Madison Metropolitan School District
Madison, Wisconsin

Art Rainwater, Superintendent
Minutes for Communications
November 5, 2007
Doyle Administration Building
545 West Dayton Street, Auditorium
Madison, Wisconsin

Communications Committee meeting was called to order by Chair Beth Moss at 5 p.m.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Board Members: Beth Moss, Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza (arrived 5:02 p.m.)

Citizen Members: Deb Anken-Dyer, Deb Gurke, Dale Holmen, Wayne Strong



PRESENT: Lucy Mathiak, Arlene Silveira



STAFF PRESENT: Steve Hartley, Pam Nash, Joe Quick, Art Rainwater, Marcia Standiford, Ken Syke,

Ann Wilson-Recording Secretary

1. Approval of Minutes

It was moved by Deb Gurke and seconded by Wayne Strong to approve the minutes of the Communications Committee meeting dated October 1, 2007 as distributed. Motion unanimously carried by those present.

2. Public Appearances

There were no public appearances.

3. Announcements

(Written materials provided in advance: 2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 94 - attached to the original of these minutes.)

Beth Moss announced that, on November 15, a hearing to consider Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 27, authored by Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts of Middleton and Sen. Roger Breske of Eland, will be held before the Senate Education Committee at 10 a.m. in Room 201 Southeast at the State Capitol. SJR 27 requires the Legislature to have a new school funding plan in place by July 1, 2009. Everyone is encouraged to attend to show support for school funding reform.

4. Finalize Committee Goals for 2007-08

(Written materials provided in advance: Communications Committee Goals 2007-08 - attached to the original of these minutes.)

It was moved by Deb Gurke and seconded by Deb Anken-Dyer to approve the following as the goals for the Communications Committee for 2007-2008:

1. the Committee will assist in gathering public input for decisions made by the Board, creating a more open process in decision-making. We will look at different methods for gathering public opinion and hold community conversations that include citizens district-wide, including those who usually do not weigh in on school issues.


2. The Committee will serve as a source of information regarding school funding reform action and continue community education and call to action. We will encourage attendance at forums and other gatherings promoting action to change school funding law.

3. The Committee will encourage Parent-Teacher Organizations/Associations to name a legislative liaison to act as a contact for the school.

Public Relations/Media Communications:

4. the Committee will look at how the District manages Crisis Communications, in areas of consistency and effectiveness.

5. The Committee will look at School/Home communication policy.

Motion unanimously carried.

5. Wisconsin Way Initiative

(Written materials provided in advance: article by Judy Dahl, Madison Magazine, "Everything's on the Table;" article by Neil Heinen, Madison Magazine, "Leaps of Faith," both dated November 2007 and attached to the original of these minutes.)

Beth Moss noted that she, Carol Carstensen and Deb Gurke attended a Wisconsin Way training session held in Madison and that she also heard about the Wisconsin Way at a Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) conference. She re-capped previous discussion about the Wisconsin Way Initiative, noting their main focus is to hold public forums with a variety of groups throughout the state. There will be a forum in Madison on December 6 at the Alliant Center. They are asking for community conversations and opinions that will help to develop an agenda, which will then go back to all organizations and forums for feedback again. By mid-2009, they hope to present an agenda to legislators. Other states are also looking at the Wisconsin Way process. The Wisconsin Way would like the Board of Education to express support for gathering information and encouraging people to attend the forum and look at the need for school funding and education services reforms.

It was moved by Carol Carstensen and seconded by Lawrie Kobza that the Communications Committee recommend to the Board of Education that it endorse the community conversations that will be held in Madison in December as part of the Wisconsin Way Initiative and that it officially encourage, and use its resources, to encourage people to attend. Motion unanimously carried.


Wonderful step. To be successful, Resolution needs bigger conversation and solution than just school funding.

Concern about little focus on recruiting people of color was addressed by Wisconsin Way; will provide materials in Spanish.

Concerns about openness and that the agenda may already be set can be addressed by participating.

Comfortable with endorsement of the process for discussion and gathering input. Does not speak to any results from the process.

Board members need to participate as well to ensure their opinions are heard.

People need realistic expectations for the results of their participation.


Beth Moss will post the time and other details of the December 6 forum on the website.

6. Formats for Future Board of Education Public Forums

(Written materials distributed at the meeting: memorandum from Ken Syke dated 11/5/07 re: Possible Formats for Public Forums with attachment, memorandum from Art Rainwater dated 9/20/07 re: Deliberative Process for 4-K - attached to the original of these minutes.)

Beth Moss noted that the Committee will look at different ways of communicating. Some people in the community feel they are not being heard and Board members would like to do all they can to listen and represent the community. She stated that school boards across the state and the WASB as well are struggling with this question and to find the solution. The Sun Prairie School Board has established a community engagement committee solely for this purpose.

Ken Syke explained the information in his written report about possible formats for public forums. He provided copies of a memorandum from the Superintendent that discussed two methodologies of the deliberative process that can be used for any topic. Mr. Syke noted that the purpose for the public forum usually drives the format choice.


Purpose would drive format: a) open meeting every few months for dialogue showing that the Board is approachable; b) seeking input on a specific issue; c) public has an issue they want to Board to listen to.

Frequently hear that people do not feel heard; forums allow that opportunity. Takes away the excuse that they do not have opportunity. Venue to share what's on their mind.

How do you build "give and take" into an open forum? Legal issues - open meetings. "Give and take" might work for a meeting regarding a topic of special interest.

Would like to think about meeting in other places.

More productive to talk about what the community values rather than a specific topic. Avoids pitting people against each other. Purpose for coming is to learn.

Superintendent search questionnaire provided list of priorities that people might want to talk about.

There is a forum for speaking to the Board. Community is asking for discussion among themselves that the Board is a part of.

Need to distinguish between being heard and the decision. Sometimes people don't feel heard unless the discussion ends in their favor.

Citizens and $100 budget discussions were well received - resulted in an actual product, structured. Not divisive - working together.

Forcing another perspective is valuable through structured activity - purpose is important.

High school redesign might be an example of a good topic - can be proactive, engage the community well in advance.

Art Rainwater explained the deliberative discussion Design Lab process noted in the written materials. The United Way uses this process to gain public information when they are interested in the development of an idea.

Lawrie Kobza noted the Board is facing a different kind of request from community groups. They are asking that Board members meet with them to respond to their particular questions or issues. Serving as a Board of Education member is a time-consuming job; she asked whether it is realistic to attend forums with any group that requests the Board's presence, rather than gathering feedback through the more traditional formats. Beth Moss responded that such an expectation probably cannot be fulfilled, and needs to be replaced with something that results in the community feeling they are being heard. She asked for more information about the Design Lab process. Mr. Rainwater responded that the process is based on addressing one issue and the deliberative process is used to answer about three questions. Deb Gurke added that responses can be received in written and face-to-face formats. Mr. Rainwater noted the fundamental question for this type of meeting request from the community is control over setting the agenda.

There was interest in a recent United Way meeting that Wayne Strong attended. He indicated a cross-section of the community was present, the meeting was facilitated, and it provided the opportunity to voice concerns and hear different ideas about how issues could be resolved. Issues were heard and people found out that many other people had the same concerns.


Not productive to address one group at a time; should open to a multitude of groups at the same time.

Other groups' setting the agenda can result in conflict about who is in charge; hard feelings can develop. Board can respond that it does not participate in this type of meeting. Needs more discussion.

Appreciate that groups want discussion, more productive to have discussion. Need to find a way to do it so that time is not a concern.

Are special requests resulting from no opportunity to be heard? Can something be done to avoid such a situation in the future?

Sometimes Board provides opportunities for input, but when it comes to the decision, people are still surprised. Need to be more adept at anticipating issues.

Some issues (budget) will result in dissatisfaction, no matter what.

Beth Moss indicated that scheduling a forum similar to the United Way meeting might be a way to begin. The Board could ask for suggested topics, or use the information provided in the Superintendent search surveys. Lawrie Kobza suggested the committee focus on the format and let the Board members decide if they would like to proceed. The committee could recommend the format and several possible topics. Deb Gurke reminded that a purpose should be identified, along with a menu of possible deliberative practices. The Superintendent agreed that it is important to have a purpose.


Consider meeting with officers from school parent groups as a way of getting feedback from local schools.

Challenge is to get response from people who are not usually involved; need a strategy to pull people out.

Is it enough for a community group to request a meeting because they want to/deserve to talk with the Board? Already meet a lot; have meaty issues for the district as a whole that need attention. Need to pick and choose how to use energy if anything will be accomplished.

Value depends on whether the Board is interested in the topic, but should also get information from variety of groups.

Discussion will continue at the next meeting.

7. Other Business

There was no other business.

8. Adjournment

It was moved by Dale Holmen and seconded by Wayne Strong to adjourn the meeting at 6:02 p.m. Motion unanimously carried.