Face-to-face: Two sides meet to talk about turnaround plan for Milwaukee’s failing public schools

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MILWAUKEE -- The ongoing debate surrounding the turnaround plan for Milwaukee's failing public schools is one step closer toward being resolved. Thursday, June 23rd was the deadline for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) officials to get on board with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's proposal.

The two sides were unable to come to a compromise on what the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP) would look like. Still, officials called Thursday's discussion a small victory -- because it was the first time they had gotten together in person since April 21st.

Dr. Darienne Driver

Dr. Darienne Driver

In an hour-long closed-door meeting, Superintendent Darienne Driver said Thursday's talk focused on MPS' alternative vision to the state-mandated OSPP. The original plan was proposed by Abele and Commissioner Demond Means.

"The discussion isn't necessarily their proposal, our proposal -- it's just figuring out how are we able to come to a place where we are offering a program that meets the needs of our children and their families," said Dr. Driver.

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As MPS announced last Friday, June 17th, its proposal includes an early childhood program located at the former 35th Street School. In Abele's option, one failing school would be put in a recovery district headed by Means this fall. But the two sides say they are open to compromising.

Demond Means

Demond Means

"Our plan has always been to cooperate and to partner with Milwaukee Public Schools," said Means.

One question both sides have moving forward is whether MPS teachers will be in the OSPP classrooms.

"I was surprised when in their proposal, well, we asked, are you interested in teachers being MPS employees, and they said no," said Abele.

Chris Abele

Chris Abele

Driver is concerned it is not legal. Under her alternative, district staff would not be a part of OSPP.

"So the model as it's set, OSPP would be the overseeing operator of the program," said Driver.

The two sides plan to meet again in the next few days.

The following is an update regarding the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) from MPS officials to the MPS community:

Dear MPS Community,

We promised to provide updates on the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) and we want to share the latest information directly with you.

Today, MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver and Board President Mark Sain met with County Executive Chris Abele and Demond Means, commissioner of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program or OSPP to discuss an alternative to their proposal. No decision was reached today, however, we appreciate the willingness of the OSPP to continue these discussions.

This is an important decision that will impact the future of public education in Milwaukee, potentially for decades to come. Our goal is to develop a plan that is in the best interest of all of the children of Milwaukee Public Schools.

We will update you as soon as we have additional information. For the latest updates, please visit our website at mpsmke.com/ospp.

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