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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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New MPS superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver was handed a board mandate to lead Tuesday night.
New MPS superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver was handed a board mandate to lead Tuesday night. (Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools)

With a mandate, Driver must now row harder than ever

In what appears to be a pretty unprecedented move Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors called off the search for a permanent replacement for former superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton and named interim supe Dr. Darienne Driver to the post, beginning today.

Hey, Dr. Driver, no pressure.

But, Driver now has what can clearly be called a mandate. In fact, after she’d served just a few months as boss, the school board was downright giddy as Director Meagan Holman made the motion to offer the position to Driver Tuesday night and as at least two fellow board members jumped to second.

Some board members were so eager to have Driver ink the deal then and there that they had to be reminded they were still on the air at 88.9 FM. It was an encouraging moment of enthusiasm in a city where most conversations about schools are often heated and heavy.

The first woman to hold the post of permanent MPS superintendent (there have been assistants and interims dating back to 1919) Driver knows the district. Before being tabbed as temporary top dog in June, she worked as the district’s chief innovation officer and was instrumental in rolling out the district’s MPS-GEF Demonstration Schools, funded by a grant from the industrial giant.

She also led the district’s implementation of Common Core standards. Driver’s background includes teaching in Detroit Public Schools and was deputy chief of Philadelphia’s Empowerment Schools.

So, she knows what she needs to do -- did I mention she recently earned her doctorate in Harvard's Urban Superintendency program? -- and I suspect she at least has a sense of how to do it. And it sure sounds like that, at least for now, she has the board on her side.

With enrollment appearing basically stagnant this year -- very slightly down, though no official numbers have yet been released -- after a slight tick upward last year, reversing a decades-long trend of falling enrollment, Driver must repeat Thornton’s mantra of growin…

Dr. Darienne Driver is the first woman superintendent for MPS.
Dr. Darienne Driver is the first woman superintendent for MPS.

Driver named permanent superintendent of MPS

In a special board meeting Tuesday night, the MPS Board of School Directors voted to hire acting superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver as the permanent superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools.

Driver, who was named acting superintendent in June after having served as the district's chief innovation officer, will take the post on Wednesday, Oct. 1 and is expected to sign a new contact for the position tonight.

The motion, which passed unanimously, was made by director Meagan Holman and was quickly seconded by multiple colleagues. Another motion passed calling off the search for a permanent replacement for Dr. Gregory Thornton, who left June 30 to assume the role of CEO of Baltimore City Schools.

Afterward, board members sounded positively giddy.

"This feels good," Holman said.

Driver is the first woman in MPS history to hold the position of superintendent.

How about an adult swing park?
How about an adult swing park? (Photo: Flint)

5 ideas for O'Donnell Park

Now that NEWaukee is partnering with Northwestern Mutual to help gather community ideas for sparking life in O’Donnell Park, Milwaukeeans will get a chance to sound off on what they’d like to see happen on this prime Downtown and lakefront real estate.

At a public hearing recently, NEWaukee heard, according to a press release, "that the community wants a safe, well-maintained and attractive public space."

Sure, we all want that at every location in town. But how about more specifically? What will lure us to the site?

You can share and hear ideas at the NEWaukee Social on Wednesday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m, at O’Donnell Park. You can also submit ideas online at But in the meantime, here are some ideas to get you talking...

  • An adult swing park like this one. Not THAT kind of adult swinging; get your mind out of the gutter.
  • A European-style piazza with cafes, shops and restaurants and a central gathering spot that can serve as a meeting and mingling and hanging out spot for Downtown dwellers, workers and visitors.
  • A simple, greener park that has less concrete, but more plantings and grass for recreation and relaxation.
  • Quirkier garden spaces like the bamboo, shadow and other gardens at Paris’ Parc de la Villette.
  • A permanent home for the NEWaukee Night Market.

Share your ideas using the Talkback feature below. 

The former Malcolm X Academy on Center and Palmer Streets is back in the news.
The former Malcolm X Academy on Center and Palmer Streets is back in the news.

Malcolm (X) in the middle

Last Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools issued a statement saying that it had parted ways with the developer of a project to renovate and re-develop the former Malcolm X Academy/Center Street School, at Center and Palmer Streets, noting that the plan would nevertheless continue to move forward.

"The district will continue to work on the construction of the project and will issue a Request for Proposals for a construction manager," the statement said. MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia told me that the plan still includes opening an International Baccalaureate middle school in the complex.

Yesterday, in a news report, a district official was quoted as saying MPS ended the deal with the development team after a member of the latter made a "questionable request," though apparently that same news outlet -- which also ran a pro-voucher school editorial yesterday -- didn't ask about, or at least didn't report on, what that request might have been. 

On a related side note, the local media continues to ignore the fact that a number of school buildings that were recently vacant have been sold, among them Jackie Robinson, Dover and Centro Del Nino. An RFP was issued for the sale of the former Garfield Avenue School yesterday, after a previous prospective buyer failed to get financing.

Many more such buildings have recently been called back into service by the district -- 27th Street School, Green Bay Avenue, Howard Avenue, Sarah Scott, Milwaukee Education Center, Fritsche Middle School, Happy Hill, Morse Middle School, Webster Middle School, Burroughs Middle School, Westside Academy II building, 38th Street School (in some cases to house charter schools) among them. There's been talk, too, of re-opening Fletcher on the far northwest, and/or 88th Street on the far southwest sides.

Changing needs and changing demographics mean that the district is smart to hold on to buildings that could be of future use. What would taxpayers -- and Milwaukee media -- say if MPS sold a building a…