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MPS is in a zero-sum game when it comes to its annual budget.
MPS is in a zero-sum game when it comes to its annual budget.

MPS sends out budget priorities survey

Milwaukee Public Schools is sending kids home with a survey asking parents to list their spending priorities, from 1 to 14, for upcoming budgets.

Principals need to finalize their school budgets by Thursday, which means the survey arrives a little late. However, the district does have time to alter budgets, as happened last year after education cuts arrived from Madison.

The administration is expected to bring a final budget to the board in April and the board is expected to vote on it in June.

Filling out the survey – also available online to parents, community members and others – is a challenging task. Not that it's difficult to follow or anything, but to ask parents whether it's more important for children to have access to lunch OR a nurse OR a reasonable class size is not easily answered.

Of course, MPS is in a zero-sum game and these are exactly the questions administration has to ask itself during the budget process.

Then there's the question of fairness. For many parents in the district – this one included – it's not simply a question of what one's own child needs. We don't ride the yellow bus to school, so should I rank it 14th even though I know many kids couldn't and might not get to school if transportation is cut? It's disingenuous – maybe even uncivil – for me to say it's the lowest priority for the district, just because it's the lowest priority for my child.

"We want to know the priorities of our community," Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton said in a news release announcing the survey today. "Cuts (at Central Services) would be painful, but we think they're needed to shield schools from as much pain as possible."

The release reads: "As it stands now, the Superintendent's budget proposal calls for a boost to art, music and physical education through new minimum standards for the number of specialist teachers in each school. That boost would be paid for through further cuts at MPS Central Services. The budget proposal also cal…

68th Street School will close at the end of the school year. The question is where will its early childhood education program land by September.
68th Street School will close at the end of the school year. The question is where will its early childhood education program land by September.

Future of 68th St. School program up for discussion at public meeting Thursday

The offices of Alds. Michael Murphy and Jim Bohl have organized a public meeting Thursday evening at Milwaukee School of Languages, 8400 W. Burleigh St., to discuss a community proposal to merge the early childhood program of 68th Street School into nearby 81st Street School. (You can find background and links to more background here.)

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and an MPS press release today said administration representatives will be on hand, though it did not name them. Certainly, Regional Executive Director Keith Posley, who has been key in formulating MPS' competing plan of moving 68th Street School to Kluge, four miles north.

It is not clear if Superintendent Gregory Thornton, who pushed hard for the Kluge merger at last week's school board meeting, will attend.

Thornton has said that he opposes the 68th and 81st Street Schools merger because the move would displace 90 middle schoolers whose grades (6-8) would be eliminated at 81st Street School. 81st Street School was built to replace the small, overcrowded 68th Street School at the end of the 1940s.

Community members – who hope the merged school would become a neighborhood school – respond that there are a number of other school options in the area for those kids; schools (such as Morse Marshall, Carson Academy and Milwaukee School of Languages) where middle schoolers score better on state exams and where, unlike at 81st Street where they spend all day with a single teacher, they have access to science and other courses.

"As you know, our two-year plan sets aside the 2012-2013 school year so that 81st Street programming is unchanged for those students, and so that they and their families can have a year to decide between other middle school program options," wrote community member Elisabeth Witt in an email to school board members.

"All changes to enrollment in 2013 would take place at 68th Street School, not 81st Street (for example, reducing the 68th Street K3 program by 67 percent).  A…

Former Milwaukee musician Luisa Buoni talked about part of her time here on Italian radio this month.
Former Milwaukee musician Luisa Buoni talked about part of her time here on Italian radio this month.

Former Lovelies bassist Luisa Buoni chats about cats on Italian radio

If Andy Tarnoff is going to report that Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie is about to become an Aussie, then I'm going to counter with vaguely related news of another ex-Milwaukee musician living abroad.

Many of you may remember Italian musician Luisa Buoni for her stint as talented bassist for The Lovelies, but some may also recall that she followed Ritchie to Milwaukee and married him.

Recently, a friend in Italy told me that he heard Buoni interviewed on Italy's Radio24 on a show about the importance of animals in the lives of humans.

"A certain Luisa Buoni told her story," wrote my friend in an email. "In 1989 she followed her love to Milwaukee and got married. Divorced in 1995, she decided to adopt a yellow cat from the Humane Society. It was a touchy cat that later revealed itself to be very intelligent. In Milwaukee, Luisa then became a volunteer at the Humane Society and worked as a web designer for bands.

"She played the bass. Then, she returned to Italy because her mother was ill and in 2005 she was remarried to Adriano. Now she has 11 cats and a dog. Nigel, in the meantime, died, but remains forever in Luisa's heart."

My friend, who has visited Milwaukee, was happy to hear the city mentioned on the radio in Italy and wondered if I knew of this Luisa.

I most certainly do. And I'm happy to hear she's doing well, despite the loss of Nigel, who was, it seems, named for the main character in XTC's classic "Making Plans for Nigel."

Glen Campbell played his final Milwaukee show on Saturday.
Glen Campbell played his final Milwaukee show on Saturday.

Bidding adieu to the Rhinestone Cowboy

Glen Campbell played in Milwaukee this past weekend as part of his farewell tour. I was sorry to have missed it.

Long before I knew Campbell had serious cred via his membership in "The Wrecking Crew" band of studio musicians – among other things – I knew Campbell from hearing his Top 40 hits waft over into the back seat of the family station wagon from the speakers of the AM radio.

Campbell was a player in a major moment of my musical life. Just as I was about to really get into rock and roll in a big way, via the Beatles and KISS and Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder, I got my first album. Before that I was a singles kid, obsessed with spinning 45s on my Dansette-style portable player.

But when my family came to Milwaukee in '75 to spend a Christmas with my grandparents, I got the first long-player of my own (previous LPs I checked out belonged to my parents): Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy."

I remember the embossed cover and, of course, the hit song. I don't remember much of anything else about it, though I do remember opening the cabinet doors and sliding the ancient turntable out at my grandparents house to play the record for the first time. I suspect my mom even has a photo of it somewhere.

Although Campbell reportedly played "Rhinestone Cowboy" at The Pabst on Saturday, I wasn't able to get video of it. Instead, I bid a fond adieu to the Rhinestone Cowboy, as he rides off into the sunset, with this clip of him performing "I Can't Stop Loving You."