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

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Dr. Darienne Driver is MPS' acting superintendent, beginning July 1.
Dr. Darienne Driver is MPS' acting superintendent, beginning July 1. (Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools)

MPS names Driver acting superintendent

Tonight the Milwaukee Board of School Directors named MPS chief innovation officer Dr. Darienne Driver as acting superintendent, beginning July 1. Driver takes over for outgoing superintendent, Dr. Gregory Thornton, who officially leaves June 30 to take over as CEO of the Baltimore City Schools.

Driver will hold the position until a permanent replacement is found.

Signs had pointed to the district tabbing former principal Dan Donder as interim in April, but when that information leaked, the board appeared to change course. Some sources said that Donder, who is retired from the district, declined the position.

Earlier today the name of UWM Associate Dean of Students Tom McGinnity's name -- which had also come up in April among a list of reported finalists for the post -- was floating around again.

But at a special board meeting tonight, called with the sole purpose of completing the work of naming a interim superintendent, the board went behind closed doors in an executive session for about 20 minutes before emerging to vote on Driver.

Here is the complete text of the district's news release announcing Driver's appointment. It includes detailed biographical information:

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors tonight named Darienne Driver, Ed.D. as Acting Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Driver will serve as the head of the nearly 80-thousand student school district – the largest in Wisconsin – until a successor superintendent is selected.

The Board sought an acting leader to replace Dr. Gregory E. Thornton, who accepted a position as Chief Executive Officer with the Baltimore City Public Schools effective July 1, 2014.

"Dr. Driver has accepted the position and will lead us forward and build on the foundation laid by Dr. Thornton," said Milwaukee Public Schools Board of School Directors’ president Dr. Michael Bonds. "We are honored to have such an outstanding candidate leading us during this transition period."

Dr. Driver has served as the district’s Chief Innovation Officer since July 2012. She leads district efforts to improve outcomes in the schools in greatest need of improvement; oversees the district’s implementation of the Wisconsin Common Core State Standards in literacy and mathematics in partnership with the GE Foundation and Student Achievement Partnership through the development of ten MPS-GEF Demonstration Schools; recruits multiple educational organizations to serve as partners in efforts to improve student achievement; and oversees the district’s contracted school services which serves students through alternative programming for at-risk students and non-instrumentality charter schools and turnaround models.

"I look forward to continuing to serve Milwaukee Public Schools and the children of the city in my new role and appreciate the confidence of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors," said Dr. Driver. "We will continue to build on the great work that’s being done in the district. Much more remains to be done and it is challenging work. Working with my colleagues, the community, our students and families, we will move forward with our efforts to improve outcomes for our students."

Prior to joining MPS, Dr. Driver served as Deputy Chief – Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development, and Deputy Chief – Empowerment Schools for the School District of Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, she oversaw the Empowerment Schools efforts to increase achievement with large numbers of underperforming students and coordinated district efforts to provide needed support. Under her leadership, Empowerment Schools outpaced district schools on the Pennsylvania State System Assessment in Reading and Math. Empowerment Schools’ high schools made the largest gains on PSSA in history in English/Language Arts and Math.

Dr. Driver began her career as an elementary school teacher in the Detroit Public Schools.

Dr. Driver received a doctorate from Harvard University in Urban Superintendency. She has a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and also received a master’s in curriculum development from the University of Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

The Board will continue the search process for a permanent superintendent.

In early March, school board member Jeff Spence talked to me about the board's approach to finding an interim superintendent and a permanent replacement for Dr. Thornton. Here's what he said.

And here are some areas that parents and teachers say could use improvement.

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