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Thursday, April 7, 2011 09:04 pm

‘Passionate about teaching’

Q&A with Dr. Walter Milton

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Dr. Walter Milton

What’s your vision for District 186?

Milton: “Short-term is that we have a laser focus on student achievement, that we increase student achievement all around... in a more robust manner. Secondly, what’s more important is that we produce young people who participate and compete on a global scale – that they’re prepared to effectively operate in a global world.”

Pressed for specifics, Milton says he’d like to see more choice schools, including a fine arts academy. Other initiatives he’d like to develop include:

  • emphasising standardized exams, like the ISATs, possibly by tying student performance to graduation requirements;
  • adding more dual credit and advanced placement classes;
  • requiring seniors to give exit presentations explaining what they’ve gained from their kindergarten through 12th grade experience and how it will shape their futures;
  • strengthening Saturday academies;
  • and more parent-led conferences.

Many parents and school board candidates have criticized the way District 186 handled the CCPA/Feitshans transition. If you could go back, would you do anything differently?

Milton: “No, I would not. I think that people are using Feitshans as some kind of platform, but to me it’s a ridiculous claim. It was not that our board was not aware that this was going to happen. It was articulated. … Candidates, they’re trying to find a platform, and they don’t know the inner workings of what’s going on. To me that’s unfair and unfortunate. We deal with complex issues every day that require a lot of deep thinking and to just make these surface remarks that ‘I don’t agree with how that was handled’ … that’s just a platform statement.”

How do you view the school board?

Milton: “There are two types of school boards. You have a political board, which impedes upon the success of school systems, and then you have a professional board. A professional board helps further synergy with the superintendent – helps create a successful school district. … I think at moments we fall victim to being a political board, but I think we have the potential to be a professional board. … I don’t want to sound like I’m beating up my board, because I’m not. My board is highly capable, I think they’re bright individuals and I think we have the potential to be an excellent professional board, and at times they are, when they’re sticking together.”

What’s not working in District 186?

Milton: Regarding the gender and ethnicity achievement gaps, “I desire us to go deeper and do more. We still have some disengagement going on. We have a population of families that may be disconnected. How do we connect them with what we’re trying to accomplish?”

Do you think you’ve gained the community’s respect at this point?

Milton: “I would hope so. I haven’t heard otherwise, but I want this community to see me as a person who’s passionate about teaching and learning. I’m not going to just work to make people feel good. If it happens, that will be great, I would love for it to happen, but if it doesn’t happen in the process then we have to focus on young people.”