State schools chief wants more from Milwaukee
In his inaugural address as state superintendent of public instruction, Tony Evers said Monday that he wanted to make something clear:
"More of the same is not enough."
"While we can feel pride in our accomplishments, the status quo is neither sustainable nor acceptable," Evers, 57, told about 200 people at Hi-Mount Elementary School on Milwaukee's west side. "We must bring meaningful change to struggling schools. We must deliver hope through the power of public education."
Evers said the Department of Public Instruction will convene a Wisconsin Graduation Summit in December, focused on the school districts with the highest dropout rates in the state. The goal will be to increase involvement from people of all kinds to help increase graduation rates, he said.
As he did in a statewide campaign that led to his election in April, Evers pledged to step up the DPI's involvement in Milwaukee by increasing the staff and activity of the department's small office in the Schlitz Park complex and by holding business hours of his own there.
"I will work with state and community leaders to aggressively transform Milwaukee Public Schools," he said. "Regardless of how MPS is governed and regardless of assorted controversies that face tough choices and change, the people of Milwaukee dare to care, and so do I, that kids learn in all of Milwaukee's public schools."
He also pledged to expand the role of the DPI's Rural Advisory Council. "We will work to support our quality schools and turn around our chronically low-achieving schools, no matter where they are," Evers said.
Wisconsin as a whole must work toward "fair and sustainable school funding," while recruiting and retaining quality educators, investing in innovation, ensuring safe and respectful schools and operating with transparent accountability, Evers said.
He called on students, parents, educators and the public at large to do all they can to support educational success. For parents, his advice was: "Turn off the TV, read to your children, and, as the most important teacher in their lives, teach them to respect themselves and others."
Evers served as deputy state superintendent the last eight years under Elizabeth Burmaster, who did not seek re-election. Superintendents serve four-year terms.