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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In the interest of self-promotion

Some of you may have caught this story last month, and wondered, vaguely, if that wasn't the school where I was teaching, the one being closed down. It's true--though I don't ever really talk about "work" and whatnot, there have been enough hints dropped here and there that you could figure it out. But here's the part of the story that's interesting:
An overhaul of [. . .] one of the weakest-performing high schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system was given a green light by a School Board committee Tuesday night. The most likely--but not yet certain--prospect is that the existing school will be replaced by a charter school being created by a group of current teachers [at that school].

The charter school intends to open next fall, offering a program known as First Things First, which is also being launched this year at Pulaski and Bradley Tech high schools. [. . .] The charter school [. . .] was approved in concept by the School Board on Aug. 31, but many details remain to be worked out, and no location was specified.

Four of the teachers involved in the plan testified in favor of the change Tuesday, although they expressed concern about possible problems during the two years they would share the building as the existing school is phased out.

The First Things First program, which has had great success in Kansas City, Kan., aims to create "small learning communities" within a school, build long-term relationships between small groups of students and specific adults on the school staff, and increase the use of teaching styles that are more engaging to students.
As it turns out, I am one of those "four teachers involved in the plan."

What we're putting together is really quite exciting. Even though the First Things First framework is a known quantity and successful around the country, the way we're implementing it is ground-breaking. Our school--which legitimately doesn't have a name yet, so I'm not hiding that--will be the first school to open, brand new, with the FTF framework in place. Previous implementations, including Tech and Pulaski here in MPS, have been transitions, moving existing staff and students into the framework. The new school will have a lot of new staff and mostly new students compared to the school we're replacing.

To that end, we're beginning to recruit staff for the school. I know I have a number of MPS teachers who read this blog, and I want to extend a slightly more personal invitation to high school teachers (and other staff, parents, or community members) in the district who might be interested in learning more. We've got five information sessions planned over the next month for teachers intrigued by the idea either of a large, comprehensive, instrumentality charter high school or by the First Things First framework itself. We're splitting up the work among the charter planning team, so I won't be at all of them (the asterisks indicate the ones I am presenting at), but here are the five sessions, starting this afternoon:There will be information presented about the FTF framework, the structure of the new school, the timeline for implementation and hiring, and an opportunity to ask questions.

Again, I think what we've got is going to be something pretty special. If it turns out you can't make any of these meetings, or if you have more questions, drop me an email and once I have answers and electronic copies of the documents we're presenting, I'll send them out to you.

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