Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

School Switcheroo?

Maryland Avenue Montessori might swap buildings with Cass Street School. And poor Sweet Water's building is available for lease.

By - Feb 20th, 2013 12:01 pm
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Cass St. School.

Cass St. School. Photo from MPS.

The Maryland Avenue Montessori School, a Milwaukee Public Schools facility at 2418 N. Maryland Avenue, could swap students with Cass Street School, 1618 N. Cass St., according to one proposal discussed with parents at both schools.

MPS spokesperson Tony Tagliavia tells Urban Milwaukee: “As we’ve shared with parents at Maryland Avenue Montessori School, the school is outgrowing its building. And as we’ve shared with Maryland Avenue and Cass Street School parents, one possible long-term solution is moving Maryland to the larger Cass building, which Cass Street School does not currently fill. One possible scenario would be that the schools would switch buildings.”

The move has been spearheaded by school board member and vice president Larry Miller, whose term expires in April.

The enrollment at Cass Street has been declining for at least three years and is now 349 (from 389), while Maryland Avenue’s has grown from 306 to 364. Cass Street students, taught in a traditional environment, tend to score poorly on standardized tests, with reading scores of around 43, while MPS peers score 60, and statewide results are 80. Similar results are found in other subject areas.

Maryland Montessori, on the other hand, routinely exceeds both the average MPS and state students, with scores that would make many a suburban district proud. There is a significant turnover of students at Cass Street, as measured by a student mobility rating of 28 percent, and a stability rating of 60 percent. Maryland Avenue, on the other hand, has a student mobility rate of only 2 percent, with a stability rating of 88 percent.

Whether the stable families of Maryland Avenue would like to see their children moved to a school two miles away remains to be seen, but the neighbors of Cass Street School, located just a block south of Brady Street, would likely welcome the new scholars.

As it stands today, few if any Cass Street students walk to school or bike. Instead, the street is filled daily with buses transporting students to and from their neighborhoods, which are almost certainly more than 2 miles away. The feeling among Brady Street advocates is that a stable, high-quality MPS school would help attract families to the area, which has a sufficient supply of family-friendly housing, and that neighborhood kids should walk or bike to school instead of being bussed hither and yon.

Maryland principal Joseph DiCarlo deferred questions to MPS spokesperson Tagliavia, who says that “if this does happen, it will not happen in time” for the next (2013-’14) school year.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story suggested the school swap could happen as early as next year, which is not the case.

Cass Playground to Benefit From Art Milwaukee Event

'Mimi' the friendly dragon. Photo from Marina Lee.

‘Mimi’ the friendly dragon. Photo from Marina Lee.

Whatever the outcome of the proposed changes to the Cass Street curriculum, the Cass Street playground, across the street from the school, will be the beneficiary of the proceeds from the Eastside Music Tour, an event scheduled for Saturday March 2nd 2013 featuring 50 bands and 25 locations on Brady Street. [Lineup.] Funds from the event, sponsored by Art Milwaukee will go toward the repainting of the creatures of Cass Street playground, those whimsical 1998 fiberglas figures by Marina Lee [See “City People: Marina Lee”, Urban Milwaukee] that are showing some wear. [The Maryland Avenue school grounds have also been extensively and pleasantly re-landscaped this school year, with the addition of a 10,000 sq ft, $140,000, “Outdoor Classroom” and garden.] The Brady Street Business Improvement District is also competing for city funding to rehabilitate the Cass Street park and its sculptures. Felix Glorioso, a Cass Street graduate, says he remembers when the playground lights would shine late into the evening for baseball games, and the city would flood the playground in the winter for ice skating. Maybe with a more stable school, drawing from neighborhood residents, the glory days of Cass Street might return. For now, Felix helps organize the Old-Timers Baseball Reunion at the playground each summer.

Funds Drying Up for Sweet Water

“Former Sweetwater Organics Space” for lease. $3.30 s.f. NNN.” — Commercial Realty Advisors website.

In April, 2011, the Milwaukee Common Council granted a potentially forgivable loan of $250,000 to Sweet Water on the condition that the company substantially increase hiring at the aquaponics facility it opened at 2151 S. Robinson Avenue on in 2008.

Council members were served up a savory dish of great expectations, and were informed that the fish were so abundant that they were practically leaping out of the tanks. The lettuce was virtually tossing itself. All it would take is some staff to load them up and sell them to the legions of chefs lined up for the company’s products.

According to Tom Daykin, writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Company co-owner Josh Fraundorf told committee members that Sweet Water cannot meet demand from restaurants and other customers for its perch and vegetables.”

Fraundorf and his partner Jim Godsil projected employment would go from 4 to 10 in 2011, and reach 45 by 2014.

Under the terms of the city agreement, Sweet Water would be obliged to repay its city debt if hiring did not meet specified levels. It met its 2011 goals, using numbers that some questioned, but failed to meet its 2012 goals; in fact it fell far short of them, with a workforce of 2.5 employees. Furthermore, the company lacks the cash to make the mandatory repayment, and has asked the city to change the terms of the loan, which was opposed by the Department of City Development all along. (Only Ald. Joe Dudzik voted against it.)

Urban Milwaukee asked Godsil if there was some portent in his facility being advertised for lease under the title “Former Sweetwater Organics Space.”

“It’s all good,” he wrote. “Give me a call next week, and I’ll show you around.”

The building is owned by Big Whale LLC, which has proven to be a big albatross for owners Steven Lindner and his sister Debra Lindner, who have filed for bankruptcy protection.

BMO Harris Headquarters in Union Sights

“What’s the biggest building in the metropolitan area not cleaned by your union?” I asked John-david Morgan of SEIU Local 1. The union, based in Chicago, recently secured a contract for workers at 875 E. Wisconsin Avenue after weeks of picketing the Wangaard-owned building. So what’s next on the agenda?

“That would be the BMO Harris bank building at 770 N Water Street,” Morgan replied. That 21-story, 275 ft. spire of man’s vertical desire, has 280,000 square feet to be cleaned, day in, and day out, and SEIU wants its workers to be the ones pushing the brooms. The building is Milwaukee’s 16th tallest, although it seems bigger. It was built in 1969 as the headquarters of the Marshall & Ilsley Bank. Other tenants include the Godfrey & Kahn law firm, (with about 2 acres of “floorplate”). Even if Godfrey moves, as it keeps proposing, somebody has to clean those floors, and by golly the union doesn’t want scabs doing the work.

Morgan figures it is just natural that BMO Harris, which bought M&I in 2011 after that firm’s collapse, would like to have union cleaners working at its Milwaukee office. “After all, our union cleans the BMO Harris headquarters building in Chicago, [at 111 W. Monroe St.] so why not here in Milwaukee?”

This was a fair enough question, so Plenty of Horne presented it — twice — by e-mail to Vanessa Hall, a bank official with a nicely cleaned office in Chicago, who did not respond.

SEIU, with 2.1 million members, is the nation’s fastest-growing union, and Morgan says the union is at a fever pitch in its organizing campaigns, saying the last similar effort by any union at this scale was decades ago.  Peter Hanrahan, the SEIU official in Milwaukee who spearheaded the organizing effort, has moved to New York to work with the 50,000 members of the SEIU 32 Building Janitors Union.

Fun Fact: The BMO Harris HQ in Chicago, at 322 feet, would be the 10th tallest building in Milwaukee, but it is not even in the top 70 in Chicago. Our US Bank Building, the state’s tallest, would place 42nd in the Windy City.

Marsupial Bridge Connects

Marsupial Bridge Stairway Construction Project. Photo by Michael Horne.

Marsupial Bridge Stairway Construction Project. Photo by Michael Horne.

When the Holton Marsupial Bridge was conceived, it was to provide a direct route between Brady Street and the Beerline “B” neighborhood, with particular emphasis on Lakefront Brewery. Unfortunately, budget restraints prohibited the construction of a vital stairway at the north end of the bridge, rendering it a pain to get to the city’s most popular beer tour. (You either had to scale a cliff or haul your butt up and down the world’s longest ramp.) At last, this omission is being remedied, as work is underway to connect the bridge to N. Commerce Street, via a fragment of rail trestle remaining from the days when this city’s most prominent product traveled by train, whether as beer or as grain.

Class Act From Sykes

Judicial candidate Janet Protasiewicz was unable to respond to attacks against her broadcast on the radio by WTMJ-AM 620 host Charles Sykes on Monday, February 18th, 2013. That’s because she took an unaccustomed break from her nonstop campaigning to attend the funeral mass for her mother-in-law, Barbara A. Sell, who died at 84 on St. Valentine’s day.

I Say It’s My Birthday

I was born in Milwaukee on February 25th, 1954, at St. Anthony’s Hospital downtown, which is now a jail. (Mom swears it wasn’t a jail back then, and I will take her word for that.) I plan to celebrate being sprung on society by mixing with the best of it at “Michael Horne’s 59th Birthday Party” to be held a day early, for maximum party-ability.

So, please join me pretty much any hour of the day or night Sunday, February 24th 2013, at the Y-NOT II tavern, 706 E. Lyon St., where things should be lively. If you would like to Facebook register for  this event, or invite your buddies, here is the link, and I hope to see you there.

Categories: Plenty of Horne

5 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: School Switcheroo?”

  1. Jesse H. says:

    So Maryland Ave school is stable, lets move the school around, because golly gee, that’s great for students & parents alike. Maybe in 5 years they can move it again, I’m sure that’ll help.

    Why don’t they start another Montessori program that shares the Cass Street school space? If something is working, you don’t keep tinkering with it until it’s broken… try to replicate the success.

  2. Tony Tagliavia, Milwaukee Public Schools says:

    @Jesse H.: So you’re aware, moving schools is just one possibility under discussion. Input from both school communities will be a part of the process.

  3. Holden Brooks says:

    Hi– I love the blog and look forward to returning. As someone who lives next to Cass Street School and who has walked my kids to Maryland Avenue School many a time, I can attest that the distance is 1.4 miles and not 2. Thanks for the great, informative post. Hope that we work out a solution that is positive for all families.

  4. Jesse H. says:

    @Tony: Since the article doesn’t list other options & your comment didn’t include any, care to elaborate on those options, for both schools?

  5. Michael says:

    Re: Maryland Ave, if I am not mistaken, the options are to build an expansion at the existing MAM site, or switch with Cass.

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