MPS Board votes to keep Webster Secondary School open with conditions

Posted at 9:29 PM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-01 08:50:17-04

The Milwaukee Public School board unanimously voted to reconfigure Webster Secondary School.

The school was set to close on Friday, but with the vote, it will remain open for some students.

High school students will no longer attend the school, but sixth, seventh and eighth graders will stay at Webster for the full school year.

In a meeting Thursday the board voted 9-0 to make Webster a traditional middle school. In addition, MPS will work with community partners and Webster families for services needed and the best programs for the future.

The board will report back in November of this year to update the progress.

After a lengthy back and forth with MPS Chief School Administration Officer Dr. Keith Posley and Superintendent Darienne Driver, the board took a recess to clarify some things regarding the Webster Secondary building.

However, after a more than 40-minute recess, the seemingly split board came back with the unanimous decision to reconfigure the school.

"It's premature to close Webster," said Michael Bonds, a board member. "We haven't had a chance for students to come in next week. Webster is truly a gem of a school. I'd hate to lose it. We still have options available."

After the ordeal with Universal Academy for the College Bound leaving Webster in "the dark of night" according to Vice President Larry Miller, the school was left in shambles.

But one faculty member says things were slowly but surely starting to come around.

"Everyone's saying, chaos," said Zarkey Hegwood, a teacher at Webster. "That's no argument. However, what people aren't talking about, by the duration of the school year, it was structured chaos. By the beginning of this school year, zero chaos. I feel like we did the same thing that Universal did to them."

According to Superintendent Driver, the school just isn't living up to expectations in the three weeks it has been open this year.

"We realize, going into this week, the third week of school, we weren't going to meet numbers at Webster Campus," Driver said. "We'd be doing a disservice to families and students to try and run this program properly."

Driver's concerns were that for the 130 or so students in grades sixth to eighth and the 130 or so students in ninth, 10th and 11th grade, there wouldn't be enough teachers to teach them. There would be teachers having to teach not only multiple grades but multiple subjects and she didn't want to put that burden on them because it would ultimately lead to a poor educational experience for the children.

"You'd need two teachers for eighth grade, one teacher for sixth and one teacher for seventh," Driver said. "At high school, that's when it's challenging. We'd be doing an injustice by acting like everything is ok. It isn't."

Over Labor Day weekend, MPS won't be able to relax. They will be sending emails, robocalls and individual calls to the families of Webster students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade to let them know their options.

For those students who chose to come back on Tuesday, they can rest assured knowing they will be Webster students for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year.