Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

October 7, 2014

Bobby Tanzilo of OnMilwaukee Gets it Right on Malcolm X

Filed under: Malcolm X,MPS Buildings — millerlf @ 8:31 pm

Published Sept. 24, 2014

Last Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools issued a statement saying that it had parted ways with the developer of a project to renovate and re-develop the former Malcolm X Academy/Center Street School, at Center and Palmer Streets, noting that the plan would nevertheless continue to move forward.

“The district will continue to work on the construction of the project and will issue a Request for Proposals for a construction manager,” the statement said. MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia told me that the plan still includes opening an International Baccalaureate middle school in the complex.

Yesterday, in a news report, a district official was quoted as saying MPS ended the deal with the development team after a member of the latter made a “questionable request,” though apparently that same news outlet — which also ran a pro-voucher school editorial yesterday — didn’t ask about, or at least didn’t report on, what that request might have been.

On a related side note, the local media continues to ignore the fact that a number of school buildings that were recently vacant have been sold, among them Jackie Robinson, Dover and Centro Del Nino. An RFP was issued for the sale of the former Garfield Avenue School yesterday, after a previous prospective buyer failed to get financing.

Many more such buildings have recently been called back into service by the district — 27th Street School, Green Bay Avenue, Howard Avenue, Sarah Scott, Milwaukee Education Center, Fritsche Middle School, Happy Hill, Morse Middle School, Webster Middle School, Burroughs Middle School, Westside Academy II building, 38th Street School (in some cases to house charter schools) among them. There’s been talk, too, of re-opening Fletcher on the far northwest, and/or 88th Street on the far southwest sides.

Changing needs and changing demographics mean that the district is smart to hold on to buildings that could be of future use. What would taxpayers — and Milwaukee media — say if MPS sold a building and then five years later needed to build a school down the block from it?

How would those folks suggest the district grow and replicate high-performing schools like Golda Meir (which expanded into the previously empty MEC, for example) and the Montessoris (which expanded into the former, and briefly vacant, Tippecanoe), a number of which are already facing crises of space that prevent the district from growing enrollment?

Had it asked about the so-called “questionable request,” the paper would’ve learned that on May 23, MPS and Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to local businesses seeking sponsors for the annual Council of Great City Schools conference, to be hosted in Milwaukee by MPS in October. One of the recipients of that letter was Dennis Klein of KBS Construction, part of 2760 Holdings LLC, which was the Malcolm X developer.

A handwritten note in response, which appeared to have been penned by Klein, to MPS’ Ann Terrell said, “I will sponsor at Michigan level ($15,000) when I get LOI (letter of intent) and/or lease extended on Malcolm X. This is a contingent (emphasis in the original note) pledge.”

“It was not deemed to be illegal as far as we know,” MPS’ Chief of Staff Erbert Johnson told Fox 6 News. “We basically again turned it over to our attorney, which is the city attorney — and from there we decided to sever the relationship.”

Ending that relationship apparently didn’t sit well with two surburban politicians who previously tried to force MPS to hand over public buildings to voucher schools, because yesterday afternoon, Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Dr. Michael Bonds fired a missive at Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling and State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo.

“From the beginning of this process, Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact,” Bonds is quoted in an MPS news release.

“There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.

“It is unfortunate that Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.”

Bonds also said he has asked the city attorney’s office about “legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”
Tags: Malcolm X, MPS, Alberta Darling, vacant buildings, SB318 Wisconsin

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October 3, 2014

The Facts About Malcolm X

Filed under: Malcolm X — millerlf @ 4:15 pm

The facts: How the Malcolm X development is moving forward
District documents show taxpayers are receiving work products to complete project

MILWAUKEE (September 24, 2014) – The following is a statement by Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds regarding reporting on the Malcolm X project:

“Recent news coverage may be causing confusion about what Milwaukee taxpayers are receiving in an agreement between Milwaukee Public Schools and the former developer of the Malcolm X Academy building, which the district will convert to a high-performing International Baccalaureate school in the fall of 2016.

“Coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has referred to the payment of ‘fees’ the paper estimates at up to $1 million dollars. That information is incorrect.

“As the district detailed on its website on Friday, it is receiving work product, including construction drawings and other materials, that are needed as the project moves forward. The compensation, which is approximately $500,000, is far less than the $1 million noted by the Journal Sentinel. It was vetted by the independent consultant used by the City of Milwaukee and found to be customary. Please see the attached document and note the totals under the suggested claim column.

“How school buildings are used is an important topic. In order to have a honest conversation about them, taxpayers deserve to have the facts.”

Fox 6 News Report Sept. 23 By Beverly Taylor— Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is looking for a new developer for the empty Malcolm X Academy. This is the building a private school offered to buy — and MPS rejected for plans of its own.
State Senator Alberta Darling has been a vocal supporter of MPS selling the empty Malcolm X Academy to St. Marcus Academy. It wanted to expand its highly touted program. Instead, MPS partnered with private developer, 2760 Holdings.
“Well, it would have been a combination of retail and office and housing and I don’t know that there was a market demand for that kind of a project,” said Darling.

MPS Chief of Staff Erbert Johnson says the project is not dead — it’s just shedding the developer.“Now we’re gonna lead it and hire some other professionals to kind of assist us in the process,” said Johnson.

The decision to dissolve the partnership came after a mass letter for sponsorship was sent out for an upcoming conference in the city. Johnson showed FOX6 News what appeared to be a hand-written response from Dennis Klein, a partner of 2760 Holdings. It said quote, “I will sponsor at Michigan level when I get letter of intent and/or lease executed on Malcolm X. This is a contingent pledge. D.”

A “Michigan level” sponsorship was $15,000.

“It was not deemed to be illegal as far as we know,” said Johnson. “We basically again turned it over to our attorney, which is the city attorney — and from there we decided to sever the relationship.”

Johnson said the plan is to move forward with a middle school for 400 to 600 students.“The school as an anchor was the most important piece because a high-performing school would then be something that would attract housing; something that would attract retail,” said Johnson.

While Johnson says the plan was in the making years ago, Darling has her own opinion.

“It was put together to prevent St. Marcus from being about to buy the facility,” said Darling.
FOX6 News left a voicemail for Dennis Klein for comment. So far, he has not returned our calls.

At this point, MPS is in the process of purchasing the work product from 2760 Holdings — so the project can move forward. It’s an estimated cost of about $500,000 — although the developer has requested more.

Following is a previous statement by Dr. Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, regarding the erroneous statement issued today by State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo regarding the district’s plans to continue the development of the former Malcolm X Academy building:
“From the beginning of this process, Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact.
There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.
It is unfortunate that Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.
I have asked the Office of the City Attorney to provide legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”

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