As a child, I was always eager to see the Sears Wishbook arrive at our home. I made my holiday list as I paged through that book. As Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, my wishes can no longer be found in a department store catalogue. I have New Year’s wishes for our kids, our parents, and some for our community and teachers.
For our kids, I wish for quality education in an atmosphere conducive to learning.
What a joy it will be to see, consistently across the district, rigorous curriculum and multiple opportunities to nurture the gifts and talents of children. I have no hesitation in saying that our children are talented!
For our parents, I want neighborhoods that are clean, housing that is appropriate, and jobs that allow them to put food on the table. I wish for attractive opportunities for involvement in our schools. I want parents to feel welcomed in our schools, and to be eager to circle the dates for parent/teacher conferences on their calendars. I see a world where our parents visit our schools often, know the teachers’ names, and see that their children’s homework is done every night. I want them to ask open-ended questions every day that demonstrate their interest and expectations for their children, such as “What was your favorite part of school today?” or “Can you tell me about what you are reading?”
How many wishes could be realized if these simple wishes for parents came true!
For our community, I envision funding for schools that does not penalize taxpayers. I hope for volunteers who want nothing more than to help kids. I wish our firefighters were able to volunteer during the day in the school closest to the firehouse, when they are not fighting fires. I wish the residents of elderly housing units would offer to become honorary grandmas and grandpas for students in their neighborhood schools. I want everyone to know you are never too old to read aloud to a child, to sit with them at lunch, or reach down and tie a shoe. Children can keep us young, and older adults can have a powerful and lasting impact on young lives.
For teachers, I wish for continuous professional development. I want the kind of training that helps them to be tuned in to the latest in education techniques and connects them with educators in other buildings, with everyone talking about what works. I wish for them the most up-to-date materials. We have purchased and distributed new reading texts for kindergarten through grade 8. New materials for the higher grade levels and for other subjects are on the way. I also wish that our teachers will be respected for their profession. Teachers must be given a place of honor in our community.
The students, parents, community and teachers make up our MPS family, and our MPS family was hit hard by the loss of children this year to senseless violence. Nothing can bring those children back, or completely heal the wounds left by their passing, but I wish their loved ones peace.
I know that we cannot fulfill any of my wishes by ordering from the pages of a catalogue. I am filled with great hope, though, because I believe in the power of our own potential. The answers are in our hearts. In 2011, let us take what is in our hearts and convert it to thought, word and action. Our efforts will bring to our children the best gifts they could receive.
From my MPS family to yours, Happy New Year!
Dr. Gregory E. Thornton, MPS Superintendent