Ginko House Architects and Arc Studio 3D
Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Greenhouse at Spring Harbor
We live in a cynical world, and election season only heightens the malady. But one sure cure for cynicism is a trip to a Madison public school. Tuesday was the annual "Principal for a Day" event sponsored by the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools.
This year I was invited to give a talk by my friend Amy Bogost, who was principal for a day at her daughter's middle school, Spring Harbor.
If you've ever addressed a room full of seventh graders, you know what it is to face a tough audience. But I got through it okay by making it clear up front that I realize that I am old. I am not cool and never was. Kids appreciate honesty. They asked me what my favorite video game was. I said Scrabble. They laughed. I was serious. It went like that.
But most of their questions were thought provoking. One in particular stumped me. "What does it feel like to be powerful?" I thought for a moment and then had to admit, "I have no idea."
The truth is that I never felt powerful as mayor. I felt I had a seat at the table, but the table was crowded with alders, neighborhood leaders, developers, unions, business people, media, etc. The job was a lot more about listening, negotiating, convincing, and compromising than it was about ever decreeing anything.
After a lively half hour of discussion with the students, principal Leia Esser and science teacher Dave Ropa took me on a tour of the school's garden and the site of its new greenhouse. The greenhouse is an inspiring community effort. Well-regarded local architect Lou Host-Jablonski designed it. It was funded in part by the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools and the Goodman Foundation (Irv and Bob Goodman continue to give back even after their passing). Most of the building materials are recycled and donated. Glenville Timberwrights of Baraboo will construct the frame for a low price. Ald. Mark Clear cleared the way through city approvals.
It will be named the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Greenhouse at Spring Harbor.
The foundation will be poured soon and the building should be ready to go in a few months. Students will gain a deeper appreciation for biological diversity and the complexity of ecosystems through the hands-on experiences that will take place in that greenhouse.
And beyond all the learning that will take place there, the building will stand for decades as a reminder of how a community can come together to build something lasting and meaningful. It's enough to make even the most cynical among us smile.