Board Gets Boundary Committee Update

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board reviewed the progress of the Internal Attendance Boundary Committee which held its first meeting March 6. More than 35 residents applied to serve on the committee and 25 were selected.

The committee is tasked with reviewing the attendance area with a focus on the district’s strategy map, a determined criterium, historical and future enrollment trends, and building capacity. The committee is also charged with making up to recommendations to the board regarding elementary and middle-school boundaries and communicate those to the broader community. 

The meetings are being facilitated by Drew Howick, who has also worked with DeForest, Sun Prairie and Verona school districts on committees looking at internal boundaries. Howick presented an update to the board April 22.

During the public comment, member of the boundary committee Julie Winkelman raised concerns about her experience. Winkelman alleged other committee members had made racist comments.

“It is really bothersome to sit in these meetings and hear, ‘I don’t want to have a chocolate chip classroom, I don’t want my children to go to school with those kids,’” Winkelman said. 

Winkelman also said the boundary rules were designed to segregate. She said she was considering leaving the committee.

Board president Bob Green said the board generally does not directly respond to citizen comments but asked that Winkelman reconsider leaving and urged her to stay on the committee.

During the board discussion Howick said the 25 committee members all come with different life perspectives. His goal is to put them with different table groups in the coming meetings so each one will have a chance to talk face to face. 

Howick said he feels the criteria of the committee needs to be clearly understood by the members. 

“The purpose of this committee is not to establish a policy on equity in the school district, it is to make choices on boundaries that meet criteria, one of which addresses equity,” Howick said. “Sometimes people want to expand scope of the committee.”

Green reviewed the criteria which includes: Projected enrollment and building utilization, boundary changes should address barriers to student and family engagement; neighborhood unity; duration of boundaries minimize impact on students; fiscal responsibility, elementary to middle school feeder structure; contiguous attendance areas; and district transportation efficiencies. 

Green said while equity may seem implied to board members someone on the outside may not view it as being clearly addressed. He said that the board could offer clarification to the committee if it was needed.

In her first meeting as a school board member Katy Morgan asked if Winkelman were to leave the committee would Howick replace her.

“If that person is leaving because they feel unheard or disrespected then that voice goes missing because of the privileged majority,” Morgan said. “I’d like to know what the plan is for making sure people are heard and feel respected and their voice is utilized in the process.”

Green said he’d been in contact with Winkelman prior to the meeting and asked her to stay on the committee. 

Board member Bob Hesselbein said he had to leap in to the discussion. 

“I think the board makes a mistake if they take presumptive comments of one citizen speaking,” Hesselbein said. “When you hear things like ‘the privileged members on the committee,’ I reject that concept of assuming that this committee is made up only of wealthy privileged people who have been hand-picked to steer it in one direction. There is no evidence of that. I think we have a good demographic across the committee.”

Green said in past committees some of the most outspoken members have become the most helpful. 

The district's transportation plan will be covered at the next meeting along with a discussion about equity, Howick said.

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