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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, February 09, 2007

MPS and MJS: Is the worm turning?

by folkbum

I know that the reporters are not the editors, and the editors are not the paper, per se, but it seemed like for a long time, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was in love with the leadership of the Milwaukee Public Schools. The paper has long cheered the smoke and mirrors of the superintendent (it was not that long ago when he was literally re-imagined as the hero of a spy movie), and cheered when the "reformers" took over the board again two years ago.

But I'm seeing a trend, that maybe the very public, very scary, and very embarassing news of late out of MPS has the team down on West State Street a little skeptical. For example, the same reporter covering the same territory as in the lauditory article linked above gave us this front-page story last week:
Like a banged-up player starting the second half, the high schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system began a new semester Monday with a couple of fresh plays ready to go and, presumably, a bit of hope that things would go better than they did in a tough first half.

By Wednesday, however, the focus was right back on problems--this time, a fracas and a medical emergency at the end of a basketball game at Bradley Tech that brought police rushing from all over the city--and questions about the whole enterprise of high school in MPS were back in the spotlight:

Is the game plan sound? Or do we have bigger problems than we realized--problems with the plan, with the players, with the coaches, problems in the front office, problems in the whole arena?
Different metaphor, yes, but also different tone, different implications, and different sense of which way the wind is blowing for the superintendent down at the newspaper.

Then this popped up yesterday at the "School Zone" blog:
At a dog-and-pony show with much grandstanding and little substance, the Milwaukee mayor, schools superintendent, police chief, and assistant district attorney announced the debut of an effort to put cops full-time into a couple of Milwaukee’s schools. The event was held at Edison Middle School.

Reporters, city officials and spokespeople were there in abundance, but the school community (apart from the principal) was scarcely to be seen. The news conference was held in a small room, and then reporters were given a staged walk down a hallway. Two of the police officers involved in the effort strolled down the hallway trailed by a small throng of cameras and flaks. Like kids trying to cut class, reporters who took a step in the wrong direction were reprimanded. [. . .] There was something eerie and disconnected about being at a school performance that involved no teachers, no students, no parents and no staff besides the principal. Just reporters, bureaucracy and cops.
Some of us have been trying to draw attention to the superintendent's grandstanding and media manipulation, his dog-and-ponying, for more than three years (that blog was short-lived, so it won't take you long to stroll through the archives to see what I mean).

Doubtless, the editors will endorse the incumbencies of Joe Dannecker and Jeff Spence, who back the superintendent, and the candidacy of Bruce Thompson, whom the editors hated to see lose in 2001 (darn those voters). It seems like they should be trusting their own reporters, though, and looking for some substance behind the carefully staged-managed front.

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