Paren(t)hesis — All friends aren’t the same

May 1, 2017

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

A new kid joined Sesame Street on the public television show produced by the nonprofit Sesame Workshop! The new character has autism, and you can watch her on YouTube by searching “Meet Julia” to view the Season 47, Episode 15 clip.

Big Bird learns that Julia does some things differently, like:

Not answering right away

Not doing what others expect (may ignore requests to give a high five)

Doing things that might seem confusing to others (might flap hands when excited)

Getting upset around noise like ambulance sirens

The other characters, including the adult Alan, explain to Big Bird how to interpret Julia’s behavior and they agree that all friends aren’t the same. They break into a cute song together.

People with autism don’t all act the same, so it’s difficult to have just one character represent them all. To reach the best portrayal, the nonprofit Sesame Workshop brought in autism organizations in addition to the educators and child psychologists they regularly consult.

Although our daughter is out of the target range for the show, I’d like to show her the clip. I think it’d hold her interest long enough to get the point across and shows like this are a great way to ease into discussing other topics, such as autism

It’s on a different level but when I was a child, I remember Count Dracula being the first person I encountered with an accent. I suppose the character was meant to share math skills but I mostly noticed the “Transylvania accent.” Having heard it repeatedly probably helped me relate to people who would become our family friends, Spanish ex-patriots. The mother could not pronounce the “j” sound and always called me Yill instead of Jill. Being from another country seemed totally exotic to me and I was always a little afraid of the mom.

I’m sure kids with autism (or from other countries) don’t want to be feared. Hopefully Julia will help kids be a little more receptive to their potential new friends.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

In Balance — Community acupuncture, affordable healthcare for everyone

May 1, 2017

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical traditions, yet many Americans are unfamiliar with this method of healthcare. Even among those who have experienced acupuncture, many see it as an expensive niche therapy. This is unfortunate because acupuncture has always been intended to treat everyday ailments. Thankfully, many American acupuncturists are challenging these preconceptions by making acupuncture more affordable and accessible by embracing the community acupuncture model.

The concept and practice of community acupuncture originated in China, as practitioners sought to treat as many patients as possible in crowded hospitals. As more American practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine started going to China to do clinical rotations, this model of practice started to answer the broader question: how can we bring acupuncture to the masses in America in a format that maximizes acupuncture’s effectiveness?

The history of community acupuncture in America started in Portland in 2002, when Lisa Rohleder and Skip Van Meter opened Window of the Sky (now named Working Class Acupuncture). They saw that acupuncture was unaffordable for some people, even though it is one of the safest and least expensive treatment modalities for many common ailments like pain and mental health. It was important to Rohleder and Van Meter to provide an affordable option at a time when rising healthcare costs and pre-existing condition limitations were preventing many from receiving the treatment they needed. At the same time, they wanted to help fellow acupuncturists earn a living wage through a sustainable business model.

Acupuncture is a cumulative medical modality. This means that treatments are most effective when you utilize them often (weekly or biweekly), committing to multiple treatments. Much like going to the gym, you need repetition with acupuncture treatment. You can’t expect to see results if you only go once. But unlike a gym, where a flat membership fee encourages frequent exercise, most acupuncturists are forced to charge high hourly rates that prevent many patients from incorporating acupuncture into their regular health routine. It’s not that these acupuncturists are greedy, but rather that the business of acupuncture has been shoehorned into the inefficient Western medical model.

This is where community acupuncture comes in. Instead of a single acupuncturist seeing a few patients a day, community acupuncture clinics are staffed with multiple acupuncturists who can each treat six to eight patients an hour. To accommodate the higher patient volume, community acupuncture is typically performed in a large open room filled with many comfy recliners, rather than on massage tables in private rooms.

At Milwaukee Community Acupuncture in Bay View, we may see upwards of 75 people over the course of a full day. The reduced overhead costs of room rental and time a patient spends resting with the needles maximize patient volume, thus driving down costs, making acupuncture affordable and accessible for everyone. Treatments are designed to be efficient and are thus able to be offered on a sliding scale of $15-40, without any proof of income.

In a typical community acupuncture treatment, patients come into the community space, take off their shoes and socks, push up their sleeves and pant legs and wait for the acupuncturist on staff to perform a short intake. After a diagnostic assessment of the pulses, patients are pushed back into recliner-chair heaven and allowed to relax with acupuncture needles for about 40 minutes, next to their neighbors who are likewise relaxing in their recliners. Although this style of acupuncture focuses on acupuncture on the arms, legs head and neck, it excels at treating everything from low back pain to migraines.

Community acupuncture’s affordability and social entrepreneurship were highlighted by Rohleder in 2006 when she published The Remedy: Integrating Acupuncture into American Healthcare. By the end of that year, there were 11 clinics in the United States. practicing community acupuncture. Today, there are over 200 member clinics of People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA).

You can join the revolution of community acupuncture and become a sustaining member of the POCA co-op at

Megan Bielinski, L.Ac., works as an acupuncturist at Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, a local clinic dedicated to providing affordable and accessible acupuncture to those in the community and beyond. For more information about Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, please visit

Disclaimer: the information provided in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care.

SPOTTLIGHT — Who will provide the most accurate home valuation — Zillow or a local agent?

May 1, 2017

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Estimates are estimates and price opinions are price opinions.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what the price of a property should be these days. Lately the topic has heated up with the emergence of websites like Zillow and others.

Zillow is an online real estate database company that sells its information to real estate agents and produces a forecast of a home’s value known as a Zestimate. (Trulia, a site similar to Zillow, recently purchased Zillow.)

Zillow’s data, according the company’s chief analytics officer Stan Humphries, is drawn from a number of sources including the U.S. Census, county records of sales, tax assessments, FEMA flood zone maps, Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Home Price Index, and more. But those sources don’t include information about the current condition of the home or recent upgrades.

Sellers who are thinking of putting their home on the market need advice about establishing the best asking price for their home. Often, as they contemplate price, they think about a price point that will provide what they need or want. They get advice from their friends and family, and of course, everyone feels it’s worth a whole lot!

Then they go online and up pops Zillow! Woo! It’s a big showy site with lots of numbers, statistics, maps, and photos of real estate agents, etc. They type in their address and up pops the Zestimate — this is what your house should sell for! But most of the time that price is over- or undervalued; it’s rarely spot on.

So that is where is where the confusion comes in. Most people accept the Zestimate as expert advice and run with it. Here is the issue with that — Zillow “only knows” numbers. Its database can’t see the smoke stains on the ceiling or hear the cars on the freeway. It can’t smell pet odors. It can’t see the updates or the paint and other finishes. It doesn’t know if there is a big fenced-in backyard or if there is an apartment building right next door.

Zillow and Trulia have never been in your home to see what shape it’s in or what you’ve done to it, be it good or bad. These content portals share basic data but they can’t give you insight and local knowledge like a real estate agent can. A real estate agent can provide information about the immediate neighborhood and actual street where your home is.

A local agent will provide you with accurate and timely information that will include current home sales in your direct neighborhood. They know how the local market is going and where it’s going next. They live and breathe home sales versus the online guestimates of the value of your home. A real estate agent has their finger on the pulse of the market because they tour homes on a weekly basis and know what’s going on locally. They know about that new shopping mall going in a mile away, they know about the factory is slated to be built down the street in the coming months — they know what’s going on in the here and now.

Ultimately, the market sets the price, not a website.

The best example of a good use of the Zestimate program is the CEO of Zillow. He put his home on the market for sale and received 60 percent of the Zestimate value. It clearly wasn’t worth what Zillow and the Zestimate said it was. He sold it at market value. Rather ironic.*

All agents use the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) to gain the latest statistics on the market, and then when listing a home, they meet with the owner and tour the home to note any improvements or defects that affect the value of the property, as well as the surrounding area.

The same system used to establish the value of a home is also used by buyers, if they are working with a buyer’s agent. Like the selling agent, they need to know the actual value of the home they are placing an offer on. However, they tend to use the online sites to get an idea of the supposed home value, which doesn’t work in their favor.

So like the seller, it is in a buyer’s best interest to contact a real estate agent.

Happy Spring selling and buying!


Toni Spott, Sustainable Agent,
Keller Williams Realty;
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate Resource;

Southside SOUP nourishes community projects

May 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson

In 2010, a group of social visionaries in Detroit formed Support Our Urban Projects (SOUP), a community-based micro-funding dinner celebration to support small and medium-sized projects in the arenas of social justice, the arts, urban agriculture, and more. The SOUP model has quickly spread to other cities. It debuted in Bay View April 9 at Lazy Susan.

Southside SOUP was born of a desire by some Bay View Neighborhood Association members to provide better connections within the community while supporting smaller, easily attainable community projects. Southside SOUP board members loosely based their first effort on Detroit SOUP’s successful model.

Attendees paid $10. Admission included soup, salad, and bread that was donated by local businesses, a vote for one of four projects that would receive the proceeds generated by the admission fee. Mary Ellen Hermann, co-owner of The Muse Gallery Guesthouse and a Southside SOUP board member, said 57 people attended.

Each presenter was given four minutes to pitch their project to the SOUP attendees. After a presentation, no more than four questions were taken from the audience. SOUP organizers used a timer and strictly enforced the four-minute presentation time limit.

“These things only work if we respect peoples’ time,” Hermann said. “Who wants to go to something boring like an awards dinner and try to stay awake during a long speech? That’s a thing of the past and we wanted to get down to the point.”

A public address system was provided for presenters but no PowerPoint presentations were allowed.

“The fact that they weren’t polished presenters flipping through slide after slide of data and flashy pictures made it feel as if everyone could identify,” Hermann said.

The top vote getter was Lazy Susan owner Amanda “A.J.” Dixon, who presented a plan to upgrade some of the equipment used for cooking classes at the Bay View Community Center. She and others teach culinary classes at the center.

“A.J. hauled things from her own kitchen and taught on a card table. She gave a beautiful education about who and what our Bay View Community Center is. Sometimes the individual projects aren’t as interesting as the presenters’ stories about their little piece of Bay View.”

Another factor that may have given Dixon an edge, Hermann said, was that Dixon had already reached out to Boelter, a Waukesha-based supplier of kitchen gear. She explained her SOUP proposal and asked if they would reciprocate in some fashion if she were to win the SOUP prize and spend the funds at Boelter. They told her they would donate $500, matching what Dixon estimated would be the amount raised at SOUP. “I have a feeling that [match] had a lot to do with the decision of people to vote for her,” Herman said.

Fellow Southside SOUP board member Dillan Laughlin agreed that the stories behind the projects were intriguing. “It wasn’t so much about which project that was going to win, but more about exposing people to more awesome projects they didn’t know about. I had no idea of some of the projects going on at the Bay View Community Center and now I have more awareness of what’s going there,” he said.

The Bay View Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave., is an independent social services organization run by sisters Linda Nieft and Barbara Nieft that has been operating since 1978. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The Bay View Community Center is an independent social services organization run by sisters Linda Nieft and Barbara Nieft that has been operating since 1978. Their programming gamut includes an emergency food pantry and infant formula pantry but also programming for children, adults, and families.

Adult programming includes cooking classes that are presented by local cooks and chefs who Barbara Nieft said are paid contractors. Participants pay $18 per class for lessons that range from Japanese and Korean food to cooking with foraged ingredients. Nieft is the center’s director of adult programming, marketing, and development.

On average, the cooking classes draw 30-40 participants. Rather than in the center’s kitchen, the lessons are given in a classroom.

When Nieft learned they would be the beneficiary of new gadgets and other kitchen tools, she said, “We’re thrilled to death that the people thought us worthy of the donation.” She said their equipment needed upgrading and would make the presentations more appealing to the cooking instructors and participants.

Revenue generated from the classes supports the center’s programming including the food and infant formula pantry. She stressed that the center does not receive government support, and that it is a United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Agency Program Partner.

Dixon will be required to return to the next SOUP event for a follow-up presentation to describe how she used the funds and how they contributed to the community center. The Southside SOUP board received nine submissions and narrowed it down to four for the final event.

Making SOUP

Hermann and Laughlin, both BVNA board members, said they noticed that while BVNA excels at getting people to attend events like Chill on the Hill and the Pumpkin Pavilion, sometimes people still didn’t seem to connect.

“People are coming to the shows,” Laughlin observed, “but they stay within their own group, or talk with neighbors they already  know, but there’s a lack of new connections.”

When Hermann learned about Detroit SOUP from her daughter, she was intrigued by the idea, which seemed to be an ideal format for people to connect via a safe forum and bring up topics important to them.

Hermann, along with BVNA past president Christopher Miller, decided to form a separate SOUP board, while keeping it under the BNVA umbrella. Southside SOUP uses BVNA’s website, Facebook page, and payment system for SOUP events, thus keeping down costs and the time and labor of maintaining an additional website and social media channels.

The event and call for proposals was advertised on social media, through an email campaign, and on posters distributed throughout Bay View. Submissions began to arrive in February.

Rather than focusing solely on Bay View, the Southside SOUP board decided to include all of Milwaukee Aldermanic District 14, which encompasses the Polonia District west of the Kinnickinnic River. Hermann said the planning process happened naturally and the event came together organically through casual conversation and word of mouth. Dixon donated event space. Café Centraal, Lulu’s, Hello Falafel, and The Muse Gallery Guesthouse donated soup.  Brewers Organics donated the salad ingredients.

Outpost Natural Foods provided a gift certificate, but Hermann said that gift came in after other donations. The gift from Outpost will be saved to purchase items for the next SOUP event that is planned for fall at a yet-to-be determined location.

Both Hermann and Laughlin received positive feedback about the premiere Southside SOUP event. They have also fielded inquiries from people from outside District 14 who wanted to know how to start a SOUP event in their own neighborhoods.

“It’s about using food as the glue of communications,” Laughlin said.

More info:;

Bay View’s community gardens growing stronger

May 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

Village Roots, Bay View’s first community garden, is a secret gem. Tucked away at the east terminus of Otjen Street behind the Beulah Brinton Community Center, the diminutive jewel was established in 2001. PHOTO Katherine Keller

It’s spring in Bay View!

Suddenly, a proliferation of bicyclists and runners on streets, sidewalks, and bike paths. Parks and playgrounds resound with the exuberant cries of children. Butterflies and bees dart among a profusion of greens — peridot, emerald, chartreuse, citrine, celadon, lime. Mornings and evenings are exulted with birdsong. Tables and chairs again appear on the sidewalks next to bars and cafés. Tulips and daffodils and narcissus and forsythia and hyacinth and scilla and dandelions glow in gardens and lawns. Windows and doors are thrown open to the sweet-scented breeze.

In the neighborhood’s three community gardens, early bird gardeners are transforming forlorn plots as they turn over soil and sow seeds and plant seedlings.

How the Gardens Grew

There are 148 raised beds offered to the public, provided by Village Roots Garden (1115 E. Otjen St.), Hide House Community Garden (2590 S. Greeley St), and Cupertino Community Garden (1898 E. Ontario St). The plots are rented for a nominal fee to those who have no yard, who want more space than their yards possess, or whose yards are too shady to support a vegetable garden.

Village Roots, Bay View’s first community garden, is a secret gem. Tucked away at the east terminus of Otjen Street behind the Beulah Brinton Community Center, the diminutive jewel was established in 2001 by the Bay View Garden and Yard Society (BVGAYS), Milwaukee Urban Gardens (MUG), and South Community Organization (not to be confused with the Southside Organizing Committee).

Stephanie Harling, who currently serves as the garden’s volunteer manager, said that BVGAYS acquired the empty lot, which she thinks had been the site of a demolished home. Society members donated it to MUG in 2002 as a land trust. They cleared it, designed the garden, built a pergola, 12 raised beds, and launched the community garden. Vitus Konter created the garden plan, which can be viewed at

There are eight square and four triangular plots in the Village Roots garden. The east and west borders of the lot are adorned with a butterfly garden, bird garden, annual flower beds, and other botanical embellishments.

Harling said she thinks that most of the Village Roots plots have been rented this season but that those who wish to inquire should contact her via the Village Roots Garden Facebook page.

Last year a hose system was installed throughout the Hide House Community Garden so that for the first time, gardeners did not need to transport water from a hydrant situted about a third of a block north of their thirsty plots. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The Hide House Community Garden began with a meeting of 24 people in January 2010. One of those at the original meeting was Jason Haas (now Milwaukee County District 14 Supervisor), who wrote about the gathering in a blog post the following month.

He said the project was spearheaded by Melissa Tashjian, who wanted a community garden in Bay View that would become “a rallying point for Bay View” and “available to neighborhood residents, churches, and other community groups to grow food for themselves and others.”

Victory Garden Initiative, a Shorewood-based organization led by Gretchen Mead, was granted a no-cost three-year lease for an empty lot, part of the Hide House complex owned by General Capital Group. The lot is bound by Greeley Street on the west, Burrell Street on the east, and Deer Place on the south.

Victory Garden Initiative and the Bay View Neighborhood Association collaborated to support Tashjian and her group. BVNA donated $1,000. The Home Depot Foundation provided a $5,000 grant and later that spring, provided a group of their employees who volunteered to install 36 fence posts that line the perimeter of the garden. The garden materialized on May 1 when about 50 volunteers gathered and built 110 raised bed frames and filled them with new soil.

At a later date, the garden was renamed Hide House Community Garden. It is affiliated with Groundwork Milwaukee and MUG. It has been managed by a series of volunteers since 2010.

Last year a hose system was installed throughout the garden so that for the first time, gardeners did not need to transport water from a hydrant situated about a third of a block north of their thirsty plots. A garden shed with a roof and trough system to collect rainwater is being planned and is to be installed this year.

At press time, all of the 8 x 4 foot plots were rented but a dozen 4 x 4 foot plots were still available. Information about the garden and plot availability can be found at its Facebook page, Hide House Community Garden.

A snazzy new sign was installed on the southwest corner of the garden. Ryan Schone commissioned the sign and the concrete and stone flowerbed at its base. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Bay View’s newest community garden sprang up last year. Cupertino Community Garden is located on the south end of the bluff section of Cupertino Park on the corner of Ontario Street and Shore Drive.

Bay View Terrace resident Joe Walsh, who once operated a small farm near St. Nazianz, Wis., led the effort to create a community garden in Cupertino Park, which is at the foot of his building. He said he noticed the south section of the park was flooded with hours of sunlight and that there was a fire hydrant on the corner of the section where he envisioned a garden. Many of Milwaukee’s community gardens receive water from the city hydrants. They pay an annual fee of $150 for the privilege of accessing the water.

After gauging the interest of his neighbors, Walsh contacted Groundwork Milwaukee for advice about starting a garden. Because the park is owned by Milwaukee County, Ryan Schone of the University of Wisconsin Extension was recruited. The group held a community meeting to introduce the garden proposal and to gather feedback. About 40 people attended and while there was some concern expressed about using public parkland for a garden, the majority supported the idea.

SEED, a Milwaukee County program that funds community gardens, paid for most of the cost of the raised beds and soil. Additional support was provided by Groundwork Milwaukee and by the fees gardeners paid to rent the 25 plots. All of the plots, each 4 x 8 feet, were rented last year, and there was a waiting list of 15. At the end of the 2016 season, five more plots were constructed. Walsh said that all plots were again rented this year. Demand for the gardens is high and therefore each Cupertino Community Garden member is limited to one plot.

A snazzy new sign was installed on the southwest corner of the garden. Ryan Schone commissioned it and also the concrete and stone flowerbed at its base. For information about Cupertino Community Garden, call Joe Walsh, 414-899-3302.

Disclosure: Katherine Keller is a member and the volunteer manager of the Hide House Community Garden.

It’s the freshmen, it’s always the freshmen

May 1, 2017

By Jay Bullock

Recently, Milwaukee Public Schools Regional Superintendent Orlando Ramos was reported to be a finalist for several school district superintendent positions around the country.

Most MPS “regionals” supervise geographical areas — East, Southwest, Central, and Northwest. Not Ramos. He heads the High School region, which means he has the worst job in MPS.

As the person who oversees MPS high schools, Ramos is accountable for students at the end of 12 years’ worth of MPS education, but he controls only four of them.

The headline statistic that Ramos (and often MPS) is judged on is the district’s graduation rate.

With 83 percent of students graduating after their fourth year of high school in 2014-15, America as a whole was at an historic high, according to federal data. Just 20 years ago, that number was 71 percent. (Data from the 2015-2016 year is not yet available.)

For MPS, the 2014-15 graduation rate was only 59 percent. Worse, in Wisconsin, the gap between the white and black graduation rates is 27 percentage points, the widest in the nation, according to the Feds. In MPS, where the majority of Wisconsin’s black students attend school, the gap is 23 points: only 56 percent of black students in MPS graduate in four years, compared 69 percent of white students.

MPS does better with its six-year rate, giving students two more years to finish high school or an alternate program like GED. In 2014-15, our six-year rate was 72 percent, still terrible but closer to a respectable number.

MPS is not alone. Urban districts nationwide struggle with graduation rates and gaps, especially between black and white graduates, though obviously many urban districts were able to overcome some challenges that MPS hasn’t.

For example, an April article in Education Week detailed how the Chicago Public Schools system was able to boost its graduation rate from fewer than half in 2007 to 70 percent in 2014-15.

Working with researchers from the University of Chicago, CPS identified six keys to boosting graduation rates: Ease the transition from 8th to 9th grade. Boost attendance. Reduce out-of-school suspensions. Hold high standards for grades and achievement. Build school communities that take collective responsibility for student success. Use early-warning indicators to identify students who are off-track as soon as possible.

I can sum that all up in a single word: freshmen.

True, the “ease the transitions” plank of that platform explicitly refers to 9th graders. But the others all do implicitly, and I’ll return to Milwaukee to explain how, beginning with attendance.

While MPS has an overall 89 percent attendance rate, meaning eight of every nine students are in school on any given day, absences are not spread equally among all students.

In Milwaukee, 46 percent of students are habitually truant, meaning they miss 10 days or more in a year. At that point, likely graduation rates fall quickly to below 60 percent. At 20 days absent — just one absence every other week — graduation rates fall below 50 percent.

The worst attendance rate in MPS, a tepid 78 percent, belongs to freshmen, and fully 65 percent of freshmen are habitually truant.

The University of Chicago researchers note that “missing as few as five days per semester can make a student less likely to graduate from high school.”

Ninth grade also leads in suspensions. In 2014-15, 11 percent of all MPS students were suspended at least once. But 22 percent of freshmen were suspended, double the average. Freshmen also comprised 40 percent of all expelled students.

And so on. MPS freshmen come into high school well below grade level. On 2015-2016 state tests, only 11 percent of MPS 8th graders were proficient or higher in math (compared to 36 percent statewide) and 19 percent in English (40 percent statewide). It’s hard to have high standards for freshmen when so many struggle to meet the lower standards of middle school.

Freshmen grade point averages are also worse than those of their peers. In the most recent year that I could find data for, 2011-12 when MPS self-published a district report card, freshmen earned a sad 1.52 GPA on a four-point scale. The average for seniors, by comparison, was a 2.2. (Current data were not available from MPS by press time)

MPS 9th grade has higher enrollment than any other grade K-12 school. As the low GPAs, poor attendance, and high suspension rates suggest, many students repeat 9th grade. The exact number isn’t available in state data, but compared to 8th-grade enrollment, it looks like around 2,000 of the district’s nearly 7,000 freshmen are there for the second or third time. Freshmen, then, make up almost two-thirds of all MPS students held back a grade in a given year.

What’s the Answer?

Chicago has improved its success rate by paying attention to the factors listed above, and implementing freshmen families or academies, meaning a small group of teachers shares the 9th-grade class and can work more proactively, and faster, to intervene when students start falling behind. Some MPS schools do that now — including Bay View High School — and more will institute the program next fall.

MPS has made other changes, such as moving the start of high school to mid-August in order to minimize the “summer slide.”

But Chicago also does something desperately needed here. According to the University of Chicago group supporting changes in CPS, “students with low attendance and grades in middle school [are] flagged for early intervention before entering high school” (my italics).

In addition to sending kids on to high school without anything like 8th-grade mastery, MPS middle schools and K-8s have no good way to communicate all the red flags and supports needed for members of a high school’s incoming class.

Every year I watch as high-risk students sit in class — for more than a month — until the first round of district screening tests are completed.

Then, finally, five or six wasted weeks into the school year, students are placed in intervention classes or referred for special education services. That is, assuming the school even has those supports available, having not been informed beforehand that they would be needed.

This is why Orlando Ramos has the worst job in MPS. Sure, he can take credit for great MPS schools that always graduate world-class scholars and make it into various national top-schools lists. But he also has to manage the ongoing mess that is Milwaukee’s freshman class, with no ability to influence who makes up that class or what happens to them before they enter his region.

The district’s high school region is just two years old, and maybe the reorganization that created it will yield results eventually. For now, though, you couldn’t pay me enough to take on an impossible task like that.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all data in this column are from the most recent statistics on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

Jay Bullock, who teaches English at Bay View High School, has approximately the 9,728th worst job in MPS. Email him at