Finding a qualified Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent could be difficult

Eduardo Galvan named acting superintendent while a national search is launched for a permanent replacement


As Milwaukee Public Schools settled on an interim superintendent and begins the search for a permanent leader, a former district administrator is warning that finding a qualified candidate will be a difficult task. 

On Monday night, the MPS board of directors formally named Eduardo Galvan as acting superintendent. Galvan has been serving in the role since former Superintendent Keith Posley resigned June 3 amid a financial scandal. 

By naming Galvan acting superintendent, he will have more direct responsibility, including the ability to hire staff. 

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Since mismanagement and financial failures were uncovered over the last several weeks, several key positions, including the CFO, have either resigned or retired. 

Steven Enoch worked as a superintendent for 18 years in California and Washington State, including the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area. He said if the Milwaukee school board wants to change the direction of the district, it will need to hire a superintendent from outside of MPS.

Keith Posley worked for MPS for 40 years. Galvan is a 30-year veteran of the district. 

Enoch said internal candidates — even if they are great — represent a status quo. But he cautioned that finding a qualified superintendent is challenging because the pool is smaller than it used to be. 

“If a school board is viewed as dysfunctional, the number of interested candidates will decrease significantly,” Enoch said. “Public education has always been difficult because it has been political. But it has gotten more political now that it has become a target of certain groups.” 

But former MPS Superintendent Howard Fuller said the job might not be as hard to fill as some people might guess.

“The job pays a lot of money,” Fuller said. “There are going to be some people who don’t want it. But there will be people who want to move up in their careers. Or move up in their salary.”

Posley was paid about $303,000 annually.

Fuller was superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in the 1990s before founding the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. He retired from that position in 2020, but is still active in a Milwaukee charter school that bears his name.

He said while some people won’t want to take on the mess of MPS, others will see it as an opportunity to reform the state’s largest school district.

“It’s all in how your mind works when you look at how a job like that can be,” Fuller said. “Significant problems also present significant opportunity.”

The MPS board’s goal is to have an interim superintendent in place before the 2024-25 school year begins. 

Enoch: Board should hire candidate who aligns with current school district needs

The board plans to hire an outside search firm this summer to replace Posley, said board member Megan O’Halloran.

Enoch, who was a finalist to head Seattle Public Schools, said he was always hired through a search firm. And, he said, the process is a good one that typically involves the community. 

O’Halloran has said she wants to welcome all stakeholders to the interview process, including parents, community organizers, students and staff.

“The next superintendent will impact the whole community, so I would like to have representatives driving this process,” she said.

But Enoch cautions school boards should make the hiring decision alone, since the superintendent is the board’s one employee and its biggest responsibility. 

“Sometimes I worry that in that process of involving everyone, the board ends up defusing the process and escaping the ultimate responsibility,” Enoch said. 

Enoch, a retired career advisor, recommends talking to people who know the candidates — including unions, fellow administrators, school board members, teachers and the public — and asking what the candidates believe in. 

“There is no right or wrong answer,” he said. “But the board needs to have a sense of what the district needs in the immediate future. They are not hiring someone for life. They are looking for someone who aligns with the needs of the Milwaukee school district now.” 

Evers announces request for independent operational audit of MPS

On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers announced his administration is opening a request for services to conduct an independent operational audit of MPS. The governor announced last week he would proceed with hiring auditors to conduct two audits of MPS, both an operational and instructional audit.

The MPS School Board of Directors and local community leaders, among others, have expressed public support for both efforts.

MPS is facing a reduction of millions of dollars in state aid to offset previous accounting errors that could have caused the district to be overpaid. There is also a threat of additional state money being withheld because of late financial reports.

“Given the challenges facing MPS, it is exceedingly important that we begin outside, independent audits of the district’s operations and instruction quickly to fully identify the extent of the problems in order to work toward having future conversations about solutions,” Evers said in a statement. 

The operational audit will be  conducted under an existing state contract using entities that have appropriate experience auditing education organizations. Those auditors have already gone through competitive bidding and been selected to receive state contracts through the state’s procurement processes.