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MPS Superintendent Rejects Plan to Address Low Performing Schools

MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver publicly rejected a proposal offered by a state mandated commissioner to address low performing schools.

In a Friday media conference she outline many reasons why she and several board members are quite concerned about the transfer of power form the district to what's called the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program or OSPP.

 "The academic and curriculum outline lacks detail and clarity," said Dr. Driver. "The school funding is unclear."

Board President Mark Sain said he appreciated the collaborative approach displayed by County Executive Chris Abele and Dr. DeMond Means who is a MPS graduate who is the appointed commissioner.

But said, given that they received the proposal six weeks ago, time is needed to carefully analyze the impact. 

"The potential impact is so great." said Sain. "It's not about one two or five schools. It's about the future of public education in the city of Milwaukee."

On Thursday, Abele and Dr. Means expressed concerns that nobody had met with them to flesh out the details before the June 23rd deadline.

"They have in their hands a draft of that contract," said Dr. Means. "We want to sit down with MPS that's not the be all and end all we're open to their suggestions."

Dr. Driver said she had requested a meeting.

She also offered an alternative that  includes early childhood education, choice for families to opt into the OSPP. She also offered to  locate the program in the former 35th Street Elementary School. It's a model she says they've used before with success.

Abele and Dr. Means issued the following statement after the media conference:

“We are disappointed that Dr. Driver has rejected our proposal to protect MPS jobs, funding, enrollment, and governance. While we still wish to partner with MPS and ensure the OSPP school remains public, we must move forward with implementing the law. However, given that some School Board Directors have publicly indicated a willingness to accept our proposal, we will hold on taking action until after the June 23rd deadline we offered MPS in the case that the duly elected Board of Directors decides to accept our proposal.“We remain hopeful that our upcoming meeting with MPS will result in an agreement that protects MPS jobs, funding, enrollment, and governance.”

They then went point for point with Dr. Driver: 

In response to the concerns MPS cited in rejecting the OSPP proposal, these concerns have all been raised and answered in the past. Please see below.

We agree with this as it pertains to 2017-18 curriculum, as OSPP has asked to work with MPS in developing this programming. For the 2016-17 school year, it was clearly communicated that the MPS curriculum would be used. We believe this curriculum has already been established by MPS, but cannot be sure because they never replied to OSPP's request for the information.

In a letter to Dr. Means dated May 5th, 2016, Dr. Driver and the MPS Board of Directors asked the following question regarding curriculum:

“Your proposal indicates that the 2016-17 school year will be a time for review of curriculum by a committee of teacher-leaders and principals, and that implementation of any new curriculum will be in the 2017-18 school year. What curriculum will be in use at OSPP schools in the 2016-17 school year?”

In a response to Dr. Driver and the MPS Board of Directors dated May 9th, 2016, Dr. Means responded as follows:

"In an effort to minimize any instructional interruptions to teachers and students for the 2016-17 school year, the single OSPP school will continue to use the curriculum for literacy, numeracy, social studies and science that MPS will use for the 2016-2017 school year. (emphasis added) It is our intent to differentiate the OSPP school from MPS — from a curricular perspective — starting in the 2017-2018 school year. OSPP plans to ensure access to instructional materials currently in use within MPS for the 2016-2017 school year through the potential intergovernmental agreement.

In an effort to better ascertain the curricular adoption cycle in Milwaukee Public Schools, please accept this as a formal request of the most recent adoption of K-8 curriculum materials in the area of (1) literacy (English language arts), (2) math, (3) science and (4) social studies. Specifically, OSPP is requesting the following information:

1. Year of adoption of the curricular materials.

2. Publisher of the adopted curricular materials.

3. Outline of professional development provided in the adoption year of the curricular materials.

4. Frequency of subsequent professional development after the adoption year of the curricular materials for teachers.

5. Name of the organization or consultants who provided coaching and support to teachers after the adoption of the curricular materials currently in use in MPS.

6. List of materials that have been supplied and are expected to be in the classroom of a K-8 teacher. 

Responses to these questions will be critical as the OSPP school starts the process of reviewing curriculum in the fall 2016."

Note: MPS never provided the information requested, or responded to the request at all.

II.            The school funding plan is unclear

This could not be more clear. State statute dictates the amount of per-pupil funding available, it is the same rate as for other any charter entities.

III.            The school qualitative reviews outlined in both state law and the OSPP proposal have not been conducted

We began this process, however, we told MPS that we would like to wait to proceed further until we received a signal from them that they would be interested in partnering. This was part of our efforts to work with MPS transparently and collaboratively at every step of the way, and also part of our efforts to minimize disruption to MPS kids, families, and teachers. This has been communicated to MPS and to the public. 

IV.            The request for proposals seeking a school operator was not issued and steps have not been taken to select a school

Again, we would like to wait to proceed further until we know whether MPS would like to partner with us to protect MPS jobs, funding, enrollment, and governance. The RFP seeking a school operator was not issued and steps have not been taken to select a school. Out of respect to MPS, we did not even begin this process because we wanted to give them time to work toward an agreement. We did not want to unilaterally select a school - we wanted to get input from MPS on this process. This, again, has been communicated to MPS and to the public. 

V.            The OSPP proposal contains elements which contradict the legislation, namely that staff at the OSPP schools will remain employees of the district with little guidance about how this would be compliant with state law

The County’s corporation counsel has issued a legal opinion that our plan is in line with state statute. That opinion was shared with MPS on May 9th, and MPS's counsel, the City Attorney for the City of Milwaukee, has concurred that our opinion is in line with state statute. If MPS has a different legal opinion to share we would like to have our counsel review it, but to date, we have not received any conflicting legal opinions from MPS.

As to MPS’s counter-proposal, these ideas, while good, are not new concepts and they are not viable this year. We remain interested in early childhood education, as the county executive has been discussing since last year. However, because we do not have funding outside the per-pupil dollars allocated by the state, we are not able to take on a new initiative in a vacant building due to unrealistic start-up costs and capital costs. 

As well, families have always been free to change school enrollment of students. OSPP has previously indicated a desire to work with families and students through this process. It is important to note that the OSPP school will be open enrollment and welcome all families. If MPS accepts the proposal from OSPP, the school will remain public and students will continue to have the benefit of being taught by MPS teachers, should families choose to enroll at that school.

Timeline:

January 14, 2016 -- Meeting with MPS Superintendent, Chief of Staff to Dr. Driver, CEx Abele, Chief of Staff for CEx Abele, Sen. Darling, Rep. Kooyenga and OSPP Commissioner @ MPS Central Offices to discuss the expectations of the OSPP law. 

March 10, 2016 -- Meeting with MPS Superintendent, Chief of Staff to Dr. Driver, Director Bonds (then Board President), CEx Abele, Chief of Staff for CEx Abele and OSSP Commissioner to discuss the potential partnership with MPS. 

March 17, 2016 -- Teleconference with MPS Superintendent, Chief of Staff to Dr. Driver, Director Bonds, Chief of Staff for CEx Abele, OSPP Commissioner to continue the discussion of the OSPP proposal and the potential to form work groups. 

April 20, 2016 -- Proposal emailed to MPS. 

April 21, 2016 -- Proposal presented to MPS. The meeting was more than three hours, allowing for ample time to express questions. 

May 5, 2016 -- Dr. Driver sent letter to OSPP Commissioner RE: Questions. 

May 9, 2016 -- OSPP Commissioner provides answers to the May 5 questions. 

May 16, 2016 -- Meeting with City Attorney, Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel, Asst. Milwaukee County Corporation Counsel, CEx Abele, Chief of Staff for CEx Abele and OSPP Commissioner to discuss legal elements of the proposal from OSPP. 

May 26, 2016 -- Teleconference with Assistant City Attorney to provide update to the MPS Board's reaction to the formal OSPP proposal. 

June 9, 2016 – MPS cancels standing monthly meeting with CEx Abele and Dr. Means


 

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