Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board to vote NO on the Isthmus Montessori charter contract

The Madison School Board will vote on the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School contract at their regular meeting on Monday, July 31. This contract fails to resolve many serious issues that were identified in the review of the proposal for this charter school, including inadequate staffing and student services, a budget shortfall, and no way to ensure enrollment reflects the demographics of nearby neighborhoods or the district. Today, it is important to contact the Madison School Board and tell them to vote no on this contract.

In January, the school board moved to approve the proposal for Isthmus Montessori, contingent on resolving the issues described above. The contract not only fails to resolve these issues, it raises new ones (described below). For this reason, the school board should not approve the Isthmus Montessori contract on Monday.

A recent column in the Capital Times highlights many of the issues with this contract:
Marj Passman: Madison School Board should nix Isthmus Montessori charter school

Here’s how you can help:

  • Send an email to the school board telling them to vote NO on the contract for Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School. Instructions are below.
  • Attend the July 31 school board meeting. The meeting is at 6pm in the Doyle Building auditorium. And, at this meeting you can…
  • Speak to the school board about this issue by making public comments. Instructions for making public comments are on the SCAPE website.

Here are some points you can include in your email or public comments to the school board. Please pick whatever points resonate for you, and keep your message brief.

  • Thank the members of the Madison School Board for their commitment to public education and closing gaps at all of our schools.
  • It is important to stay focused on the contract. This is what the school board will vote on.
  • A goal of Isthmus Montessori is to provide a Montessori option for all MMSD students, particularly low-income Black and Latino students who are not thriving in our public schools and who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford Montessori. However, the contract specifies that students will be selected through a random, district-wide lottery. This provides no means to ensure that demographics match surrounding schools, or the district as a whole.
  • A diverse, inclusive school that accommodates English language learners and students with disabilities, and that may serve students experiencing trauma, needs to support those students with comprehensive services and adequate staffing. Isthmus Montessori would have about half the number of staff per student as nearby elementary schools (specifically, the schools in the Isthmus Montessori transportation zone). This staffing model unfairly benefits middle class children and families.
    • Only 1.5 student support staff would be hired, meaning there will be hardly any access to mental health services, nursing care, guidance counseling, social work, and behavior support.
    • The school will have no academic interventionists to help students struggling in math or literacy
    • Isthmus Montessori would have roughly half the special education staff per student expected to need special education services, compared to neighboring schools in the transportation zone
    • There would be 80 percent more students per English Learner support staff as nearby schools in the transportation zone
  • While fine arts instruction is integrated into the Montessori model, the Isthmus Montessori contract does not provide for fine arts education from specialists. Isthmus Montessori students will not have the same opportunities as other MMSD students to be challenged by trained art and music educators. They will not have the chance to work in an art studio with facilities for painting, printing, ceramics and metal work. They will not perform with a band, orchestra or choir. This is particularly problematic for students whose parents can’t afford private art and music lessons.
  • The Isthmus Montessori contract doesn’t provide resources for world language instruction. Students will enter tenth grade without having studied world languages, which most of their peers will have been offered starting in seventh grade, if not earlier. This will increase opportunity gaps in the district.
  • Within five years of opening, Isthmus Montessori anticipates a budget shortfall of half a million dollars. This deficit will only get worse, and the budget doesn’t meet the criteria established by the MMSD charter school policy. There is a real possibility that Isthmus Montessori will take financial resources out of the neighborhood public schools attended by most of our families.
  • A last-minute revision to the contract language exempts Isthmus Montessori from provisions of the MMSD employee handbook. This is a sharp departure from the school board and administration’s commitment to collectively make decisions with employees about working and learning conditions in our schools.

Here are the email addresses for individual MMSD School Board members:

Seat 1: Anna Moffit,

Seat 2: Mary Burke,

Seat 3: Dean Loumos,

Seat 4: James Howard,

Seat 5: TJ Mertz,

Seat 6: Kate Toews,

Seat 7: Nicki Vander Meulen,

Student rep: Laura Nicholas,

You can reach all school board members (except the student representative) at Email sent to this address will also go to district administration.

Thank you for taking an active role in fighting for our public schools. We hope to see you on Monday, July 31. Together, we can make a difference.

School Community Alliance for Public Education (SCAPE)
Madison Education Collective

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