March 22 school board meeting features presentation from David Bowen

BY ELI FRANK —

David Bowen, Democratic state Assemblyman from Milwaukee, attended the March 22 school board meeting, where he give a presentation on the current state of Wisconsin public education to inform the board’s legislative advocacy focus.

Bowen touched on issues of decreased funding of public schools, increased funding for incarceration and punitive practices, as well as the connection between poverty and achievement, and presented opportunities to ameliorate these issues. Legislative efforts like the Fair Funding Finance Proposal and Voucher Accountability bill are specific options, as well as Bowen and State Senator Chris Larson’s Restore Chapter 220 (AB 990) bill. Bowen also has a number of bills he’s working on to expand access to advanced placement, alternatives to suspension and expulsion and transportation grants for after school activities.

With the help of the board and the district, as well as other Wisconsin school districts, Bowen believes real change can be achieved. Bowen also stressed that it is up to more affluent districts like Shorewood to lead the way in innovative solutions to the problems in public education.

Strong partnerships between boards and legislators are key to achieving change in the best interest of our district, and something both the board and Bowen expressed commitment to.

Angela McManaman, president of Parents for Public Schools, followed up Bowen’s presentation with her own, focusing on models for parent advocacy within the district. This is another dimension of the board’s focus on legislative advocacy, and one step in an effort to hear the views of parents within the district.

“Parent advocacy can work,” McManaman said, stressing that it depends on the organization and dedication of parents involved.

According to McManaman, in her experience, parent advocacy groups work best in smaller, close-knit districts like Shorewood. Going forward, there are a number of options for parent advocacy groups: one being an independent entity, although McManaman warned this can lead to difficulties when starting up and working to build connections and momentum, and another being becoming part of a larger network of parent advocacy groups, like a chapter of Parents for Public Schools, which also has a national presence and institutional connections.

“Take the temperature of your group … and find out what you can support,” McManaman said.

Her presentation will be a factor in the board’s continued exploration of different parent advocacy models.

Dr. Bryan Davis, superintendent, reported back on the meeting that took place earlier this month between himself and the administrative team.

Following the Shorewood Schools Summit in February, the administrative team met to lay out those results and begin working to incorporate them into district policy.

“By the end of the school year, we’ll be able to come to the board with a really solid draft,” Davis said.

Board members reported back on a number of linkages that took place since the last school board meeting.
At the Lake Bluff PTO linkage, which was attended by Paru Shah, board president, discussion focused on themes from the Summit and suggestions for authentic learning opportunities and intergenerational connections were shared. Discussion also focused on class size and open enrollment, with the suggestion of a public forum to discuss these issues sometime after an enrollment study is released at the end of the summer.

Davis reported on the special education linkage, where discussion centered on Summit themes of mindfullness and how to include that in the strategic planning process, as well as college readiness and transition preparation, especially for special education and English learner children.

The SHS PTO linkage took place on March 14 and was attended by Joanne Lipo Zovic, board member, who reported back. Here also discussion focused on Summit themes and changes in linkage communication was suggested. This board looks to address these concerns in next year’s communication plan.

Ruth Treisman, board treasurer, attended the athletic boosters linkage, where attendees expressed concern with the district’s approach to facilities planning, stressing a need for a “less reactive and more proactive” approach.

Limited term teacher contracts for Anne Connolly and Patrick Sullivan and the contract of Brenda Rowland, business office manager, were also approved.

The full agenda of the March 22 meeting can be found here.

The Milestones linkage meets at the City Market on Monday, March 28 at 11:30 A.M. The next board meeting is Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 P.M. in the SHS library.

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