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Commissioner of OSPP for Milwaukee Public Schools Steps Down

The battle over control of Milwaukee's Public School system just took a twist. The man in charge of the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program resigned Wednesday. Demond Means took the position in late 2015.
Milwaukee Public Schools nor the County Executive's office had much to say about the now former commissioner's resignation.
However, the teachers union, Milwaukee Teachers Education Association is calling it a victory.
MTEA hopes it's the first of many wheels of the so-called "takeover" train to fall off.
MTEA credits the commissioner's choice to step down to the many who've been fighting against the plan..
A plan they believe will turn the city's public schools into privately run charter programs.
Ingrid Walker - Henry the MTEA Secretary says, "What i hope is that the people of Milwaukee have been heard. And that they actually want real solutions for the children and families of Milwaukee. Solutions - smaller class sizes, the resources that they need - certified teachers."
In a statement Commissioner Demond Means said --
"Regrettably, it seems that in education, the focus on children gets lost, and conversations about
Policy and practice become more about the adults. In a city with so many challenges, the focus must
Be squarely on our children."
"I don't ever think it was about the children to start with. If there was there would have been funding put behind it," says Walker - Henry.
The Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP) legislation passed more than a year ago in May 2015. County Executive Chris Abele and Means came up with a plan in April 2016.
MPS submitted their own two months later in June. However the two sides couldn't agree.
"I think the message to lawmakers is no matter what the people of Milwaukee are going to continue to fight for their children," says Walker - Henry of MTEA.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele appointed Means to the position of Commissioner.
However, his office declined an interview Wednesday and instead sent this statement;
“Dr. Demond Means today submitted his resignation as commissioner of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program, which I accepted with regret. I chose Dr. Means for this role because he shares my commitment to strong public schools and to improving outcomes for Milwaukee’s kids, families, and communities. I appreciate Demond’s service over the past six months and know he will remain an advocate for helping kids succeed in our public schools.”

Milwaukee Public Schools sent this statement, but did not make Superintendent Darienne Driver available for an interview.

"We are surprised by today's news. We recognize Dr. Means' service to education and children in our area and agree that actions must be child-centered.
MPS remains committed to and focused on the needs of students of the city of Milwaukee. We continue to build partnerships and work collaboratively with our school communities to provide academic opportunities and improve the academic performance for the children of our community.
We are making progress as shown by a record-breaking $47.8 million in scholarships for the Class of 2016, our selection by the White House to participate in the Turnaround Arts program, the success of the 5-in-1 Collaborative and the growth of our Community Schools initiative."

We also reached out to Demond Means who is also the superintendent of Mequon - Theinsville School District. He told us he was out of town and didn't respond to a request for an interview over the phone. His full statement is below.

The following is a statement released by Dr. Demond Means, Commissioner of
the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program:

“As a proud Milwaukee Public Schools graduate, my heart aches for the children and families of
Milwaukee because of the poverty, crime and other challenges of urban life. In the midst of such
challenges, educational opportunity must serve as the great equalizer for the children of Milwaukee.
It was because of that desire to serve the children and families of Milwaukee that I agreed to
volunteer as commissioner of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. I took on the
challenge with my eyes wide open.
There are certainly positive signs of people working together to do the good and hard work needed
to combat poverty and instill a sense of hope. Working in education over the last 20-plus years, I
know first-hand that great things can happen when women and men of good faith come together for
the betterment of our children and our community.
Regrettably, it seems that in education, the focus on children gets lost, and conversations about
policy and practice become more about the adults. In a city with so many challenges, the focus must
be squarely on our children and what we can do to ensure that their futures are bright.
Over the last several months, it has become clear to me that efforts to implement the Opportunity
Schools and Partnership Program law will become increasingly adversarial at a time when adversity
is the last thing our children need. Moreover, I made a promise when I volunteered for this position
that I would not impose anything on Milwaukee Public Schools.
It is now clear to me that as implementation of the law moves forward, the environment is not
conducive to collaborative partnerships - something essential for positive things to happen in
Milwaukee. Therefore, I have informed the County Executive that I am resigning effective
immediately as commissioner of the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. I do so without
malice or any political point of view and continue to have a deep desire to help our state’s neediest
children.
While I am stepping away from the OSPP commissionership, I remain committed to advocating for
equity in our schools and closing the achievement gap in Wisconsin. Like so many in the city, I will
always fight for the oppressed, disadvantaged and underrepresented, especially our children.
I encourage that men and women of good faith be reasonable and come together and focus their
energy on the actions that are needed to help provide Milwaukee’s youth with a quality education.”

Here is a link to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty's response to Commissioner Demond Means resigning.

CBS 58 News will continue to follow this story and find out more about the plan moving forward for the  Opportunity Schools Partnership Program.

For questions or comments contact Amanda Porterfield at aporterfield@CBS58.com or @CBS58AMANDA.

Links to previous stories from CBS 58 about the OSPP law in regards to MPS Schools.

JUNE 17 2016

http://www.cbs58.com/story/32249535/mps-superintendent-rejects-plan-to-address-low-performing-schools

JUNE 9 2016

http://www.cbs58.com/story/32189861/officials-emphasize-so-called-school-takeover-is-state-law-not-choice

MAY 10, 2016

http://www.cbs58.com/story/31942420/mps-debates-partnership-to-fix-failing-schools

NOVEMBER 12 2015

http://www.cbs58.com/story/30500884/abele-appoints-a-commissioner-of-the-opportunity-schools-partnership-program

   

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