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Commissioner of MPS “Opportunity Schools Partnership Program” defends work amid protests

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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.

Opponents call MPS "Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program" a hostile takeover

Opponents call MPS "Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program" a hostile takeover

"A hostile takeover. Absolutely. That's what this is," Angela Walker said.

Demond Means

Demond Means

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.

Demond Means

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.

Meeting involving MPS Commissioner Demond Means

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.

Demond Means

Demond Means

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.


  • Opinion8d

    Ignorance all all sides. The teachers are worried about their jobs when they should be concerned about a model that works for the kids. That being said, until someone wants to confront the real cause of failure, nothing will change. The problem is the community/culture MPS is dealing with…plain and simple. Teachers can try, but they only have the kids for a 8 hours a day. The kids don’t have role models, don’t get the proper meals, sleep, or discipline. It’s sad that when the kids are in K5 many are already lost. What’s worse is for those that have a chance, life is even more difficult. Instead of SNAP and WIC and foster care, just start funding orphanages and take these kids once they’re born.

  • Inner City Teacher

    The company that will run the takeover schools has not proven that it can do a better job….all of the schools it took over in Chicago are doing worse than the schools that it didn’t take over. When will everyone stop blaming teachers…..critics need to step into a regular education classroom, say 7th grade and take a look at all the factors at work. Teachers are doing good things with continued criticism, minimum support and dwindling resources.

  • Jim Smith

    “A hostile takeover. Absolutely. That’s what this is,” Angela Walker said. What are your qualifications Ms Walker? Where is your plan to make failing schools better?
    “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. The parents in these shools had no idea what was going on before or just didn’t care or they would of been outraged long before this.
    Fact is some schools in Milwaukee are failing, the students don’t care, the teachers are scared of the students or have given up hope and the parents don’t care enough to get involved. At least not until the state comes in and wants to shake up the status quo.

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