By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Milwaukee Public Schools received the largest single corporate contribution in district history when the GE Foundation announced this morning at a large press conference at Samuel Morse/John Marshall School for the Gifted and Talented that it will give MPS $20.4 million over five years.

The Developing Futures in Education grant money arrives at a time when schools are facing the grim prospect of slashed budgets for the upcoming school year.

"Today is a deposit that grows over the years," said MPS superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton, who quoted Benjamin Franklin, who said, "an investment in knowledge always pays big dividends."

"(GE) has been depositing in Milwaukee Public Schools since 1947," Thornton added.

The grant is focused on teaching math and science and developing and implementing a comprehensive district-wide math and science curriculum, along the lines of the system-wide reading curriculum rolled out in MPS this year. MPS currently has at least nine mathematics programs at work in K-8 schools and a number of science curricula, too.

The money will also provide teachers with programs aimed at new approaches to teaching and mentoring students.

"The GE Foundation grant will help us provide our students with cutting-edge resources and educational programs that will better position many for college and, ultimately, careers as our nation’s future engineers, doctors and scientists," said Gregory Thornton.

"This is a significant investment that will make a huge difference in the academic lives of our children. The impact on the classroom will be immediately clear, but the impact on children's lives will be seen in years to come."

A Developing Futures grant to Cincinnati Public Schools allowed that district to partner with the GE Foundation to develop a math curriculum in 2005-07.

A GE Foundation report on that collaboration can be read here as a PDF.

The grant will fund two new MPS posts, including a grant manager and a coordinator/union liaison.

The district expects to collaborate in Milwaukee schools with GE volunteers, experts and consultants, as part of the relationship.

According the GE Foundation's Web site, "Through more hands-on instruction, students learn from teachers and GE volunteers as they work together on special mathematics and science projects involving real-world challenges."

Marcelo Mosci, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Americas, said this collaboration will build on an existing relationship between the district and his company. Some divisions of GE Healthcare are headquartered in the Milwaukee area.

"This announcement takes the partnership between GE and MPS to a new level," said Mosci. "Decades of engagement between GE employees and the teachers, administrators and students at MPS have proven to be an amazing experience, and we are confident that this grant will only serve to strengthen that partnership and provide even greater value to the GE families in Milwaukee."

School districts in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Erie, Pa., New York, Jefferson County, Ky., and Stamford, Conn., also participate in Developing Futures.

"GE understands that America’s position as a leader in innovation and industry depends on the strength of today’s students and our education system," said Bob Corcoran, president and chairman of the GE Foundation.  "Developing Futures is an important commitment to bolstering math and science education in our schools, equipping students with skills to continue in higher education and becoming leaders in the global economy."

MTEA president Mike Langyel, Milwaukee Board of School Directors president Michael Bonds and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, among others, also spoke at the event, which featured exhibits by some especially science-minded MPS schools -- such as James Fenimore Cooper, Cass Street and Riverside High -- and a performance by The Morse Marshall Eagle Band.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.