By Jennifer Morales Special to Published Jan 10, 2007 at 10:45 AM

Being a board member for a large urban school district means I don't get to brag too much. Our public school district faces seemingly endless challenges, and in spite of the hard work of our staff and parents, some of our schools still fail too many children. This job definitely keeps me humble.

Actually, I'm proud of the district for many achievements, as well as for the difficult self-review that we've been doing recently about our failings, and the deep rethinking and reorganization we've been wrestling with over the past few years. The district is changing for the better.

One thing about the Milwaukee Public Schools that I'm especially proud of is the incomparable range of school options we offer to families. When I talk with teachers or school board members from other districts around the state and nation, they are always amazed that MPS provides so many program choices. They're stunned to hear that we offer several Montessori options -- including a Spanish-English bilingual elementary Montessori program (at Kosciuszko) and an International Baccalaureate Montessori high school program (at Marshall campus) -- when most school districts offer none.

We are also fortunate to have a public high school (Alliance High School) that offers a safe learning environment specifically for students who have been bullied. Alliance has become a haven for 120 students who were harassed in other schools for being different, particularly for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and these students are now thriving academically and socially. In the nation, only New York City has a comparable program.

MPS challenges students to explore career and higher education goals through the dozens of other specialty schools we offer. We have a high school devoted to aviation careers (Milwaukee Academy of Aviation, Science, and Technology) and business. We have elementary, middle, and high schools focused on the arts. We have numerous schools at all levels offering bilingual education and foreign language specialties, including Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.

Milwaukeeans have much to be proud of, including the diversity of great programs offered by our school district. Whether you're a parent or just an interested member of the public, you can see what's going on in our schools. On Jan. 10, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., every MPS school will hold an open house called "Our Lights Are On." You can get a tour and meet the staff of any school you wish. If you want to visit on another day, just call the principal. The enrollment period for fall 2007 semester is going on now until Jan. 26. Call (414) 475-8448 if you have questions.

And even if you're not looking for a school for a child right now, do please check out your MPS schools. There's a lot of great teaching and learning happening and I'd love for you to see it.

Jennifer Morales Special to

Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.

Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.

She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.

In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.