to allow it, think of the problems it could present in our state with our open enrollment laws. Students could attend classes in district X, or at home, and shortly before graduation request a transfer to district Y in order to recieve a Y distrcit diploma. Doesn't seem like good policy to me.

  14. And homeschool kids don't seem to have any problem getting into Harvard and other big colleges. I guess I don't know either what the motivation would be to have a diploma from a school you didn't attend.

  15. Laura Beesley3/03/2008 5:42 AM

    I have several teenagers down here who are homeschooled, and they've had no problems applying to colleges as far as I can tell. They're underdeveloped socially, but intelligence-wise they're just as well-off.

    Although, I do agree with Fred on the issue of diplomas for homeschoolers. If you do not attend a high school, then you should not be entitled to a diploma from that high school and should be subject to the GED exam.

  16. What do you believe are the most significant challanges in your school district? What would you like to see done to adsress these?

  17. Thanks for the good question, Fred! Significant challenges...

    --One new issue is finding a way to sustain AIM High, our alternative HS, now that the SD Dept. of Labor says it will stop funding alternative school programs next year. Supt. Schaefer says we'll need to share resources with other schools to keep the program going, and with the 2007 law that raised the drop-out age from 16 to 18, we'll need to.

    On the downside, that means we'll need to find more money to support the program. On the upside, it's a good opportunity for us (and our partners from surrounding schools!) to review the program, identify the strengths, and address any weaknesses.

    --The high school is reviewing its trimester schedule. My classroom experience inclines me toward the standard semester system, and I've seen some research saying alternative schedules haven't produced any clear advantages in academic achievement. Still, a schedule change is a fairly big deal, and we should only do it if we can find evidence that it will do some good, not just not do harm. The study committee should look at data from our own school and our neighbors (like Watertown, with its block schedule!), as well as the published research. It should also ask the kids, the teachers, and the parents what they want and factor that into the decision.

    --Teacher pay and benefits: There's an issue that never goes away! The last stats I saw said Madison is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the state, but we're in a mobile economy. Two veteran teachers moved to Minnesota last year, and new university graduates have a lot of options that pay better than teaching here. And health insurance costs are going up. I don't have a quick answer on how we find the money to keep our competitive advantage, but it's a challenge every board member needs to be on top of.

    --Renovating the high school is a much-needed part of our capital improvement plan. I don't know how close we are to turning that plan into action, but it will take up a chunk of the capital outlay budget and reduce the wiggle room we have to cover other projects. I'd agree that, of the many projects we can engage in, work on the high school deserves first priority.

    --Technology: gotta have it! Kids need to know how to make the most of the Internet and other computer whizbangery for school, work, and lifelong learning. There's always a tension between the interests of Info Tech (IT) management and educational practice. IT wants control; teachers and students want freedom. Finding the balance takes cooperation.

    MHS had a brief dust-up over students violating security rules last October, and that resulted in some tighter security. Still, I think there are are some areas where we would serve education by lossening restrictions on computer use at school. Specifically, students and teachers would benefit from some looser Internet filter rules. Samantha Walder up at Deuel HS is doing a great job of putting blogs and wikis to work in her classroom. I used blogs at Montrose as a quick way for students to submit journalism articles and English papers and to cooperate on writing debate cases. Services like Google Docs are great (and free!) tools for kids, teachers, coaches, and everyone else to exchange information and collaborate on projects. At Madison, students and teachers have told me they can't even log onto this blog to read and engage in this conversation. These tools should be available to everyone on the school network; the small risks in security are well-outweighed by the gains in learning and productivity.

    That's five challenges, and I know it's only the tip of the iceberg. School board members can't be single-issue people. You've got to know a little bit of everything (or at least know who to seek out and listen to to learn!).

    So what other challenges does the school district face?

  18. A few things.

    First, one veteran teacher who moved last year did so because he was following his wife who had gotten a great job in Minnesota. If she hadn't, he would probably be here yet. So higher wages in MN was not the reason he left, or at least not sole one.

    And as you stated and I read somewhere else, Madison is in the top 20% of wages for teachesrs in the state. There are teachers in surrounding districts that would love to be able to get into Madison to teach just for this reason. And with the incentives for staying in Madison, getting further education, etc, many teachers make more great wages in Madison. And get summers off!!

    As far as the capital outlay fund is concerned, it's Christmas time and birthdays all rolled into one for that fund. With increasing valuations and the 3% mil levy not adjusting, that fund is racking in the dollars. And as soon as the middle school is paid off, at least according to what we learned during the gym fiasco, the next thing on the agenda was remodeling the high school. That was the reason given why capital outlay funds couldn't be used for a new gym. Actually, we could probably do some of both with that fund since it has limited uses that are allowed (building, maintenance, some computer stuff).

    Maybe the capital outlay funds should be tapped for increasing teacher salaries in some way. After all, that is where the real money is right now.

    Regarding trimester scheduling, I haven't heard any kids or parents who like it.
    --It lessens the the opportunities for kids involved in extracurricular.
    --We are the only school in the state with trimesters, making it hard for kids who transfer in or out.
    --We are the only school in the state with trimesters. If they are so wonderful and more beneficial, why aren't more schools choosing this?
    --Kids end up having to take a hard class (math or science) the first trimester, but can't take the next trimester of the same subject until the third trimester. An entire trimester break is NOT a good way to learn these subjects.

    And of note, a respected recently retired teacher from MHS stated that although supposedly people are addressing this trimester issue, actually nothing is being done. Be honest. If nothing is being done, don't say it is. People don't trust a lot of things coming from the school board/administration, and this just proves it again.


  19. Regading AIM High, I always thought that was a good thing for certain kids. An investment and they will in turn pay it back with better jobs and more taxes into the system later. And now with forcing kids to stay in school until age 18, this type of education has to be available as an alternative for some kids.

    So the state mandates that kids be in school until age 18. But in the next breath it says it won't fund AIM High type education? I guess I kinda missed that in following the legislature this year. But I'm going to contact Sutton, Olson, and Gassman on this one!


  20. An anonymous commenter asks about truancy and homeschooling (don't forget, folks: please post your name with your comments -- thanks!).

    I haven't heard of any problems locally with homeschoolers keeping up their end of the deal. My impression is that the Christian school has perhaps reduced the number of homeschoolers (anyone have numbers on that?). Those folks who are homeschooling appear to be doing their job fine.

    The anonymous commenter makes a good point that the school district still has an obligation to make sure homeschool kids are getting a good education. Still, if parents are doing homeschool right, school districts shouldn't get in the way of that good education.

    Local homeschoolers, what do you think? How are your relations with the school district?

  21. Nonnie -- good points on trimesters! The board says they're studying it... although as we noted earlier, that study was long overdue.

    Teacher pay -- again, you're right that Madison is at the upper end, and yes, Mr. Garry left because his wife got a better job in MN. But that's still a market force that we've got to compete with.

  22. Actually it was me commenting on home schooling. I have nothing against it if done competently and if the kids are learning. In fact, sometimes it is the best way to go.

    However, I have a situation where this is questionable, and it's a family situation so touchy to do anything about. I just wondered what recourse people have if they know of such a situation and want to ensure the kids are getting what they deserve in the way of education, while reamining anonymous with said complaint in the interest of preserving family relations.


  23. Thanks, Nonnie. You're right -- that is a sensitive situation. I'm not sure what recourse is available to folks outside the home who think homeschool parents aren't getting the job done. Suggestions, anyone?

  24. The power to investigate home school violations rests with the Sec of Education. You can report suspected violations to your local superintendent who will then report to the Ed Sec, or report directly to the sec's office. Home schoolers have lots of rights and you should have decent proof of your concerns.

  25. There are some things that bother me about your quest for school board. According to the archives of the Madison Daily Leader, you were verbal and physical with a student and that is why you were fired. Those are your words from the articles which are on their website. That alone would make me suspect of your reasoning for wanting to be a leader of our district when you have a violent past and according to the articles, you were ordered to have a psychological evaluation. That also would make me uncomfortable with your candidacy. You probably won't allow this on your sight, but this is what people are asking about. Steve H

  26. Steve H, even though I still don't know which Steve you are and would appreciate your full name, I'll leave your question up and answer it.

    Everything you mentioned is part of the public record. Yes, the board did fire me in 2001 over the incident described in the press. I subbed that spring at Rutland HS, and as you've likely seen from my résumé, I went to work for Montrose HS, where I taught and coached for five years.

    I welcome you to contact any of my past employers, coworkers, students, etc. They'll give you their opinion, and you'll make up your mind as to whether you trust me to do a good job for you on your school board.

    But if you'll do me the pleasure of introducing yourself, I'll look you in the eye, shake your hand, and make you this promise: If you'll elect me to the school board, I will always act in the best interest of our students, our teachers, and our school. Period. That's what it's about.

    If you have any other questions on this issue, there's a link above the comment box for contacting me privately by e-mail. I'm holding a couple public meetings -- the first will be Tuesday, March 18, 10:30 a.m., at the Madison Public Library. I'm looking to schedule another public meeting some following evening. I'm also in the book: 256-4737. We could even meet at Dairy Queen or F&M and talk about it over coffee. Bring your questions, bring your friends.

    (By the way: I passed the psych evaluation just fine. I've been accused of having some crazy ideas, but I'm probably as stable as anyone else around here. Ask my wife. She's a pretty good judge of such things.)

  27. Nonnie mentioned the trimester and efforts to change to a semester system. My information in the high school is that the school board is pushing for the change but the HS principal is opposed and has said so in public meetings. So, while Nonnie says, "supposedly people are addressing this trimester issue, actually nothing is being done", actually it sounds like the board was not happy with the principal's report and are asking for a wider opinion from other buildings, teachers, and public volunteers. It appears they want the trimester changed to align with surrounding schools and DSU, which makes sense. Why be a white elephant?

  28. "Why be a white elephant?" I'm not afraid of marching to a different drummer. When I was at Montrose, I didn't like the fact that we changed our school calendar to align with that of the other schools in our co-op. What ever happened to local control? I wondered.

    But Montrose changed its calendar to align with its neighbors so DDN classes would work better. Even I can recognize that being different isn't worth missing out on good learning opportunities. I'm willing to wait to see what the study group finds out (hey, does anyone know who's on that group, or if they've started workking yet?), but it doesn't sound like anyone will miss the trimester system if we eliminate it.

    Of course, whoever comments next could prove me wrong....

    Nonnie mentioned the trimester and efforts to change to a semester system. My information in the high school is that the school board is pushing for the change but the HS principal is opposed and has said so in public meetings. So, while Nonnie says, "supposedly people are addressing this trimester issue, actually nothing is being done", actually it sounds like the board was not happy with the principal's report and are asking for a wider opinion from other buildings, teachers, and public volunteers. It appears they want the trimester changed to align with surrounding schools and DSU, which makes sense. Why be a white elephant?

  29. Cory, I would like to see you on the school board. I think we need somebody there to take some direction, somebody that is willing to state what they believe and not follow everybody else. Besides that I think there are too many boards members.

    To me it seems that they would go and hid behind one another on certain decisions that are made. What I mean by this is, "I am only one vote on the board. Others didn't feel the same way I did." To me this is a way out.

    Cory I know that you will take it by the horns and get the correct answers. I also know that you are not in this to grind an axe with others. Whatever happened, happened and nobody should step in your way to make Madison School District a better place. I am with you.

    Cory for school board...

  30. I too will vote for you, Cory. And we will try to get in to one of your meet and greet sessions.

    It will be refreshing to have someone on the board again who is not afraid to state his opinion and who will go out of his way to do his own research etc.

    One thing that has been mentioned by folks who go to the school board meetings is that it seems like some things have been discussed between the board members before the meeting, which is not supposed to happen. This feeling is because during the meetings hardly any discussion goes on among the board members on some issues before voting. Just wondering?

    A big question I guess in my mind is how you would vote on a bond issue of say $3M to renovate the high school snd gym immedately, vs waiting until there are adequate funds in capital outlay.

    Would you be willing to post the amounts generated in the capital outlay fund for the last 10-12 years? We have gotten those figures before from the county auditor, but these figures should be published publically somwhere (like the MDL) so that people can see exactly how much money is generated for this fund each year, especially now that broad hints are out there about another bond issue.

    Valuations have risen even faster than expected, resulting in more money in capital outlay, and people need to be shown this. Most people don't even know there are two school funds, much less how they work etc. We didn't until the whole opt out issues started years ago and we educated ourselves as much as we could.



  31. What are the reasons the principal doesn't want to get rid of trimesters? Anything more substantial than it would be more work to rearrange the schedule again? He needs to have some substantial reasons and make them public, because any parent/student I have talked does not like them, for many good reasons. And the students are the reason for education in the first place. Seems they should be listened too with more credence than in the past.

  32. We can't go wrong living within our means. I'm inclined to believe the high school needs some work. The office, bathrooms, and auditorium all have issues. But are the repairs/redos so urgent that we need to jump the queue and pass a bond issue to fix them all right now? I don't like debt, and if we can avoid borrowing or bonding to make projects happen, we should.

    And even if someone can make the case that at least some elements of the high school renvoation are so urgent that we can't wait, that's no reason for us to get spend happy and start tacking on everyone's favorite pet projects, like expanding the gym. Spending one or two million is not a green light to spend three or four million. Tacking the gym expansion onto the high school renovation is kind of like the earmarking they do in Washington, when they tack some Senator's bridge project onto a defense spending bill just so more people feel compelled to vote for it. Let's keep the high school renovation and gym expansion separate and vote each up or down on its own merits.

  33. Trimesters: I haven't gotten to talk to Principal Knowlton, so I don't know exactly what her reasons are for wanting to stick with trimesters. Her number at the school is 256-7706; you could also e-mail her and ask her.

    I haven't heard who's been appointed to the trimester study committee -- anyone know? Those folks will be the best ones to give input to at this point. But I have yet to hear anyone chime in with a really passionate argument in favor of trimesters.

  34. I would like to address the points you asked for comments on.

    1. The trimesters seem to hurt band and other extra circulars. They make leaving or entering MHS difficult for students. They apparently do not work well with courses taken from the college. The do not provide continuity for all classes requiring breaks between sections. It appears that students who learn quickly may have no problem with the pace of trimesters but other students do, making it harder for them. If other schools felt the trimesters were worthwhile, more schools would be using them. All things considered, get rid of the trimesters and return to a semester basis.
    2. The new gym is not needed at this time. Students are not prevented from engaging in any sports at this time by lack of gym space. It might be nicer for spectators, but the purpose of school is not entertainment but education. If a new gym is to be built, those desiring it should come up with the cash in some manner. The valuations in the school district are steadily rising and the capital outlay tax goes up every year. During the 06-07 year a total of $1,402,544 was received, up from $894,405 in 02-03 year. The capital outlay fund increases at the rate of about $120,000 to $150,000 per year. So in time there will be money from the capital outlay fund to do something if needed. One point that comes up, Cory, is why did capital outlay expenses in 06-07 suddenly go up by several hundred thousand dollars? Was that all computers or something else?
    3. Mandatory preschool. I question taking on added espense when we have problems funding K-12 education now. It is my understanding that preschool shows improvements for students initially but by age 12 or 13 there seems to be little difference shown. Generally you can find a study to support any position. Approval of standards for preschool would require money to enforce and would lead to mandatory preschool in time. So I'm against mandatory preschool or state standards; leave it up to the parents.
    4. I think there are problems with total immersion in a foriegn language at an early age; it may be a problem for many children. I do favor learning a foreign language but not at the expense of learning in English also. At this time the cost would not be worth the benifit of change. To learn a language and not use it means you quickly lose it and in this area that is likely to happen, particularly for grade schoolers.

    5. Discipline policy. If you have a policy make it simple, understandable, and enforce it. Don't put rules on the books just to say we got one of those. A rule should be enforced for all students not just those who are not the best at sports, are not the favorites, or whose parents wouldn't make a problem. So keep it simple, keep it fair, and whatever you have, enforce it.

    6. Aim High is important, far more important than nonacademic things. Some students can learn but not in a regular school situation for many many reasons. Aim High gives them a way to get an education. The cost is not high and we need to find a way to support it.

    A few general commnts: It was a mistake to require students to stay in school until they are 18. If they don't want to be there, they cause problems for those who do. The other thing I haven't heard is what is the enforcement mechanism. It sounds to me like another "we got one of those type laws." I am concerned about the high number of students that go from Madison HS to college or voc school and need remdial math and English. The number has reduced in the last few years but it is way too high. No matter how much money there is for education, no one will say it is enough and as seen by results in Washington DC schools, lots of money still doesn't mean a good education. Do the best you can with what you have and sometimes that means thinking outside the box. I think some teacher and administration turnover is good. New people, new ideas, change is inevitable.

    Cory, you would make some decisions I would support and some I would not, but I think you would be active, open, interested, knowledgeable, and in short would not just sit there, would be engaged, and we would know you were there and doing something.


  35. I think the discussion about trimesters is interesting and I'd like to hear a little more about your views when you have a chance Cory. I will say that I appear to be in the minority favoring the trimester system. I was a student at MHS at the time of the change-over, so I experienced it both ways.

    I was initially against trimesters, but after actually experiencing the difference, I came to believe it was a better system. It gave me more time to work on projects in class and more time to ask teachers questions if need be. Also, for classes like physics, it was great to have a little extra time to do better experiments.

    I can see why people don't like to idea of have a two part class with a trimester long break between the halves, but it wasn't much of issue with me as a student. I also think it can be good to learn to sit still for longer than 50 minutes. When these students go to college, a once a week class can last almost three hours. So being in class for an hour and 15 minutes shouldn't be too bad.


  36. Thanks for the firsthand insight, BH! The board's trimester study panel should make sure it seeks out the perspective of alums like you who've been through the system, not just current students and parents.

    I agree with you, BH: the trimester schedule does better accommodate longer one-day projects. But it also puts a time crunch on longer-term projects. In my Comp IIA class at Madison and my Comp III class at Montrose, I had students do a "Big Book Paper": pick a big non-fiction book, read it, let me interview you about it, then write a big paper about the book and how it relates to anything else. At Madison, students and I had 12 weeks to work on the project; at Montrose, 18 weeks. Granted, many kids under both the trimester and the semester system left their papers until the last week, but ideally, the semester system gives students six more weeks to work on this project.

    But note: the Big Book Paper wasn't impossible under the trimester; it just required adjustments.

    I'm still leaning against the trimester: it appears to get in the way of music and other electives, and it doesn't fit well with other academic calendars. But find me enough students who can speak positively from firsthand experience about the trimester system, like BH, and I can change my mind.

  37. The trimester is causing problems for students who transfer to MHS from other districts, both far away and local districts.

    If we expect to be open to those transfers, we need to be willing to be user-friendly.

    Kids are using a semester block in the Middle School, so why not duplicate their system in the High School. It might allow some kids to take coursework at DSU too.

    The main reason I hear for keeping the tri is so teachers keep their longer planning period each day as they get 72 minutes open each day plus lunch under the tri.


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