Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t have the countenance of someone who has stepped into a maelstrom. Madison schools superintendent since April, Cheatham, 41, has already visited every school in the district and rolled out a “Strategic Framework” to tackle some of the district’s thorniest issues, including the achievement gap. So far she’s generated considerable excitement around her plans and raised hopes, even among skeptics.
Kaleem Caire has even put off plans to file a federal civil rights complaint against the district for the school board’s rejection of a charter school geared toward low-income minority students. The CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, which spearheaded the proposal, says he’s now content to play a “facilitative, supportive role” and get behind Cheatham’s plan to “bring order and structure” to the district.
“Personally, I’ve been hanging back, letting her get her space,” says Caire. “The superintendent should be the leader of education. All of us should be supporting and holding that person accountable.