By Dylan Deprey
As MPS students head back to class a little earlier this year, so does the newly appointed staff for the recently created Black & Latino Male Achievement Department.
The department was created to address the academic disparities and life outcomes for Black and Latino students.
As graduation rates in Wisconsin reach National recognition, so does the widening gap between White students and Black and Latino students.
Wisconsin’s high school graduation rate was a record 88.4 percent in 2015, according to federal data. Unfortunately, Wisconsin held the No. 1 spot for widest graduation-rate gap between white and black students, and the 10th highest between White and Latino students, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“When we examine student achievement data for all of our students, our Black and Latino male students are consistently below their peers. This is simply unacceptable, we can and will do better,” said Darienne Driver, MPS Superintendent.
The department will report directly to Superintendent Driver, as they work to bridge the widening graduation-rate gap.
The department’s central focus will be to analyze data and to adopt the best local and national practices to improve academic and life outcomes for struggling academic populations, according to an MPS press release.
Some initial strategies laid out by the department included:
• Aligning district and city-wide efforts that specifically support Black and Latino boys and young men;
• Creating Manhood Development courses that provide safe and protected spaces for Black and Latino male students to explore identity and history among a community of their peers;
• Working with school communities to analyze data and develop plans and strategies for addressing significant disparities in outcomes; and
• Launching a communication strategy to positively change the narratives surrounding Black and Latino boys and young men in Milwaukee.
“We believe that it is critical to improve outcomes for all our young people. Focusing specifically on Black and Latino male achievement will benefit all students in our district,” Driver said.
In late July, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors unanimously approved four staff members, which included a mix of internal and external MPS employees and alumni.
The staff included: Juan Baez, Ed.D., Director, Lanelle Ramey, Director, Paul Moga, Coordinator and David Castillo, Planning Assistant.
Baez is a North Division High School Alumnus and former MPS principal. He led the turnaround efforts at both Hopkins-Lloyd Community School and Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School.
Ramey is a Riverside University High School alumnus and former senior director of programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. He is also a volunteer committee chair and mentor for MKE Fellows, an organization that works to support Black male youth heading to college and return to Milwaukee to live and work.
Moga is a proud MPS Alumnus, and former Riverside University High School English teacher and department chair. Most recently as a Culturally Responsive Teacher Leader, Moga provided professional development to teachers and administrators on culturally relevant, student oriented classroom practices and increased engagement for cultural celebrations.
Castillo is a Los Angeles, CA native. He most recently worked at Milwaukee’s Pulaski High School as a special education teacher. He coordinated a Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) for the school, and also developed and lead the Freshman Academy. He is a Teach for America Alumnus and works to train teacher’s over the summer in Milwaukee.
The National Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) selected Milwaukee as one of five priority cities, and has pledged to support the Department of Black and Latino Male Achievement through a strong partnership in improving academic and life outcomes for boys and men of color.