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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Community, MPS Leaders Need More Details On Proposed Turnaround Plan

Rachel Morello
MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver

The future for failing MPS schoolsis still murky.

Last summer, the state created the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele signed on, and hired Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Demond Means to head the initiative.

His job is to decide how to improve the lowest-performing Milwaukee public schools.

Last month, we reported on the blueprint. Now, we’re hearing reaction from MPS and district advocates.

On Monday night at Milwaukee’s Mount Zion Baptist Church, OSPP commissioner Means gathered the advisors he’s selected to help form his plan for improving failing MPS schools.

But the noise was happening outside the church, where about 20 community members showed up to protest.

Protester Angela Walker’s granddaughter and niece both attend Keefe Avenue, an MPS elementary school that she says could very well be a target for OSPP. Walker says she worries for her young relatives, because so much remains unknown.

“Who’s going to be teaching?” Walker asks. “I don’t want little bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youth that don’t have teaching experience, that are not invested in this community, that don’t know it’s kids or its challenges, being stuck in that school, where there’s a very transient population.”

It seems Walker is not alone in her confusion.

“We still don’t know what those policies are that they’re pushing, it changes seemingly every couple hours,” says Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee teacher’s union MTEA.

Schroeder has been sitting in on the OSPP meetings that are open to the public, trying to understand the plans taking shape. By Tuesday, he decided he’d had enough. He says he’s not sure where things are headed.

“I think County Executive Abele and Dr. Means have to decide which side are they on,” Schroeder explains. “Are they on the side of the community and the students of Milwaukee, the public schools, or are they on the side of suburban Republican legislators who wrote this? You eventually have to make a choice. And we’re kind of waiting for them to make that choice.”

What happens next hinges on a decision from the MPS board of directors: will it help oversee OSPP? That’s what commissioner Demond Means asked the board last month.

READ: What's on the table for OSPP?

“The plan that’s been presented to us at face value still leaves us with more questions than answers,” says district superintendent Darienne Driver, who sits on the MPS board. 

Driver says the board has been talking to Commissioner Means and County Executive Abele to get more details. What outside services will students receive? Will anything change for teachers? She says the board needs answers before it can agree to a partnership.

“[We’re] focusing on making sure all the resources, all the efforts, the programs are aligned to make sure our young people are successful,” Driver says. “That’s why having all this time to review the plan and all the different elements are so important.”

The board has until June 23 to make a decision. That’s when Means has requested a response.

While it sifts through the information it receives, Angela Walker says she’ll continue to voice her opinion. Yet she’s not confident the powers that be will consider it.

“I think that this machine is already running, these folks know what their agenda is, they know who they’re targeting,” Walker sighs. “What I want them to know, more than anything else, is that we will fight.”

Those interested in more information about OSPP have not one, but two places to go.

Commissioner Means has set up his own webpage. And MPS has posted its version of the information on the district website.

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