10 Topics for the Next Milwaukee School Superintendent

Alan Borsuk:

Teachers and the teachers’ union. Don’t expect a happy workforce. The union has turned up the volume on its unhappiness and it remains a powerful force, even without the bargaining powers it had before Act 10, which dramatically curtailed collective bargaining for most public employees, including teachers. Beyond the union itself, it won’t be easy for MPS to attract and retain top teachers, given the renewed money crunch.

Principals. You can advocate all sorts of things as superintendent, but carrying them out depends a lot on the 150 or so principals running schools. I suspect if Driver were candid, she’d say that she worries about the quality of principals overall. And there is concern that a wave of retirements is coming. Good luck finding great principals.

Student achievement. Driver accomplished some things as superintendent, but the most important big picture point to me is that student achievement didn’t change much. A few indicators improved a bit. Overall, the situation continues to be deeply alarming. Year after year, one in five students in MPS (and in the private school voucher program) rates as proficient in reading. Fewer than that are proficient in math. Is it Driver’s fault that things haven’t improved much? Obviously, there’s lots of blame to share. But, ultimately the coach is judged by how the team does on the field. The team is chronically beleaguered.

Relationships. This was Driver’s biggest strength. She connected with all sorts of people — community leaders, philanthropists, business leaders, elected officials, leaders from elsewhere in Wisconsin. This translated into both tangible and intangible support for MPS. But relationships require a lot of tending, especially with so many competing interests. Driver will be a tough act to follow on this front.