At first optimistic talking points at Milwaukee Public Schools, then things got quiet

Alan Borsuk:

So I went to one of the sessions. It was at James Madison Academic Campus on Wednesday.

My definition of a conversation involves at least two people talking to each other. A “community conversation,” I would expect, would give people a chance to offer their thoughts and exchange ideas.

Not this one. I was there for an hour during which several MPS administrators presented the district’s goals and plans, including the month by month subjects of “professional development” sessions for teachers and the ways discipline policies have changed under a recent agreement with federal officials on how to reduce disparities by race in student discipline.

It was boring. It was bureaucratic. As the speakers acknowledged, people in the audience couldn’t read the text of slides shown on a screen in the front of the school auditorium. No one from the audience was allowed to speak (I admit I left before the scheduled opportunity for questions at the end).

As for the auditorium, it seats more than 1,000. At the high point of the “conversation,” there were about 25 present — a handful of students, parents and teachers, plus MPS administrators.

To be frank, if this is how improvement in school culture is going to be pursued, don’t expect much to change.