Milwaukee Schools financial consultant ‘making good strides’

Todd Gray helped Glendale-River Hills School District earlier this year


The financial consultant hired by Milwaukee Public Schools to help correct the financial crisis said Thursday the missing audit data is not indicative of the district’s overall health.

Todd Gray was hired June 3, at the urging of the Department of Public Instruction, after it was revealed there were severe problems in MPS.

Gray helped DPI write a corrective action plan, which found the district has an inexperienced, understaffed financial office that was using an outdated accounting system to manage the state’s largest school district.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“They don’t have a budget problem here,” Gray said. “The district can operate like it normally does. They can move forward like it normally does — programs for kids, staffing — it’s just going to take some time and technology to fix. But so far we have been making progress and meeting the deadlines DPI has set out for us.”

Gray will work with audit manager Paul Geib under Matt Chason through July. Chason heads the district’s office of accountability and efficiency. 

Photo courtesy Todd Gray

MPS is paying Gray up to $48,000 for his work.

All overdue financial data must be submitted to DPI by Sept. 26, according to the plan. 

School board member Megan O’Halloran, who is on the MPS Strategic Planning & Budget Committee, said Gray “is widely respected as a problem solver and financial expert by colleagues and constituents.”

“I am confident in his ability to help us navigate this challenge,” O’Halloran said.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley resigned the same day Gray was hired. 

MPS Chief Financial Officer Martha Kreitzman retired immediately after Posley’s resignation. Comptroller Alfredo Balmaseda was fired the next day. 

The action plan shows 12 open positions in the MPS financial office. Gray is tasked with reviewing and revising job descriptions for the current vacancies.  He said his first priority is helping MPS hire a CFO and Comptroller.

Just as important is getting the software up to date so it can communicate with DPI. Currently, MPS is using an outdated spreadsheet system.

Gray said a programmer is working on a temporary fix before new software is implemented, which he is recommending.

“That kind of change in this kind of district is a huge undertaking,” Gray said.

Gray is not a stranger to helping school districts correct financial mistakes. 

He was hired by the Glendale-River Hills School District earlier this year after accounting errors by the district’s business manager resulted in a budget shortfall of $3.6 million. The error forced that district to cut 13 staff positions.

Gray said in River Hills, the problems were budget related. In MPS, it was a mixture of bad technology and communication issues.

Milwaukee Public Schools has three executive offices: the superintendent, the office of board governance and the office of accountability and efficiency, were Gray is now reporting to.

He said that office is not responsible for what happened. He placed the blame solely on the finance department.

“They were not involved in this, this was specifically a finance function,” he said. “When you are missing people in key areas things just don’t get done. It builds up and a person who might be in charge of reporting just doesn’t have the information he needs because of vacancies or other issues and it just grinds to a halt.”

Gray has experience as a superintendent, consultant

Gray earned a dual master’s degree in accounting and school business administration from UW-Whitewater and a Ph.D. from UW-Madison.

He served as superintendent in the School District of Waukesha from 2008 to 2020, then became a consultant at the law firm von Briesen & Roper. 

Waukesha Superintendent James Sebert said he knew Gray for many years prior to succeeding him in the district.

“He is a cordial and genuine person who relates well with others in addition to having a great financial mind for schools,” Sebert said. “He will be a great asset for MPS.”

Gray was called back to education in September 2020, when he served as interim superintendent for three years. 

Gray said he saw the MPS job as a challenge and he was happy to help.

“Some days are a little bit frustrating, but most days it’s good,” Gray said of his work in MPS. “We need to look forward. I’m positive we’re making good strides here and staff is working very hard to get things taken care of.”