Editor's note: Tom Schuler sent this letter to members of the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors and the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which were seeking comments about how to improve MPS. Schuler, who is a Realtor, is a retired MPS teacher.
I'm Tom Schuler, a retired teacher in MPS. I taught from September 1967 to June of 99. Since then, I have been a substitute teacher to present - subbing in middle schools and high schools.
I am writing this because I care and I feel frustrated because no one out there is listening and no one wants to tackle this very serious problem.
The problems start with the home and the lack of structure. There isn't family anymore. That is - the definition of family has changed.
You need to realize what you're working with. You need to know the percentage of students living with their natural parents (married); one parent and one step-parent; one parent; one relative; or living in a shelter, etc.
You need to bring accountability and responsibility back into the equation - not just for MPS, but for the community as well.
This whole problem is such a sensitive issue - one that no one wants to confront - until it's too late or until a responsible group like yourselves says, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH."
I wonder what the percentage is of inmates at Waupun or Taycheedah who are special education. When I pick up the paper and read about a gang of boys brutally beating a single person, I ask my self, "How many were ED (emotionally disturbed)?" I've been assaulted twice this past school year by emotionally disturbed students. One I reported, and one I did not.
You should look into a "Camp McCoy" type of environment. Team up with the state or other cities in Wisconsin. Apply for a federal grant or start a pilot program for the rest of the country to follow - whatever.
I go into schools now, and I see a growing lack of respect for each other, our teachers and our country.
Just like a dam - if you don't patch the leak - it gets bigger and before you know it, you have a real problem on your hands. That's where the educational system is today. Whether you like it or not, you're dealing with poverty, the acceptance of failure and lack of respect of one's self and one's offspring.
Because there are no consequences, there is the freedom to do and act for one's own satisfaction and gratification, and the result is that responsible and moral and structured and disciplined people pick up the "tab of life."
The government and media need to be brought into this equation along with all phases of MPS - from the school board all the way down to the student and the family they represent. They need to work with you and support your program.
If what you need to do is too confrontational a topic to handle or if you think a group might start litigation to erode your purpose, then another approach to the problem is to just deal with the schools themselves and hope it trickles into the community in a positive way.
In this case, you will have to adjust the age requirement for staying in school. Not everyone is cut out for classroom learning. Behavior, attendance and grades should be the criteria for staying in an educational classroom setting.
Technical education should be looked at even at an early, early age - as an alternative to classroom instruction. Parents need to be required to get involved, and consequences need to be put into place.
Strict parents who are successful are successful because they have something to offer their children - love, support, guidance, amenities, etc.
Your group must develop and create a strong and powerful policy - a no-nonsense policy. You will be successful if you have something to offer and if your educational community can feel and realize a light at the end of the funnel.
Do you really care? Are you really concerned? Is this effort on your part just a façade, or is your group for real?