Dr. Darienne Driver 36, is the first woman and one of the youngest individuals to be named Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
Driver is the fourth African American superintendent of MPS. She is following Dr. Gregory Thornton who resigned as Superintendent in June to take the position of CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
She has been working as interim Superintendent since June, but Dr. Darienne Driver began her position as official Superintendent on October 1.
Driver received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
She received a master’s degree in curriculum development from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and recently completed her doctorate in education through Harvard’s Urban Superintendence program.
Dr. Driver began her career with MPS in 2012 as the district’s first Chief Innovation Officer and led efforts to improve outcomes for the schools in the district with the greatest need.
From the high truancy rate to the low graduation rate, Dr. Driver’s experience with MPS has given her a unique understanding of the numerous challenges she will encounter as the new superintendent.
According to a study conducted by the Forward Institute on Habitual Truancy, in the 2012-2013 school year, the truancy rate for MPS was approximately 42 percent while the truancy rate for the state of Wisconsin was approximately 10 percent.
“The one group we forgot to ask about truancy issues are the students themselves.
We need to have some serious conversations asking what about school brings you in and what about school leaves you out and find out how to better engage them,” explained Driver.
“We are using peer to peer accountability, 24-7 online learning and blended learning. Most of the students have smartphones and devices that can download apps for learning. We are using a number of approaches to re-engage our students. We need to get the business community, churches, non-profit agencies and parents involved to keep our kids in school.”
Driver added, “We have to be sensitive to the needs of our families, we have to have an open dialog with our families.”
MPS has a 78 percent six-year graduation rate and a 61 percent four-year graduation rate.
Driver believes that the students need real life examples to the benefits of completing high school.
They have various programs and internships to expose the students to different careers and what it takes to get those jobs, a two-year degree, a four year degree, or beyond.
Parents and teachers of students with autism have high expectations for positive developments from the new superintendent to help this population achieve success.
Kelly Guthery, special education teacher at Milwaukee School of Languages, said, “It is my hope that Dr. Driver will be a leader in recognizing the unique needs with students with autism in the district and ensure that families with autism have the ability to enroll in high quality educational programs in the families preferred school.”
“We have a support group for parents of students with autism” said Driver.
“We are training staff better and providing better resources for every school. We will be a better support for teachers and families.”
A safe learning environment is mandatory for all students.
School safety is a major concern for parents, teachers, administrators, students and the community.
“At MPS, all schools have an emergency crisis plans and deployment plans. We have drills throughout the year for emergencies,” Driver said.
‘We are building relationships with Milwaukee Police Department and the community.
The doors are always locked and anyone coming to the school must be buzzed in. There are also safety aides in all the schools.”
Dr. Driver is optimistic and believes in the future success of MPS. “I think that MPS is a really special place.
Our district is in your neighborhood, in your own backyard,” Driver said. “Sometimes you don’t realize what you have.
Public education is something to celebrate.”
“Don’t count us out, we are here to offer children a quality education.”