Milwaukee Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton has released the first wave of his selections for new principals for Milwaukee Public Schools. As I described in a Journal Sentinel column a few weeks ago, Thornton is facing an unusual number of principal vacancies, in large part because of retirements triggered by the changes Republican Gov. Scott Walker is making to educational spending and public employment benefits.
One high-profile position on the new list: Mike Roemer was chosen to be principal of Ronald Reagan High School. The south side school, with its full international baccalaureate program, has been one of the brightest success stories in MPS in the last decade. Its high-profile founding principal, Julia D’Amato, retired several months ago. Roemer was the assistant principal under D’Amato and has been acting principal since she left. The school community lobbied hard for him to get the job.
Overall, the list of new principals includes four existing principals who are getting new or amended assignments and 17 people being promoted or hired to principal positions. The reassigned principals are appointed at Thornton’s discretion, but the promotions and new hires have to be approved by the School Board. A board committee will take up the recommendations at a meeting Tuesday.
The list can be viewed by going to this Web page and clicking on “5-24-11 AFP Blue Book Advance Copy” on the right side of the page. Then click on Item 3 on the left hand side of the document that comes up.
There are more choices to come. More than 30 principal positions, nearly a fifth of the total in the system, have been posted recently. And some major positions are not on this list, including several large high schools. Rufus King High School, the college-prep school that has been the long-term flagship of MPS quality, is one not on the new list. According to sources, Thornton was not satisfied with the first round of applicants for the position and asked that a second round be undertaken.
There is almost no disagreement among educators that a school’s principal is crucial to the life and success of a school. Both tangibly and intangibly, a principal can do much to shape the culture of a school – how smoothly it operates, how ambitious its goals are, how united its staff is, and so on.
So the choices Thornton is making may well be some of the most important of his tenure as superintendent in Milwaukee.
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