Better to Build Bridges…

By Ben Hannemann, Director of Mission Advancement

Hoan Bridge Milwaukee

Amid the many challenges facing urban K-12 education in Milwaukee, we can take heart in three positives that are always worth remembering:

  • It is possible for a child – even in the toughest, poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhood – to learn, to grow, and to use their K-12 education as the first ticket to college and/or career success.
  • Success for this child generally results from being a committed student who is inspired and motivated by talented classroom teacher(s), along with supportive parent(s) and/or other adults in his or her life.
  • A small number of high-performing Milwaukee K-12 schools, galvanized by clear, unique missions and dynamic school leaders, find ways to establish and sustain high-performing cultures. Cultures of hope and opportunity that unite staff, students, family and community in highly productive partnerships. Together, they overcome every challenge to meet the educational needs of the vast majority of the students they serve.

With scant few of nearly 125,000 children receiving a quality education in our city, how do we best reach ever growing numbers of our children with what is possible: a life-transforming, high-quality K-12 education?

Unfortunately, as decades of effort with minimal gains suggest, there is no simple answer to this seemingly straightforward question. Crushing multi-generational poverty, endemic crime and violence, and a long history of struggling schools have a tendency to mess with the calculus of even the most promising educational solutions. Sustaining and growing vibrant urban school organizations is not for the meek. Vibrancy can quickly be replaced by bureaucracy. Talented people come, talented people go, cultures change and neighborhoods evolve. And the status quo of education in our city remains largely one of struggle and dissatisfaction.

Yet, while outrage is much preferred to apathy, we are far better served by productive partnership than polarizing debate and dissension. Sustained positive change is a school-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood proposition. It requires the building of bridges across all sectors, connected by recognition that everyone has a role to play in championing student learning and supporting the educators that provide it.

That is why I joined PAVE. It is very rewarding to be a bridge-builder, connecting educators with other talented people within our community to work towards a common cause. To create strong, well-governed school organizations that remove barriers of time, talent and resources to ensure school leaders and teachers can focus to building strong relationships with students and parents that lead to educational excellence. I feel this is a compelling vision, and I encourage you to be a part of too.

How have bridges that others built influenced your education or career? What bridges or influential connections have you built?

Program New to WI Offers FREE Breakfasts and Lunches to Eligible Schools

By Michelle Burmeister, Communications Director

Milwaukee Hunger Task Force and CEP

All of our Partner School communities serve some percentage of children from low-income families. This means that many of these students come to school hungry and can’t afford to bring a healthy lunch or pay for school lunch. Thankfully, there are programs available to support these families so that hunger doesn’t distract children from the important job of learning, which requires energy and concentration – fueled by food.

Hunger Task Force made PAVE aware that new to Wisconsin for the 2014-15 school year is Community Eligibility Provision. As explained on the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction’s Website, “The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a 4-year reimbursement option for eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools participating in both the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) that wish to offer free school meals to all children in high poverty schools without collecting household applications.  It is intended to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty LEAs and schools.”

Any Wisconsin school with 40% or more identified students qualifies for CEP, and there are bundling programs if a school network has multiple campuses. We encourage our Partner Schools to check your math with DPI and research CEP, to determine if your school is eligible for 100% free breakfasts and lunches for your students. The deadline for eligible schools to adopt CEP is June 30, 2014.

For full information on how to participate, calculate eligibility, and apply for CEP, please click here for WDPI’s Web page that explains the entire program and provides necessary links.

Hunger Task Force shared that breakfast at school has already been proven to reduce tardiness, absenteeism and visits to the nurse, while improving test scores at the same time. Furthermore, the Food Research and Action Center found that 100% of surveyed districts that had implemented community eligibility would recommend it, with positive feedback from parents and staff, as well as an increased ability to feed more children.

If your school is eligible, we hope you take advantage so that all of your students can eat breakfast and lunch for free every day, improving both their health and education.