By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 27, 2015 at 8:15 AM

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors on Thursday night approved the construction contract to renovate the vacant Malcolm X site, 2760 N. 1st St., into a new home for Rufus King International Middle School, which currently inhabits a former elementary school.

The plan to move King from the old McNair building, 4950 N. 24th St., to the controversial building on 1st and Center Streets, was made official in October.

The $9.8 million contract with Nicholas & Associates is for the renovation of the 1961 school building, which occupies the western and northern portion of the site, though the southwestern section of the building will likely be razed as part of a related plan to redevelop the southern portion of the site.

That part of the land is mostly playground space and its residential and/or commercial redevelopment is being handled by the Department of City Development.

The contract calls for work to begin on March 2 and to be completed by June 1, 2016. But folks driving past have noticed contractors' vehicles on site for months now as preparatory work – including, I believe, asbestos removal – for months.

According to a district press release, "The move gives King Middle, now housed in a former elementary school, the ability to expand to serve more families along with a full-size gym, large auditorium, more art and music opportunities, opportunities for more foreign language offerings and modern science labs. King Middle is set to open in the Malcolm X facility in the fall of 2016."

In other facilities news, the board hired Foundation Architects to design the new addition at Fernwood Montessori School in Bay View. According to one source, the goal is to have "shovels in the ground" by summer. A similar project approved for Maryland Avenue Montessori School will follow.

Seats at both successful programs are highly coveted and, thus, both programs face space issues. Maryland Avenue, on the East Side, is using two temporary classrooms erected on site until the permanent expansion is complete.

On Thursday evening, the board also approved:

  • A one-year extension on the contract of Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, who is now signed through June 30, 2017. After serving as interim superintendent over the summer, Driver was named to the post permanently in September.
  • Creating a staff position to explore a new middle school at the former Burroughs Middle School site at 6700 N. 8th St. The north and northwest sides of the city face a shortage of middle school seats.
  • Extending the contract of Director of Board Governance/Board Clerk Jacqueline Mann for one year, through April 26, 2016.
  • A resolution, made by Director Larry Miller,  calling on Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature to restore the $127 million K-12 education funding cut included in the first year of Walker's proposed budget. The resolution joins similar ones made by other state districts in calling on Madison to boost state-imposed revenue limits to match the rate of inflation. Here is the full text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, It is important that parents and citizens of the state have a clear understanding of the state budget and its implications for funding at the school district level; and

WHEREAS, When Governor Walker publicly presented his proposed biennial budget on February 3, he stated, "our budget will increase state support for schools by providing more than $100 million annually for the school levy tax credit and more than $100 million in the second year of the budget for equalization aids — while maintaining revenue limits to ensure continuing property tax relief," no mention was made of the cut of $150 per pupil ($127 million statewide) in special categorical aid in the first year of the proposed budget;

WHEREAS, Such a decrease would result in a "base" cut to the Milwaukee Public Schools of approximately $12.1 million in 2015-2016; and

WHEREAS, While cutting $150 per pupil in the first year — funding that, under current law, would be provided in each year of the 2015-17 biennium — Governor Walker’s budget plan provides no increase per pupil in the revenue limit even to minimally cover inflation, a provision commonly included in previous state budgets that recognized the costs associated with maintaining programs for students; and

WHEREAS, When the base cut and the lack of an inflationary increase in the revenue cap are factored together, the overall result is a total reduction conservatively estimated at $23 million in funding for the provision of educational opportunities for children in the Milwaukee Public Schools; and

WHEREAS, Even though the Governor proposes to include about $142 million (about $165 per pupil) in the per-pupil categorical aid in the second year of the biennium, the net result over the biennium is a cut of approximately $135 per pupil ($112 million); and

WHEREAS, Although the Governor also proposes spending $211.2 million in increased school-levy credits ($105.6 million in each year) and $108 million in increased general aid, with no corresponding increase in the revenue limit, this $319 million is "school funding in name only" — none of which schools will be able to spend to meet the educational needs of their students; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors join with other school districts in the State of Wisconsin to strongly encourage the Governor and the State Legislature to revise the Governor’s proposed budget to restore school funding in 2015-17 to levels adequate to fund public education in Wisconsin and to reject any decrease in anticipated revenue in the first year of the biennium, while also providing for inflationary revenue increases in both years; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That this Resolution be spread upon the permanent Record of this Board, and that the Board direct the Board Clerk to prepare and to present engrossed copies of this Resolution, suitably signed and sealed, to the Governor and to the State Legislature.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.