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‘Working Together; Achieving More’ Public Input Needed for MPS Strategic Planning Initiative

by Suzanne Zipperer

Good communities create good schools. Investment of both time and tax dollars in public education indicates a community’s value for an educated young citizenry, as well as the faith it has in its own future.

Over the past year, the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC), an organization of Milwaukee’s business, academic, civic, and nonprofit leaders, looked at what Milwaukee needed most to secure a bright and prosperous future. Two things stood out: education and jobs. The Milwaukee community has always understood how these two are intertwined and has responded by adjusting public education according to the changing work world.

The GMC Education Committee is led by Sister Joel Read, retired president of Alverno College and one of Milwaukee’s premier education leaders. The committee met for the past year with MPS stakeholders, including principals, board members and business leaders.

Much to be Praised

They found much to be praised in Milwaukee’s public schools. Embedded within the figures of high dropout rates, increasing discipline problems, and low test scores are stellar programs that really do prepare young people for the modern work world.

One reason the community isn’t aware of the positives is that a districtwide plan that ties all the initiatives together is absent. This makes it difficult for district employees and stakeholders to envision the future.

After its examination of the district, the GMC committee concluded, “MPS’ current student achievement results are unacceptable. MPS can and must do a better job educating students and preparing them for college and career.” (See www.gmconline.org)

Recommendations

The GMC Education Committee recommended MPS create a strategic plan. GMC is funding the effort, called Working Together, Achieving More. As stated on the web page for the initiative (accessible from the GMC web site): “The goal of this action strategy is to ensure MPS is an efficiently and effectively run school district that is highly accountable for its student achievement results. The action strategy will include goals, interim goals, action plans, timeframes and accountability monitoring.” The strategic plan will align what MPS does with what Milwaukee needs.

“The community can then see the direction it (MPS) is trying to move in, which is connected to economic development,” Sr. Joel Read explained in an interview with the Currents.

In its role as a stakeholder, the GMC has managed to get district leaders, the school board, and union leadership to see the value of developing a long-range integrated plan that lays it all out for the community. The GMC also funded an experienced education consulting firm, Focus on Results, to provide support to the district as it goes through the planning process.

Read emphasizes that the school system must be allowed to focus on its charge of education children. It cannot solve all the problems of the city, particularly those related to poverty.

Poverty, she said, should not be a deterrent to learning. “The major focus has to be on teaching and learning… The strategic plan is to aid the adults in what they are doing with the children.”

What is the role of the community in the process? At this stage, the community is being led in guided discussions around what the district should keep doing and what it should stop doing. The web page connected to the project provides not only an online feedback form, but also data on MPS achievement, as well as information on current initiatives. The information collected from the survey and community meetings will be recorded in a database and used in the planning process.

Time to Speak Up!

This is an opportune time for Riverwest residents to provide input into a school system that, whether or not you have children attending, has a direct impact on everything from crime rates to the care you will receive if you are hospitalized.

“The Riverwest community, like other communities, has a lot at stake where education is a concern. When changes are made in MPS without input from the Riverwest community, the future of Riverwest is put at risk,” stated Dr. Lottie Smith, principal of Gaenslen Elementary School on East Burleigh Street.

“Because the Riverwest community is a tax paying community it is very important that its members have input into whatever plans the Milwaukee Public Schools District is considering.”

Community Meeting Schedule “Working Together; Achieving More”

Wednesday, January 3, 6:30 PM
Fritsche Middle School
2969 S. Howell Avenue

Tuesday, January 9, 6:30 PM
FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION FAMILIES
MPS central administration building
5225 W. Vliet Street

Wednesday, January 10, 6:30 PM
35th Street School
4834 N. Mother Daniels Way

Thursday, January 11, 6:30 PM
Sholes school complex
4965 S. 20th Street

Tuesday, January 16, 6:30 PM
MPS central administration building
5225 W. Vliet Street

Wednesday, January 17, 6:30 PM
FOR PARENTS OF FORMER MPS STUDENTS
MPS central administration building
5225 W. Vliet Street

You can also provide input by filling out an online survey at www.focusonresults.net/mpsfeedback/working_together.html (or Search “working together achieving more”) The web site provides an excellent overview of the district.

Riverwest Currents online edition – January, 2007