Public Community Schools: A REAL Solution

Written by: Jamaal Smith

Los Angeles. Cincinnati. Austin. Baltimore. Kentucky.

What do all of these cities have in common?? They have adopted a model called the Community School strategy.

In the most challenging and impoverished neighborhoods within these cities and one state, the Community Schools model has been developed in order to bring more of a collaborative effort in not only providing children with equitable education, but to help provide the community with necessary resources to improve its current conditions. The Community School strategy is a proven model that has been facilitated mostly in communities of color and helped to bolster the amount of opportunities students of color will be able to receive through a holistic approach to education.

So why is this model not being implemented in the city of Milwaukee?? Actually, IT IS!! Milwaukee currently has four Community Schools in place: Bradley Tech and Madison High Schools, Hopkins-Lloyd School, and Auer Avenue School. Yet, because there has been such a bombardment on parents to support the Milwaukee Parental Choice program coupled with the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (aka the MPS Takeover) presented by State Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga, many people have never heard of the Community Schools initiative. GOP leaders want you to believe that the best way to rebuild our schools is by completely wiping away the largest school district in the state of Wisconsin and building a contingency of schools with full autonomy and no accountability, even though they are entitled to public dollars. Ask people in cities like New Orleans and Detroit how this plan has worked out for their respective school districts. Why should we accept this option for our children?? Why should parents and community stakeholders not have a say in school affairs? Why shouldn’t they have the ability to assess what the community needs and see that those resources are brought to the school??

In Cincinnati, not only was the graduation rate for the Community Schools district improved from 59% to 82%, but they were also able to lessen the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap from 14.5% to 4.5%. Now, given that Milwaukee is the most segregated city and has the widest Black-White achievement gap (66.1% for Blacks, 92.9% for Whites in 2013-2014) in the nation, why would we not implement a model that could help change that dynamic?


Community schools are charged with implementing six research-based strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning, community engagement and investment, and improved school environments:

  1. Engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging curriculum
  2. Emphasis on quality teaching, not high stakes testing
  3. Wrap-around supports and opportunities
  4. Positive discipline practices (e.g. Restorative Justice/Practices)
  5. Authentic community and parent engagement
  6. Inclusive school leadership

At some point, you have to ask yourself: if this has been proven across the nation as a model that brings more success whereas school district privatization has failed repeatedly, what is the motivation to implement the failing model?? It is imperative that we get behind building community schools for the sake of our children and communities. Lawmakers have no right to make irrational decisions to the detriment of our children’s future by establishing rote practices of failing models. Please stand up and support Community Schools and place control of our children’s future back into the hands of those who care about them the most.

Milwaukee educator and MTEA vice president Amy Mizialko explains the 6 research-based strategies used in the community school model in the video below.

This is Why We Want Public Community Schools for Milwaukee, Not Takeovers from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Sign our petition demanding the Wisconsin State Legislature support community schools.


Join the Movement for Public Community Schools in Milwaukee, Stand Against Takeovers

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 6.14.39 PM

If you agree that all MPS schools should provide community supports services like nutrition, health, vision, tutoring, and after school programs for students who need it then you believe in the Community Schools model. This successful school model is already working for over 6 million students nationwide, including four MPS schools, and when contrasted with handing public schools over to unaccountable, private third party operators the choice is obvious.

Here’s how you can join the movement to increase the role of public community schools in Milwaukee, while also continuing to fight the Takeover of MPS.

Get Involved:

2/16/16 “Elect Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive in the Spring Primary Election” Chris Larson Addresses Media

Unlike Chris Abele, Larson opposed the Takeover of MPS from the beginning and has also been a strong proponent of community schools, pushing for actual legislation at the state level and visiting successful community schools in Chicago. It’s time for a county executive who will not do the bidding of the right wing takeover promoters.


2/17/16 “Walk In for Public Schools” with schools around the nation. Walk-In-1-promo

Over 800 public schools in nearly 40 cities around the country will be walking in with Milwaukee to demand the public schools all students deserve. Check the growing list of schools who are signed up and RSVP to join one beginning at 7:00am in the morning.

2/20/16 “Citywide Gathering, March & Rally to Support Public Community Schools and Stop Takeovers”  9:00am – 11:30amcover

Come gather with students, parents, educators and community members from the 132 public schools in Milwaukee. We’re continuing to collectively build a plan that wins more public community schools for our students that provide neighborhood support services like nutrition, health, tutoring, and after school programs for students who need it. The public community schools model is already generating success for over 6 million students in the United States. Together we will win the public community schools we know all students deserve and beat back the Takeover of MPS. Join us!

Where: MATC T-Building (6th and Highland Blvd)
RSVP here:


9:00am: Registration / Coffee / Pastries

9:30am: Brief Program – School Sign Making

10:15am: March to the courthouse and rally to send a message to all stakeholders; We love our public schools and will not allow them to be taken over by third party for-profit operators.

10:30am: Rally at Courthouse

***Free parking — Spanish interpretation available

Sign this petition demanding County Executive Chris Abele refuse to enable the Takeover of MPS.

Volunteer to join a School Defense Committee or help with phone banking, neighborhood canvassing, sign making, or any other talent you might bring to the table.

Amid Pressure from Public Education Advocacy Groups, City of Milwaukee Charter Finally Closing

Northpoint Lighthouse charter school had problems from the very beginning when they put their students in an abandoned steel processing plant.

Northpoint Lighthouse charter school had problems from the very beginning when they put their students in an abandoned steel processing plant.

Thanks to the work of a broad community coalition, Schools and Communities United (SCU), the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee, the city charter Northpoint Lighthouse Academy will be closing at the end of the current school year. This city charter was a textbook example of why privately run charters, operated outside of the elected school board, are bad for students and taxpayers.

Northpoint was part of a privately run charter chain, co-owned by former tennis star Andre Agassi. The chain received immediate disapproval for choosing to place the school in an abandoned steel processing plant:

“There are a lot of issues as it concerns the health and safety and welfare for the children. In this case, we’ve got a power tower and transmission lines in the backyard of this facility,” Marva Herndon said.

Schools and Communities United's Marva Herndon and Larry Hoffman testify before the Steering and Rules Committee on the city's charter school performance in January of 2015.

Schools and Communities United’s Marva Herndon and Larry Hoffman testify before the Steering and Rules Committee on the city’s charter school performance in January of 2015.

For over a year, SCU has been calling for the closure of the Northpoint and other poorly performing city charter schools. As the coalition noted, the school never provided a stable environment for the families and students it served, as indicated in this 2014 SCU report.

• Of 14 classroom teachers to start in September 2013, 7 remained the entire year. Of the 7 vacancies, 2 were refilled during the year and 5 were left unfilled. Also, 2 out of 4 ‘other instructional staff’ remained the entire year.
• At the end of the 2013-14 year, three teachers did not have a DPI license.
• In interviews with Charter School Review Committee consultant, teachers noted a “lack of concrete disciplinary policies,” “lack of instructional support, coaching and teacher accountability,” and “minimal communication and involvement with parents.”

At the January 27th Charter School Review Board meeting the decision was made to close Northpoint at the end of the current school year. This is a definite win for public education advocates. However, supporters of public education must still be vigilant, as illustrated by Milwaukee’s recent experience with King’s Academy. King’s Academy was put on probation for poor performance, but instead of risking being shut down, its administration declared that it would cease to operate as a city charter and would instead re-enter the voucher program. Rather than being closed, it escaped accountability for its poor performance. Let’s hope that Northpoint does not try the same ruse.


Live and Recorded Public meetings of CHARTER SCHOOL REVIEW COMMITTEE on 2016-01-27 5:30 PM for The City of Milwaukee, WI

Source: CHARTER SCHOOL REVIEW COMMITTEE on 2016-01-27 5:30 PM – Jan 27th, 2016