Longtime Milwaukee education leader Howard Fuller spoke words of respect, empathy, support, humor, inspiration and advice to urban school leaders from traditional MPS, charter and choice schools at a recent professional training day organized by the local nonprofit Schools That Can Milwaukee (STCM).
“We have to love these kids,” he said, granting that some are not lovable. “If you don’t love them, you can’t reach them. If you can’t reach them, how are you going to teach them?” he added.
In his keynote address, Fuller also challenged his audience to embrace change and be authentic.
“In your school community, you’ve got to have real conversations about real issues,” he noted.
Fuller addressed more than 100 principals, instructional leaders and deans of students at the end of a day of training provided by STCM. STCM offers opportunities for educators to collaborate and build professional and personal connections to improve schools for the sake of Milwaukee’s children, according to Isral DeBruin, STCM’s communications and development manager.
The leaders training day also offered workshops on best practices for professional development training and other skills, as well as a panel discussion with parents and students. It was held at Milwaukee College Prep Lola Rowe North Campus, 1350 W. North Ave.
STCM, an independent affiliate of the national organization Schools That Can, works to help high-quality urban schools expand and high-potential urban schools improve. It currently partners with 38 high-performing schools and schools it identifies as having the capacity to improve. The latter are chosen primarily by evaluating their principals’ potential to grow, DeBruin said. STCM envisions 20,000 city students attending high-quality urban schools by 2020, according to its Web site.
In addition to group training, STCM provides partner schools with coaches who work one on one with educators in their schools. Educators also have access to other schools in the network.
“Teachers get to leave their schools … and get other ideas and strategies that they never thought of before,” said Suzanne Kirby, who has been the principal of Wedgewood Park International School, 6506 W. Warnimont Ave., for 10 years.
Kirby, whose southwest side school serves racially diverse sixth- through eighth-graders, added that the leaders training forces her “to reflect on all that I’ve done, what someone else is doing really effectively, and (consider whether) there are any holes I need to fill to keep bettering my work every day,” she said. She has attended the STCM training before.
Kirby noted that STCM’s weekly coaching has helped Wedgewood Park raise the bar for its students. Wedgewood Park is a traditional public school with an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme.
Tianna McCullough, the instructional coach for culture at Carver Academy, 1900 N. 1st St., also viewed the networking opportunities as an important benefit of the training.
“I love … the opportunity to network with people who are not within my school, who may not even be within my sector (Carver is a traditional public school). I’ve been able to make so many positive connections,” McCullough said.
She added that the morning session on best practices for leading professional development, including use of time and tools, was important to her because she is responsible for staff training at her school.
Notre Dame Primary School Assistant Principal Itzel Galindo, who has had experience in a variety of schools, said she sees value in all of the models and supports what she sees as “the driving purpose of the development day … (demonstrating) that it is possible to come together, share a vision and move towards unity and improving schools for kids. I think that’s ultimately what we all want,” She attended an MPS school growing up and has taught in MPS and worked at nonprofits and charter schools. Notre Dame, 1418 S. Layton Blvd., is a Catholic choice school.
Galindo said she was pleased to meet a principal from Waukesha whose school shares Notre Dame’s focus on a dual language curriculum.
The networking aspect was also the best part of the day for Michael Morgan, principal of Milwaukee College Prep (MCP) Lola Rowe North Campus. As a new principal at MCP … “being able to get on the phone and call someone from a partner school to ask simple questions, whether around enrollment, assessments or things that are changing in the city of Milwaukee, and be able to get an immediate response has been really good for me,” Morgan said.
Fuller assured the attentive school leaders at the end of the day, “There is nothing more important than the work being done in these schools,” adding, “You don’t have to do it alone.”