By Ariele Vaccaro
This past Monday marked the beginning of a new initiative to increase attendance to Milwaukee Public Schools.
During a press conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) announced their partnership and common goal — to encourage students to go to school every day and, in turn, better their chances of having a successful future.
The idea began as a conversation between MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver and Bucks President Peter Feigin.
According to Feigin the Bucks are “starting anew”. Not only will the team be getting a new arena and new jerseys in the near future, but it will also be establishing a revitalized presence in the community.
“We’re incredibly enthusiastic,” Feigin said.
He and Driver discussed MPS’s needs. Driver’s immediate response: attendance.
According to Dawn Finnegan of MPS’s Department of Community Engagement, attendance issues can begin to hinder a student’s education as early as in K-4 or K-5 grade levels.
Students transitioning from middle school to high school are also at high risk.
A child that begins to struggle with attendance in sixth grade is 63 percent less likely to graduate from high school.
To battle statistics like these, MPS will focus heavily on encouraging students who attend 80-90 percent of their classes and create incentives for students to go to school every single day or improve their attendance.
One of those incentives: dinner with Jabari Parker. The Bucks forward has assumed the role of spokesperson in the initiative.
He attended the Monday press conference to the delight of several kids at the Frances Starms Discovery Learning Center library.
“He was so relatable in the press conference,” said Finnigan. “I just think he’s relevant and real.”
Parker, a Chicago South Side native, grew up with a father heavily involved in community youth service.
The Bucks player will also make visits to MPS schools.
This initiative is part of a larger effort to keep Milwaukee kids in school.
According to an MPS press release, the school system plans to intervene more often in cases of dwindling attendance, to train teachers to make courses more interesting for students, and to foster closer relationships with parents.
According to Finnegan, there is likely to be more to come from the newly established partnership between MPS and the Bucks: “I see a variety of opportunities in the future.”
As the Bucks begin a new chapter, Feigin also sees a promising future for the new relationship.
“This is step one,” he said.