MPS gears up for influx of young professionals

Jun 27, 2013 by

District says 80% of new hires so far are Millennials replacing retirees

Milwaukee Public Schools has hired or extended offers to about half of the nearly 600 new educators it needs by fall to replace a wave of retiring teachers and principals, and it’s working on a campaign to build energy and excitement around the millennial workforce entering the district.

Young professionals born after 1981 make up about 80% of the district’s new hires so far, and they need to see MPS as well as Milwaukee as a place they can be successful, Superintendent Gregory Thornton said in a meeting this week with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors.

The changeover in staff is a major disruption for MPS. Thornton estimated that by the time all staff positions have been filled, about 1,200 people will be new to the district.

So the district has been partnering with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Teach for America, City Year, Art Milwaukee, Bucketworks and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee on an initiative to not only welcome new workers, but also to build avenues for them to stimulate change in the system.

“We have to create an environment where people want to work, live, learn, play, grow and make this city their home,” Thornton said.

The public-private initiative known as Teachtown MKE has been building buzz since spring, when MPS was ramping up recruitment efforts. The initiative has a variety of short- and long-term prongs, from offering new teachers relocation service assistance and welcome packages to setting up ongoing networking opportunities and innovation hubs within the district.

At its core, the effort represents a growing recognition of the power of young talent — how to get it here and how to make it want to stay.

But in urban education, that all has to be framed around some daunting issues: poverty, low achievement, reduced budgets, low morale among teachers in the face of legislative or district changes, and lower-than-average pay.

MPS has raised its starting salaries to $41,000 for beginning teachers, but annual salaries can be as low as $29,000 at public charter schools and sometimes even less at private voucher schools.

“We have to answer the question: Why Milwaukee?” said Jason Holton, executive director and vice president of City Year, the nonprofit that places recent graduates in urban schools to serve as tutors and mentors for a year.

Holton, 34, said the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the biggest feeder into City Year’s sites nationwide, but that Milwaukee isn’t among graduates’ top three choices for placements.

Maurice Thomas, the 27-year-old executive director of TFA-Milwaukee, taught in Atlanta before returning to his hometown to run the local branch of the national alternative-teacher preparation program.

“I’m living proof of what this Teachtown initiative could be,” Thomas said.

He said that of the 57,000 people who applied to TFA last year, 6,000 got in and 73 will be coming to Milwaukee.

“When I get those 73 new recruits, we roll out the red carpet for them,” Thomas said. “There are hundreds of other teachers starting in this city that might not get that.”

Housing challenge

Thomas also pointed to a basic hurdle that thwarts his organization every year: the scarcity of decent and affordable housing for new recruits, especially those coming from out-of-state.

Thomas often ends up writing dozens of reference letters and answering phone calls from landlords every year — up to 70 in a day. The Teachtown website offers housing assistance from a third-party provider, as well as a list of vetted landlords.

The elimination of the residency rule in Milwaukee, if signed into law, may ease some housing issues in the future and make it easier for the district to recruit workers. But those effects wouldn’t be felt immediately, Thornton said.

The initiative has cost about $175,000 to pull together, but local businesses and groups have offered free entertainment-related items worth much more than that, said Julia Taylor, president of the GMC.

Current corporate sponsors include Harley-Davidson, BMO Harris Bank and Northwestern Mutual. The Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation is also offering support, said Leah Fiasca, project director at the GMC.

John Daniels, chairman of Quarles & Brady and chair of the GMC board of directors, said there’s a window of opportunity to get “fairly spectacular talent interested in our city and in education.”

“While they won’t all stay, if you can get really talented people, some are going to stay,” Daniels said. “It doesn’t take that many people to transform any ecosystem.”

via MPS gears up for influx of young professionals.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.