The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Maywood School

Long live Las Tortugas

In case you missed it, the school district is looking to strike a deal to rent out Maywood to Nuestro Mundo charter school. It is a six year lease that nets the district $165,000 annually, plus 5 spots would be reserved for MG kids in each grade.

Nuestro Mundo offers dual instruction in Spanish and English. The school currently enrolls about 270 students in grades K-5.

Here are details:

The deal offers some ramifications within the school district. It makes selling Nichols less of an alternative since you would have to find homes for the district offices plus the MG21 charter school – both of which are currently housed in Nichols. With Maywood occupied, you have one less alternative location to move either group.

The move does provide some financial relief for the district. $165,000 is nothing to sneeze at – and the money would come in each year – not just a one time payment. The district needs the financial relief now. Any consideration of selling Maywood or Nichols for development would take years to happen.

Maywood makes mistake of showing ‘Taps’ on last day school

Maywood School, the beloved institution of several generations of Monona kids, closed tragically when students went crazy after watching the film ‘Taps’, starring Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise.

The 1981 film depicts the takeover of a military academy by cadets after they find out the school is going to be closed.

Apparently inspired by the film, K-2 students rebelled, seizing control of the school and sending adults out the front door.

The takeover was reportedly led by 2nd grader Brian Moreland, along with 1st grader Maria Lopez.

Reports are hazy as to the chain of events, but apparently the students were swept up in a sort of mass hysteria after watching the film.

“After the movie they just started acting crazy,” said principal Ann Schroeder. “We tried time outs, but nothing worked.”

“And then they got into the juice,” said a teacher, who wished to remain anonymous.

Some students, in the initial chaos of the events, broke into the kitchen and liberated dozens of cartons of juice boxes, passing them to the rest of the kids. In the sugar-induced frenzy that followed, the students broke into Groundskeeper Willie’s shed, getting hold of dozens of weapons, including pistols, rifles and machine guns. The combination of a sugar, guns and Hollywood mind manipulation sent the kids over the edge and the take over was on.

“They came to my room and told me to leave now,” said another teacher. “I wasn’t going to argue since they had a machine gun. The only thing I had was the Glock I keep in my desk drawer.”

As word of the armed take over spread, police from six different communities arrived, blocking off the area and surrounding the now besieged school.

2nd grader Brian Moreland delivered a crayon-written statement to authorities, demanding that Maywood be kept open indefinitely. He said the children were prepared to hold out in the school as long as it took, and that they would fight back if any actions were taken to wrest control of Maywood from them.

‘Stop coprat terany!!!’ said one of several notes sent by the rebellious students.

Police attempted to talk students into surrendering, bringing forth several parents to plead and threaten via a bullhorn.

“I’ll kick your ass, you punk,” shouted Manny Davenport to this son, Robert. Robert replied with an obscene gesture and went back to his juice box.

“Maywood forever,” shouted some other kids.

The standoff ended peacefully after the kids came down from their sugar rush and began a collective nap. Authorities swooped in and sent the sleeping kids home with their parents, concluding the drama without further incident.

With the crisis under control, questions are now being asked about whose bright idea it was to show ‘Taps’ to the children. Maywood teachers remain quiet on the subject, only say, “Hey, it was rated ‘R’.”

School authorities said that vandalism was minimal, and aside from the juice box raid and all the frozen treats, nothing else was taken.

Proposal to change Maywood School name to ‘Little Gem of a School’

The Little Gem of a School Turtle

In an effort to shame people into calling for the closing of Maywood School, an effort is underway to change the school name to ‘Little Gem of a School’.

By doing so supporters of Maywood want to force those who want to close the beloved school to be afraid of saying things like, ‘I want to close the Little Gem of a School in Monona.’

“Who wants to close a little gem,” said one Maywood supporter. “Only a cold-hearted bastard would close a little gem.”

Another supporter said forcing everyone to call Maywood a ‘little gem of school’ will make them realize how special the school is.

Others are skeptical of the move, including one board member, who said she’ll simply call it ‘The school formerly known as Maywood.’

Upon hearing the news, several children cried at the evilness of the speaker.

Maywood of the future

The recent vote to keep Maywood open is just life support. People can’t forget that. It will be too expensive to keep Maywood open as long as K-5 fits comfortably within the wall of Winnequah School. So, how do we keep Maywood open beyond 2010-11?

I see two options.

First, you can make it so that K-5 doesn’t fit in Winnequah, meaning you have to keep Maywood open. How do we do that? One way is to move 6-8 back to Monona – but this isn’t going to happen. The cost is over a $1 million according to the district’s study. And that doesn’t include the year-to-year costs it would take to run two 6-8 programs in the district. It’s simply isn’t going to pass muster with the board or the district. The second way is the charter school idea that is being floated around by Mayer Kahl and supporters of the option. This would return 6-8 to Monona – but as a charter school focusing on environmental studies. The beauty of this is that it is open to all district kids – not just Monona, but the Cottage Grove students. That way, if they have interest in those fields, they can attend the charter school. Students from Monona who want the special programming at Glacial Drumlin – such as music – could attend there. It would offer the district a truly unique selling point. The expansion of the Aldo Leopold Center really makes this an attractive option. It would also satisfy the Monona parents who prefer their kids to stay in the city. It gives all the kids of the district an educational opportunity. The sticking point is – of course – money. No one has really floated a number. There are some federal grants available, so perhaps that could help get things started. But we remain skeptical until someone shows us the sticker price – and how to pay it.

The second way to keep Maywood open – without moving 6-8 back to Monona from Glacial Drumlin – would be to show evidence that K-2 children are better off being left in their own environment – as opposed to being mixed with 3rd to 5th graders. Is this possible? Don’t know. Perhaps there are studies out there that show this. The district teachers argued there would be no difference (of course, some argue they said this to help keep their jobs). Perhaps they are right. It would be nice to have some evidence of either argument. But if evidence shows that keeping k-2 in their own building is an educational advantage – then we can argue that it’s worth the money. After all, we’d be doing ‘what’s right for the kids’ (I say that with sarcasm in my voice because this same statement came out over and over from people with regard to moving the 6th graders to Glacial Drumlin. It would be nice to hand it back, but hey, we digress).

But what if you can’t show having a separate environment for K-2 is better for the kids? I’d say Maywood is out of luck. As much as we all love the school, the coziness, the quaint little chairs, the lack of psychopathic older kids, the ‘safeness’ one feels – all that won’t mean much when we are a million dollars in debt every year.

I think delaying the Maywood closure a year was fair. It gives parents time to find out what their options really are (as opposed to only a few weeks). People can find the research they really need. People can examine alternatives like the charter school to fill Winnequah. And most of all, it gives people the time to come to grips with the fact that Maywood might be closing. It’s not something we want to admit, but if there’s no hope of filling 6-8 grade at Winnequah, and there’s no evidence that the K-2 grades gain educationally by having a separate school from the 3-5 grades, then it’s hard to keep Maywood open. The board will, sooner or later, put it on the block and not take it away.

Despite all the warm and fuzzy feelings that Maywood brings, economic reality will catch up. At that time, it’ll be hard to justify keeping the school open unless there’s a good reason.

Next Steps for Maywood School

Maywood School has achieved a one year extension on life, but the long term health of the beloved elementary school is not good.

The district is in serious money problems – and Monona has to make a serious argument to keep the school open.

No one doubts that Maywood is a wonderful school, and that its environment is a perfect for K-2 kids in this community. But budgets being what they are, the school will be on the chopping block again next year (and the year after, and the year after) if the community can’t provide a solid educational argument for keeping it open – so long as Winnequah sits half empty.

I see two arguments to put onto the table.

The first argument is that the k-2 kids benefit a great deal from being separate from the 3-5 graders. We can say that K-2 grades benefit by having a smaller, less threatening environment. One that helps them dramatically – as opposed to mixing kids K-5 at Winnequah.  Overcrowding can’t be used, as K-6 will fit in Winnequah, so we have to make the argument that the K-2 kids are far better off in the Maywood environment, as opposed to being mixed with the 3-5 graders at Winnequah. Can we honestly make that argument? While the arguments are valid, sooner or later a time will come where the cost savings will be too much for the board, and the school will be shuttered.

The second argument is to increase the numbers of students at Winnequah so that it there isn’t enough room for the k-2 kids. How do we do that? Open enrollment will only bring so many – it’s not anything we can hang our hats on. The obvious answer is to get 6-8 grades back into Monona. How do we do that?

A recent study by the district showed that making Winnequah a 3-8 school would cost about $1 million to accomplish. And that doesn’t include the costs of more teachers each year. Again, is this a realistic option? We seriously doubt the district will offer up this option considering the budget crisis we will be working on for the next decade.

The district is also considering an environmental studies charter school for grades 6-8 in Monona. Kids from Monona and CG could select to attend this school. We don’t want to go into the details on this, but here’s some more info on the progress of this. Needless to say, we are several years away from this happening – and there are some steep obstacles in the way of it becoming a reality. Still, it offers some intriguing ideas.

If the community can take the lead in getting the charter school going, giving the district solid hope that it actually can be done (the obstacles include grants, setting curriculum, etc. ,etc.  Money is the biggest issue (isn’t it always).

Still, as we discussed in other articles, no one is going to help out Monona except ourselves. The charter school option, even if a few years away, should be pursued. One reason is that it would offer the entire district a unique educational opportunity. A second is that it would offer Monona parents the option of keeping their kids in this community for grades 6-8.

If the charter school option can be pushed aggressively,  there becomes a strong need to keep Maywood School open in it’s current state. Otherwise, you don’t want to spend $200,000 converting Winnequah over to accept the K-2 grades, and then only have to move them back to Maywood once the charter school opens in a few years. The charter school would also help out by keeping overcrowding down in Cottage Grove. The environmental studies angle would blend well with the Aldo Leopold Center – giving Monona a truly unique selling point.

So, at this time, we should all take time to learn what needs to be done to keep the charter school option on the table. Find out how you can help. By doing so, we entertain options for our kids education here in Monona.

Come this time next year, if the option of a charter school is realistic (or even semi realistic), the board will be more likely to keep Maywood open, knowing that Winnequah will become a 3-8 school within a couple of years.

We admit that the charter school is a pipe dream, but it’s in our hands to make things happen.

Death of Save Monona Schools on Facebook

A Monona citizen started a ‘Save Monona Schools’ site on Facebook a few weeks ago in an effort to try and help keep Maywood School open.

The woman did it, as she stated on the info page, clearly for that reason. She identified herself, and said that she believed the school brought great value to Monona, the kids who went there, and the district.

Unfortunately, the site was taken down shortly before the closing vote on March 24. The site organizer stated that she was discouraged by the negativity that her site provoked. A couple of hundred people joined as friends before the plug was pulled.

The sad part is that the woman put together the site in a simple grassroots method – made no bones about what the site was for, or what her agenda was. In return, she ended up closing it down because she was distressed by the comments made on the site, and potential ramifications with regard to her children – who attend school in Monona. I imagine she was afraid of what other kids and parents might do/say to her children, and concerned about how the teachers would deal with her kids.

I don’t blame the woman for what she did. I saw some of the comments. She had people demanding that she shut down the site. She had people saying that all the Maywood supporters were saving a building over jobs. Etc. etc.

This woman valued the atmosphere of Maywood and the value it brought to the kids and the district and the community. And she got slammed pretty hard by some people for it.

Sadly, that’s the atmosphere that is prevalent in Monona. There are some who are all too willing to shout down others opinions (and this is on both sides). Even on a Facebook page. Very sad.

It’s Alive! Maywood Lives!

Well color us silly. Maywood lives.

The school board voted, 4-3, to keep Maywood open for at least another year.

There was a packed crowd on Wednesday night, most asking the board to preserve Maywood. Many of those that spoke asked for more time to find alternative, or asked the board to dig deeper and find other options – without sacrificing programming or teacher positions.

Two petitions were submitted – one supporting the closing of Maywood, the other against. The petition asking the board to close Maywood had (I’m told) around 90 signatures. The ‘keep Maywood open’ petition had nearly 1,000 signatures.

One interesting speaker was (I think) the Cottage Grove village president (again, forgive me for not catching his title and name). He encouraged the board to keep Maywood open, saying that such a vote would ‘poison the waters’ politically – and if the board expects a referendum to pass next year, they can’t cut another Monona school now.

Voting to keep Maywood open were Sue Fox, Jessica Ace, Lionel Norton and Susan Manning.

Peter Sobol, Jill List and Jason McCutchin voted to close Maywood.

So, Maywood, put on life support by the Rag just yesterday, has survived another year. Well done.

We had voiced our skepticism about this vote passing – noting previous statements from Sue Fox indicating she was leaning toward the closure. The overwhelming public support for the school was likely a strong reason for the reconsideration of the closing.

Kudos to all those who showed up, spoke, signed the ‘keep Maywood open’ petition, and voiced their support for our community.

Watch for some of the following to start getting kicked around – Charter School and referendum.

We will say this about saving Maywood – we wish this enthusiasm and support could have come from the board with regard to keeping our 6th graders in Monona. Having both would have been a great thing for the community.

Again, THANK YOU to Sue Manning, Jessica Ace, Sue Fox and Lionel Norton for their votes.

Share your thoughts – where should Monona go from here.