2013 Milwaukee Arts Board grant guidelines & application online

January 31, 2013

Alderman Michael Murphy, chair of the City of Milwaukee Arts Board (MAB), has announced that the 2013 MAB grant application is now available online at city.milwaukee.gov/MAB.

The 2013 postmark submission deadline for MAB grant applications is Monday, March 11, 2013.

In 2012, the Milwaukee Arts Board distributed grants totaling $150,000 to 31 local nonprofit arts organizations for a variety of arts programming, including music and theatre performances, visual arts exhibitions and artist residency programming for youth and adults.

The City of Milwaukee, through its Arts Board, with additional support from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funding from the State of Wisconsin, provides grant awards to nonprofit arts organizations located within the City of Milwaukee through a competitive grant review process. Milwaukee Arts Board grants are intended to enhance the development, cultural diversity, accessibility and enjoyment of the arts in the City of Milwaukee.

If potential applicants are unable to access the online application, they may request a paper copy by calling the Milwaukee Arts Board at 414-286-5796.

Ald. Donovan: don’t lift residency requirement; expand school choice; fix funding flaw

January 25, 2013

Statement from Alderman Bob Donovan 

January 25, 2013 

As a city leader, I recognize how critically important it is that we have a city that is not only attractive, but that is also a place where people truly want to live. The last thing we want is for people or businesses to be clamoring to leave our city.

Today I am proposing bold moves that I believe will help attract and retain working people and families here in Milwaukee. I am calling on the state Legislature to expand the school choice program here in our city (as well as fix the “funding flaw”), and a letter I’ve sent to Governor Scott Walker and the Legislature regarding the proposals is attached

I will elaborate on my proposals in a moment. But first, let’s look at some of the key reasons I believe people most often cite for deciding not to live in Milwaukee:

**Crime/public safety

**Milwaukee Public Schools


The last time I checked, we weren’t doing so hot in any of those categories. However, in my many discussions with residents, it is the continued failures of MPS that they find so alarming and the most serious and immediate threat to the future of the city. In short, many families are exploring relocation or non-MPS options almost entirely once their children reach school age.

Those families are looking for other options and choices, and I say we need to give them those options – right here in Milwaukee!

Instead of forcing working families to look at moving out of the city or enrolling their children in expensive parochial schools (usually thousands of dollars per year for K-8, and even tens of thousands of dollars per year for high school), it is time to give these middle-income and upper-middle-income Milwaukee families relief from the school hardship factor.

Milwaukee needs to become a city that is attractive to middle-income and upper-middle-income families of all races. I believe my proposal – to lift all income restrictions for the school choice program in Milwaukee – is liberating and opens up many options for our working families (much like the GI Bill has provided huge educational opportunities for the men and women serving in the armed forces). This change will also go a long way toward addressing the complaints about city and MPS residency requirements.

Lifting the school choice income restrictions could set Milwaukee apart (no other large city offers open “true choice”) and could make our city an increasingly attractive destination for working families (and businesses).

I am also calling on the Governor and the Legislature to help fix the school choice “funding flaw.” The end result of the “funding flaw” is MPS is forced to raise property taxes to offset its loss of revenue and to maintain its per-pupil expenditures. These higher taxes further reduce the attractiveness of Milwaukee to current and potential future middle-class residents and homeowners.

By expanding school choice in Milwaukee, and by correcting the “funding flaw,” the State of Wisconsin can directly address the concerns of city and MPS employees subject to residency requirements, while also contributing positively to the overall stability and economic well-being of its largest city.


MPS’ Rufus King students to compete in national debate tournament

January 16, 2013

MPS students sweep qualifier, take all southern Wisconsin spots for national debate tournament 

MPS’ Rufus King International School students will compete in Birmingham, Ala. in June; coach wins diamond award
Four Milwaukee Public Schools students have swept the region’s qualifying tournament and will be the only representatives from southern Wisconsin at the 2013 National Forensic League policy debate tournament.

The students from MPS’ Rufus King International School, ranked the #1 high school in Wisconsin in 2012 by U.S. News and World Report, will travel to the tournament in Birmingham, Ala. in June.

“It’s exhilarating,” senior debater Maddie Budny said.

Rufus King, whose debate team is operated in partnership with the Milwaukee Debate League, has taken half the qualifying spots in the prior two years’ qualifying tournaments. Cross-city rival Marquette University High School took the other spots each of those years.

This year, Rufus King took them all.

“Our school is finally getting the recognition we deserve in the debate community,” Budny added.

In addition to sweeping the spots for the National Forensic League tournament, Rufus King students also took two of the six spots available in the region for the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament to be held in Philadelphia in May.

Students from Rufus King will also compete this Saturday at the Wisconsin Debate Coaches Association state tournament at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater.

Nine MPS high schools offer debate programs, eight of which are operated in partnership with the Milwaukee Debate League (MDL).

Rufus King’s National Forensic League tournament qualifiers are Budny, James Elias, Quinn Miller and Elias Payne. The team is coached by Stephanie King and Victor Trussell. Coach King has now earned the National Forensic League’s diamond award for coaching students who have earned 15,000 points for their performances. She will be recognized for that achievement at the June tournament.

Dean Graf, who teaches International Baccalaureate art at Rufus King, is the team’s coordinator. Like policy debaters at schools around the country, the students have been tasked this year with gathering evidence and making arguments for and against the U.S. investing more money in its transportation infrastructure.

“I just marvel at these children. I just marvel at them,” said Graf, who also teaches at the college level. “They do more intense work than my college students. They’re driven.”

Payne, a senior debater, says that, sometimes, opponents don’t take his team too seriously because of negative stereotypes they associate with Milwaukee Public Schools.

And now?

“They’ll definitely watch out for us,” Payne said. “We’ve proved that everyone has an equal opportunity to do well at debate. We’ve proved that by working hard.”

Mike McCabe featured speaker, topic is Campaign Finance Jan. 26 public meeting

January 12, 2013

Mike McCabe, founder and director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign will be the featured speaker at a free public meeting titled, “The Fight of Our Lives: Coming to Terms with Growing Threats to the Health of Democracy,” on Saturday, January 26 at 9:30am in the Wauwatosa Public Library’s Firefly Room, North Ave. and 76th St., Wauwatosa.

The meeting, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and the North Shore AAUW will focus on the dramatic rise in “dark money” in our state and national elections and the corrupting influence such money can have on our democracy.

For more information visit the LWVMC website, www.lwvmilwaukee.org, or email league@lwvmillwaukee.org.

Free documentary at MPL: The North Shore Line: America’s Fastest Interurban, Jan. 19, 2pm

January 11, 2013

—photo courtesy Wiki Commons













The North Shore Line: America’s Fastest Interurban

Take a ride with the documentary The North Shore Line Brought to Life. Posters and photos from the Milwaukee Public Library’s Poster and Historic Photo Collections accompany this program.

Event Type: Film (History)
Age Group(s): Adults
Date: 1/19/2013
Start Time: 2:00 PM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Description: What was a streetcar in Milwaukee, an “L” in Chicago, and provided commuter service at passenger train speed between the two cities? The North Shore Line. Its Electroliners helped inspire the Japanese to build the world’s first high-speed rail.
Location: Centennial Hall Loos Room
Please call (414) 286-3011 to register. Or register online here.

Street parking is free on Saturdays, but time limits apply.
Library: Central
Registration Ends: 1/18/2013 at 5:00 PM
Contact Number: 414.286.3011
Status: Openings

Entrance to former depot, 305 Howard St, Evanston, IL —photo courtesy Wiki Commons

Chris Larson’s January public meeting schedule

January 10, 2013

Below are a few of the upcoming events that I invite you to attend if you are interested in talking to me about issues facing our community or state, or if you want to listen to the concerns and thoughts of your neighbors.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office for additional information. (Sen. Chris Larson)


Monday, January 14, 2013
5:30 p.m. ? 7 p.m. 

Urban Ecology Center ? Riverside Park
1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Friday, January 25, 2013
5:30 p.m. ? 7 p.m.

Beulah Brinton Community Center
2555 S. Bay Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Monday, January 28, 2013
5:30 p.m. ? 7 p.m.

Oak Creek Public Library
8620 S. Howell Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154

Monday, February 4, 2013
5:30 p.m. ? 7 p.m.

Cudahy Family Library
3500 Library Drive
Cudahy, Wisconsin 53110

Monday, February 11, 2013
5:30 p.m. ? 7 p.m.

Gordon Park Pavilion
2828 N. Humboldt Blvd. (at Locust St)
Milwaukee, WI 53212

Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi’s Lucille Walsh—dentist, scholar, Islam defender—to celebrate 100th birthday Jan. 14 at Clare Hall

January 10, 2013

Sr. Lucille Walsh

The 100th birthday of Sr. Lucille Walsh, OSF, will be celebrated on Monday, January 14, at 2:30pm in the dining room at Clare Hall, 3470 S. Illinois Avenue, St. Francis, Wis. (Clare Hall is adjacent to the Motherhouse grounds, “between” the Seminary and St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care.)

Sr. Lucille was born in Alberta, Canada, and came to know the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi when her family moved to Parkston, S.D., when she was 6 years old. The sisters were her teachers at Sacred Heart Grade School there, and after completing high school at Parkston, she joined the congregation in 1932.

Sister Lucille was a member of the theology faculty at Cardinal Strtich University from 1967 to 1988, at which time she became a volunteer in the university’s library until retiring in 1991. Prior to coming to Stritch, Sr. Lucille had earned her DDS degree from Marquette University and served as the congregation’s dentist.

In October 2012, Sister Lucille was recognized at Strtich for her involvement with establishing the Milwaukee area dialogue between Christians and Muslims. As the founder of the Religious Studies Department at Cardinal Stritch University, she was one of the first to perceive a need for dialogue with those of other faiths.

Sister Lucille had long been interested in non-Western religions such as Hinduism and Daoism, and her study of other faiths eventually led her to Islam in the early 1980s. However, she admitted that her background made an open look at the faith difficult.

A deeper level of understanding only came when she met actual Muslims. Many of these interactions occurred in her classroom, where she learned more about the faith from Muslims of both the Sunni and Shi’ite traditions. These interactions were eye-opening and highly educational, and she came to wonder what opportunities there were for a wider dialogue for Christians and Muslims outside of the classroom. Sister Lucille was a member of Milwaukee’s Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, but Islam was not included, underscoring the need for a new kind of interfaith dialogue.

At around this time, Sister Lucille met Dr. Abbas Hamdani, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As a friendship developed between this Catholic Sister and Muslim professor, so too did notions of a community dialogue between Christians and Muslims. With the blessing of then Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, their first attempt at a Christian-Muslim dialogue took place in 1980.

As time went on, Sister Lucille and the other participants in her dialogues collaborated on a variety of projects that were geared to combat stereotypes regarding Islam. The group conducted reviews of social studies textbooks to point out examples of subtle or overt stereotyping, and wrote to publishers of calendars to ask them to include Muslim holidays along with Christian and Jewish ones. All participants in these dialogues are optimistic that these interactions will continue to deepen interfaith understanding.

The following information about her involvement with the Christian/Muslim dialogue is excerpted from an article dated October 2012 at:


MPS likely to transform Bay View High School, phase out middle grades, SpringBoard up in the air

January 10, 2013

by Jay Bullock

At its Committee on Student Achievement and School Improvement (SASI) meeting Tuesday, January 8, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors moved another step closer to a redesign of Bay View Middle and High School, recommending significant changes to both the school’s structure and its curriculum.

The Milwaukee Public Schools spent the last couple of months in a process called “Believe in Bay View,” which aimed to bring together community members, school staff, current and prospective parents, students, and district personnel to find consensus on a path for improving the struggling school. After weeks of community input, a steering committee proposed that the school become a “school of innovation and creativity.”

At the SASI meeting, district officials explained that the school would transform its STEM offerings—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—to STEAM, adding arts; and add a vaguely defined program that would encourage students to identify a question or a need and pull from multiple subjects and skills to achieve a goal.

Current students and staff would have to “re-commit” to the school’s new curriculum and practices, including the school-wide implementation of a restorative justice program to deal with discipline and school climate.

The initial proposal included both a phase out of the middle grades—no new sixth graders admitted next fall, and so on—as well as one year with no new ninth graders admitted. The middle school phase-out remained in the final proposal, but board member Meagan Holman, who represents the Bay View community, successfully offered an amendment to keep a reduced enrollment of ninth grade.

SpringBoard was not in the proposal. SpringBoard is the College Board’s official pre-Advanced Placement curriculum, which in 2012 was promised to Bay View, and to four other schools. Superintendent Gregory Thornton explained at the meeting that SpringBoard, on top of a new curriculum, might be too much change. “With the present direction we’re going in,” he said, “we may not have the capacity to do all the things we want to do. I would rather do less, better.”

Holman’s amendment kept open the door for SpringBoard, though, calling for the district to explore bringing SpringBoard to neighborhood middle schools to then feed into the high school, which would offer the program as well.

Around two dozen parents, community members, school staff, and others offered oral or written testimony generally in support of the changes.

The full board needs to vote to approve the proposed changes for them to become official; it will meet Thursday, January 31.

Bay View’s wind turbine: Benefit to Milwaukee taxpayers approaches $15,000 since going online

January 9, 2013

The generation of wind energy at the Port of Milwaukee is paying dividends to city taxpayers as the turbine on the grounds of the port administration building is producing significantly more electricity than the administration building requires.  The surplus electricity is sold for use by other utility customers.

In the first nine months of operation, the wind turbine generated almost 45-thousand kilowatt-hours of electricity more than the port administration facility used.  So, rather than paying the electric utility, the port received $5,395.  When compared to the previous year, the port’s net electricity cost from February 22, 2012 through November 20, 2012 was down $14,683.

“This has proven to be a sensible, sustainable investment in green energy, and city residents are saving money,” Paul Vornholt, Port Operations Director said.  “And, the wind turbine has become a landmark near Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline in our Bay View neighborhood.”

The Northern Power 100 wind turbine went online at the end of February 2012.  The installation and equipment was paid for, in large part, with an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the Federal government, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The following table compares electricity usage at the port administration building during its first nine months of operation:

Year Sum of Usage (kwh) Net Cost
2011 72,480 $9,499
2012 -44,720 -$5,395
Difference -117,200 -$14,683


About the Port of Milwaukee

The Port of Milwaukee connects regional businesses with ocean-going ships, other ports on the Great Lakes, barges that travel on the Mississippi River system, railroads, and an interstate highway that terminates on Port property.  The Port is an economic entity of city government that is governed by the seven-member Board of Harbor Commissioners, a panel appointed by Mayor Barrett and confirmed by the Common Council.  It administers operations on the 467 acres that make up the Port.  In addition to promoting shipping and commerce, the Port of Milwaukee is the grantee of Foreign Trade Zone #41 which adds economic benefits to companies involved in international trade.

Jay Bullock’s testimony in response to MPS school board’s Student Achievement and School Improvement Committee recommendations to improve BVH&MS

January 7, 2013

MPS officials have initiated a process to improve Bay View Middle & High School called “Believe in Bay View.” MPS announced their recommendations last week.

One of the initial steps of the process was holding public meetings where BHM&HS stakeholders could “vote” on a list of improvements devised by MPS. (The vote involved placing a colored sticker on a poster board headed by one of the suggested improvements (or changes) for the school.)

The recommendation was shaped largely by the input of those attending the Believe in Bay View meetings as well as the steering committee, which included students, parents, staff, administrators, neighbors and community leaders.

The following text is Jay Bullock’s testimony in response to MPS’ recommendations. Bullock teaches English at Bay View High School and writes the Hall Monitor column for Bay View Compass.

Written testimony submitted to the Milwaukee Board of School Directors Student Achievement and School Improvement Committee, January 8, 2013


To:  Chair Miller, Vice-Chair Falk, Director Holman, Director Voeltner, Director Woodward

cc:  Dr. Thornton, Dr. Ellwood, Mr. Leinfelder


After fifteen years as a teacher in, observer of, and commentator on this district, I want to say first that I am very pleased and impressed with the process that brought us to this point.  The time, attention, and care this Board and this administration, particularly Director Holman and Dr. Ellwood, have spent over the past eighteen months on Bay View Middle and High School demonstrates a level of commitment far greater than what I, my colleagues, and this community could ever have hoped for.  It is clear that “Believe in Bay View” is not an empty slogan, but rather a pledge of support at the highest levels of this district.


I support the proposal before the Board, with two strong exceptions, which I will detail shortly.  My support, and my reservations, are rooted in my own belief in Bay View, and deeply informed by my own experience in this process and in this district.


I have been involved in this process for almost two years, starting with Parents for Bay View Schools in 2011 and its attempts to build community support for a stronger Bay View High School.  In September 2011, the group invited Superintendent Thornton to meet with the community on a Saturday morning and both sides, administration and community, made a commitment that day to work hard for a change at Bay View.  We were heartened and excited by Dr. Thornton’s support for SpringBoard at Bay View, the kind of name-brand, high-quality, college-prep program that neighbors, students, and staff were asking for.


I also served this past fall on the Believe in Bay View steering committee.  Again, as a long-time observer and critic of this district, I am impressed at the level of transparency and commitment to the full school community that the Believe in Bay View process demonstrated.  The work done by Dr. Ellwood, her staff, and the volunteers who helped lead community listening sessions to ensure that every voice was heard and every option was explored is unprecedented in my experience.  What has happened here, as with what happened with the recent merger of 81st and 68th Street Schools, shows that this administration and this Board care about process and community as much as they do results, and that is a welcome change.


I say a welcome change because this is, as they say, not my first rodeo:  Seven years ago, I went through much the same course of events as Madison University High School was a target for “reform” by the administration.  I sat on the committee that wrote the charter-school proposal, I flew to Kansas City, Kansas, to learn all about (and become an advocate for) First Things First, and I worked closely with MPS administration to shepherd that process.  But then, unlike now, the planning process was closed to all but a handful of people, with little involvement of students, parents, or community; the recommendations of teachers like me, ultimately, were ignored by members of the administration who thought they knew better; and in the end, the reform effort at Madison was a disaster.  The two worst years of my teaching career were my last two years at Madison, and, after a decade of commitment to that building, I transferred out.  (Many of my Madison colleagues did too; there are five of us now at Bay View!)


The Believe in Bay View process to date has been 180 degrees different from that at Madison, and I do not wish to see this Board or this administration harm the end of the process by repeating some of the same mistakes.


First, I am disappointed by the absence of SpringBoard from this proposal.  While I recognize that SpringBoard is a 6-12 curriculum almost everywhere it is implemented, it does not have to be.  Further, the steering committee made some strong recommendations for how to use SpringBoard to connect Bay View High School to its neighborhood feeder schools, to create a connection for neighborhood students between their neighborhood middle-grades experience and their and their neighborhood high school.  A multi-school student learning community could develop, as students from different schools engage in joint activities and similar experiences.  Further, a plan that implemented SpringBoard in several neighborhood schools presents a unique opportunity for a multi-school professional learning community, as teachers from Bay View High School would work and train closely with their counterparts in nearby middle schools.  The potential in that idea is exciting, and, I think, supports this administration’s belief that MPS must be One Team:  Today, I don’t work closely with colleagues from any other school; tomorrow, with SpringBoard, I would.


But more importantly, I worry that abandoning plans for SpringBoard would be seen as breaking the promise this administration and this Board made last year.  When the community within and around Bay View rose up as one and said, this is what we want, this administration and this Board said, we hear you, and we agree.  Without SpringBoard, all the work that Parents for Bay View Schools did seems wasted, and it becomes yet another data point in a series we all know well showing MPS failing to follow through on its commitments.


Second, I am deeply troubled by the part of the proposal that blocks entry of any new ninth graders to Bay View next fall.  While doing that—stopping new enrollment for one year to allow time for “planning” and “rebuilding”—was far from the only mistake MPS made in its reform of Madison University High School, it was probably the most damaging.  With the removal of ninth grade from Madison, Madison lost its IB program, its award-winning electronics program, its nursing assistant certification program, its choral music program, one of its two foreign languages, some of its coaches and athletic programs, and many great, young teachers who were most willing to commit to reform.  When older students saw the devastation—their favorite teachers or programs gone—they left, too, and we lost more staff on Third Friday.  The professional and student learning communities were decimated and, in my opinion, simply could not recover well enough to be the strong forces necessary to support the implementation of First Things First the next year, when enrollment returned to normal and half the adults and students in that building were brand new.


The idea did not die there; the stop-enrollment-to-rebuild plan has been tried again and again in MPS since, and I cannot think of a single school that today is better for having done it.  Where the idea originates, and why it keeps being proposed, is a mystery to me.


Indeed, I am not entirely sure where the idea came from in this proposal.  While the Believe in Bay View steering committee, not to mention the students, parents, neighbors, and staff, were in near-unanimous agreement about ending or phasing out the middle school grades at Bay View, no such consensus developed around the idea of stopping ninth grade enrollment.  As you can see from the data provided to you, “Reduced Student Population” was not a popular choice among those who participated in the process, especially among the community members this process was specifically designed to reach.  Phasing out the middle school will cause a slight decline in enrollment, but the bulk of the 500-student cut proposed here comes from the ninth grade.


Further, when the steering committee was presented with the idea of no new ninth grade, we spent very little time discussing it and those who spoke (including me) spoke generally against it.  We had the chance to vote with our “dots”—that whole gallery walk thing where we put stickers next to ideas we like on chart paper—and as I recall there was not great support from the dots, either.  (I imagine the chart papers are rolled up somewhere and can be checked, but this is my memory.)  The steering committee simply was not excited about the idea.


The administration’s justifications for a year without ninth grade seem wholly unrelated.  The year would be spent planning and training teachers for the new program, as well as aggressively marketing the new program to the community.  These are not things that preclude having a ninth grade.  In fact, it seems counterproductive to me to cut enrollment and staff in a year designated for planning and training.  The following year, when enrollment would presumably start to return to normal levels, the school will need to hire new staff who, though they’d have to “commit” to the program, would not have had a stake in developing it or a single minute of training in how to implement it.


If the administration’s goal for no new ninth grade is to create a calmer building climate, the same goal could be achieved through careful counseling of our current students prior to their “recommitment,” and enforcement now of those soft entrance requirements, which can be developed quickly before Three Choice begins next month.


Finally, eliminating ninth grade for a year, again, feels like MPS is breaking its promises.  When Bay View High School merged with Fritsche Middle School, the promise was that students and the community would have a single 6-12 school.  Our eighth graders, who were the first sixth grade class after that merger, were sold on the idea of Bay View as a middle and high school.  They and their parents and their teachers were promised that this merger—controversial then, to be sure—would produce a school that didn’t just have seven grades within in, but that because it had seven grades within it could provide a complete and comprehensive schooling experience.  Both schools before the merger saw steep drops in enrollment and threats to their programs and were told that merging the two would be the only way to save music, Project Lead the Way, arts, foreign language, and more.  Now all of those are threatened by the current proposal.  (Staff were told last week, for example, that our National Academy Foundation certification and grant funding is predicated on our being able to offer four years of academy classes—without ninth grade, it would be lost.)


Phasing out the middle school is one thing—it’s an acknowledgment that, as tried, the merger didn’t quite work as planned (a missed opportunity, I think, but that ship has sailed).  But to tell our current eighth graders that they cannot stay, and to tell our current staff that their jobs and their futures are uncertain because we have to “plan” for a year, is cruel and unnecessary.


Although I very strongly support almost all of the proposal as written, I encourage you to reconsider SpringBoard and ninth grade before you vote.  Thank you for your time.

Jay Bullock
English Teacher, Bay View Middle and High School

Hall Monitor: MPS needs follow through on new strategic plan

January 2, 2013

Milwaukee Public Schools must write a strategic plan every five years, as required by school board policy.

The 2007 plan was called “Working Together, Achieving More,” and it was the result of months of collaboration between MPS, its teachers union, the Greater Milwaukee Committee (which largely funded the process), and Milwaukee’s African American Education Council.

The published document states that more than 1,000 people offered input to the plan and that the school board unanimously adopted it in July 2007. It was, at that time, and since, the single most collaborative and transparent plan that MPS had ever produced.

And it was a masterpiece, bursting with optimism, leaving no lofty dream on the editing floor. “This document is the beginning of an unprecedented journey,” it promised. It was the “blueprint” for turning MPS “into one of the finest school districts in the nation.”

It wouldn’t be easy, we were told, because “we cannot achieve results without doing things differently.”

Indeed, the document acknowledged complaints that previous reform efforts failed to be implemented across the whole district and that they weren’t sustained very long.

If you are looking around now and thinking, Wait, it’s five years later—it’s supposed to be different now?, then you, too, probably work for MPS.

And if you do work for MPS, you just might also be thinking, Wait, we have a strategic plan?

My (very, very) informal survey of MPS staff and teachers I know or work with suggests that few of them know of the plan, or that it had the fancy title “Working Together, Achieving More,” or that the plan demanded that everyone be knowledgeable about it. “This is an action plan for every school, every principal, every teacher, and every staff member.” (Italicized emphasis is in the original document.)

It is true that the text of every item the board votes on has a clause to justify the existence of the strategic plan, but for everyday staff members, let alone students or parents, there’s no sense that there is an overall plan. Unprecedented collaboration and transparency has gone for naught.

That might be because “Working Together, Achieving More” has failed to produce increased achievement. Of eight goals the plan set for MPS, and of dozens of “Measurable Objectives and Key Outcome Measures” to track progress, MPS has failed to live up to almost all of them.

Some failures are obvious, like the plan’s number one goal, that MPS students would meet and exceed Wisconsin’s academic standards. They don’t, especially on the new, stricter standards adopted this past fall.

To see more of the failures, you need to dig deeper, into those “measurable objectives:

•Cut achievement gaps between minority and white students in half? Not yet.

•Collaborate with New Leaders for New Schools to cultivate a solid crop of school principals? Nope—that group fled from MPS’s dysfunction.

•Boost new teacher retention? Try several straight years of layoffs of mostly new teachers.

•Lobby for and get a new, fairer state funding formula? I refer you my December 2012 column. (bayviewcompass.com/archives/12827)

I will give MPS credit for one thing that “Working Together, Achieving More” got right, besides its collaborative and transparent creation. Goal number eight was to build “partnerships to support student achievement.” This was done well by the district. Most notably, MPS has a partnership with the General Electric Foundation, which gives the district $20 million to improve the teaching of math and science.

The rest of the news is not all bad, either. Graduation rates are up, although not to the 75% four-year-rate demanded by the plan; test scores are inching higher, especially in math; and MPS has worked hard to standardize disparate curricula and expand successful programs like Montessori. But the district is still bleeding students to charter and choice schools, still desperately underfunded, still teaching students who struggle with basic skills and family issues.

Five years isn’t enough to change a district the size of Milwaukee, and certainly not enough to meet the mile-high goals MPS set five years ago. But as it moves forward on the path to a new strategic plan—MPS kicked it off with an event on December 1, attended by 150 or so other community members and myself—MPS must remember this. The failure of the 2007 plan lies not in its impossible ambition or its soaring rhetoric, but because, on the ground, many of its called-for reforms didn’t make it to the whole district, plans were abandoned rather than sustained, students and staff feel jerked around and powerless, and there is not a lot that is really being done differently.

Five years ago the district made a public promise to be different, and it didn’t live up to it. This time, the district has a chance to do it right.

Jay Bullock teaches English at Bay View Middle and High School, blogs at schoolmattersmke.com, and tweets as @folkbum. You can email him at mpshallmonitor@gmail.com.

BVHS student is winner

January 2, 2013

Kris Aderhold, Class of 1986 and Tashae Goodman, Class of 2013 in the newly-named Ageless Beauty Salon in the St. Ann Center. —photo courtesy MPS

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care recently held a contest to rename their hair salon. The salon offers many different services for the center’s elderly clients, including hair styling and nail care.

Kris Aderhold, a staff member at the salon, and a Bay View High School graduate (Class of 1986) organized the contest that was open to open to current Bay View students.

Bay View High School senior Tashae Goodman won the contest with her entry, “Ageless Beauty Salon and Nails.”

Goodman, who will graduate in 2013, was awarded a $50 gift card December 20, 2012.

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