MILWAUKEE -- A plan to turn around failing Milwaukee Public Schools has been controversial from the start. On Monday, May 9th, we saw more anger and protests as the new commissioner defended his work.
The commissioner was appointed under a new law, to lead what's called the "Opportunity Schools Partnership Program." His job is to analyze 55 failing schools and decide which to incorporate into his program.
From the start, there has been resistance. Opponents are calling this a "takeover" of MPS.
"A hostile takeover. Absolutely. That's what this is," Angela Walker said.
Commissioner Demond Means calls it a partnership.
"It's nothing like a takeover. It's the furthest thing you can think of," Means said.
Opponents said they're angry they weren't notified of a meeting on Monday between the commissioner and an advisory council.
"Transparency is something that needs to happen. The parents in these schools have no idea what's going on with their children," Gail Hicks said.
Speaking over protesters, Means said the meeting's purpose was to get feedback from leaders of groups like MICAH and the teachers union.
"Their purpose is to give us true insight from community groups that are invested and interested in this work," Means said.
Means said the meeting wasn't closed, so opponents were allowed to attend.
Outside, they said they're against the program because they are against privatizing Milwaukee schools.
"This is an experiment. How dare you experiment with the children of Milwaukee?" Ingrid Walker Henry said.
Means said what he and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele have proposed doesn't take any schools out of the system. He said they're focusing on only one school for the 2016-2017 school year, and plan to address issues with instruction, infrastructure and leadership.
"The proposal we've put on the table for MPS schools doesn't privatize anything," Means said.
Opponents worry teachers will have to reapply for their jobs, and that they will lose union membership.
"We deserve better than this," Walker said.
Means said that's not true.
"What you've heard is fiction, is false," Means said.
We don't know which MPS school is being targeted for this program at this point, but we should know by the end of the year.
Means' goal is to improve student performance on a state exam by five percent each year.