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Superintendent Driver To Leave MPS This Summer

MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver

Milwaukee Public Schools will once again be searching for a new school superintendent. Darienne Driver announced Tuesday that she'll be stepping down this summer.

She was the youngest person to head the district, and the only woman to do so on a permanent basis.

After three and a half years at the helm of MPS, Superintendent Driver will leave her position on July 6 to become president and CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Michigan.

Driver called her new job a "once-in-a lifetime opportunity to use the power of collective impact and equity to improve the lives of young people, their families and the communities in which they live." She began her career as a Detroit Public Schools elementary teacher.

In a statement released by MPS Board President Mark Sain, he called Dr. Driver "a professional who cares deeply about the children of Milwaukee."

Sain also wrote, "Since coming to Milwaukee as the district's first Chief Innovation Officer, she has engaged partners and stakeholders, building much-needed relationships with a variety of groups and organizations."

Driver's tenure hasn't been without its challenges. Stemming from state legislation in 2015, MPS faced the threat of a takeover. The legislation called for the creation of a "recovery school district " to operate the lowest-performing schools, to which the Milwaukee County executive had power to appoint the district's commissioner.

The measure generated outcry among MPS advocates, including Driver. "This really takes us back a step and it's just a distraction," she said.

Driver said the district had its own plan for improving outcomes and said the legislation felt like a "land grab."

"The idea that you would take our lowest performing schools and possibly turn them into independent charter schools or voucher schools is very disappointing - given that the lowest performing set of schools in our city are the voucher schools as a collective." She continued, "And so seeing that to me signals that this isn't as much of a school improvement bill as it is a faculties bill."

In the end, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program crumbled. The person selected as commissioner, Demond Means, resigned.

And new school report cards -- that better reflected factors, such as poverty -- showed the lowest-performing schools had improved enough that none qualified for the program.

Driver was thrilled. “I really want to give credit to our educators, and to our community members who have been focused on improving student achievement since 1846, when this district was founded."

As Driver's time as superintendent comes to an end, there is still a lot of work to do, including figuring out the FY19 budget.

The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association released a statement with President Kim Schroeder saying:

"Dr. Driver announced her resignation weeks before she is expected to submit a proposed budget which will include some of the most harmful cuts to MPS students and educators since Act 10. We hope that Dr. Driver seriously considered a new direction and leaves a lasting legacy as the superintendent that honors students and educators."