GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — The Green Bay Area Public School District's new superintendent, Claude Tiller, Jr., started on July 1; and since then Tiller has been all over the community, and said his focus is on what's best for students.
"There's always going to be challenges," Tiller said. "It's not all roses."
Tiller has already been to a school board meeting.
On Tuesday, he hosted a public meet-and-greet at Grounded Cafe in Green Bay.
"Been trying to build up some emotional capital so people will me," Tiller said. "So, when my honeymoon period ends as superintendent, then they can say, 'he wasn't a bad guy, he's a good guy.'"
Arguably the biggest topic of controversy in the district is the facilities master plan.It's a long-term plan that addresses aging buildings, declining enrollment, and a looming budget deficit.
"We're looking at doing a study for boundaries," Tiller said. "So, the building closure keeps spouting its head up."
In May, a facilities task force recommended to the school board that 12 district buildings, including 11 schools, close or be used in a different way.
Those recommendations drew pushback from a Latino grassroots group known as NEWLET, which said they weren't equitable enough.
The school board has already moved forward developing a plan to close Wequiock Elementary on the far northeast side, and shift its students to Red Smith. However, the board still has to vote on whether or not to close Wequiock. But, some Wequiock parents have spoken out to the board about their concerns.
Tiller said next week, district leaders and Wequiock parents are meeting up for a listening session.
"Their voices will be heard," said Tiller. "We will present our side. They will present their side. So, we hope to come to a common ground there."
The district is also facing a projected budget deficit for the 2024-25 school year.
Tiller said when balancing out the budget, he said the top priority is teachers.
"We want to make sure that we get the best teachers possible in the classrooms on time," Tiller said.
According to GBAPS data, about 60 percent of the district is made up of people of color.
Tiller said his focus is making sure every student's education is equitable.
"Every kid is different. So, we have to differentiate instruction," said Tiller.
Coming from an administrative role at Detroit Public Schools, Tiller said he raised the graduation rate in Detroit and is hoping to do the same in Green Bay.
Tiller said Green Bay's graduation rate is 87.4 percent.
Data from U.S. News & World Report shows the average graduation rate in Wisconsin in 2020 was 93 percent.
"I'm going for 100 percent graduation rate," Tiller said. "We can do it. I have to set the bar high, so we can reach it."
The next meet-and-greet with Tiller is next Tuesday, July 25, from 7 to 9 a.m. at the McDonald's on Shawano Avenue.