Last April, and to a remarkable amount of fanfare, Jennifer Cheatham became the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. From the very start, the community has opened its arms to welcome her. When I interviewed her for Madison Magazine TV last month, I was aware that the community, especially parents of color, continues to be hopeful, if not expectant, that she’ll be a superintendent who follows through on her promises to ensure that all students learn—no excuses. Here’s an excerpt of our talk.
Deana Wright: One component of the district’s new strategic framework is parental and community involvement. Research, of course, has shown that when parents get involved in their kids’ education, not only do test scores go up, but disciplinary problems go down. The report does indicate that the plan to develop family engagement strategies for each school is a little behind schedule. What is the next step?
Jennifer Cheatham: Each of our schools develop their school improvement plans, and one of the requirements for those improvement plans is to have a strategy for better engaging families. What we learned quickly is that our schools are struggling with that. They just don’t know enough about what great parent engagement looks like. So, we had to take a close look at, really, what defined parent and family engagement, first of all. I think we intentionally had to slow this work down, because we realized that it was more complicated than we originally thought and we’re trying to re-define family engagement so it isn’t about expecting families to come to us, to come to the traditional events that we hold in our schools, but to really think about family engagement differently.
DW: Does that mean going to them?
Madison’s 2013-2014 budget, about $392,000,000 or $15k/student
A brief look at recent Madison Superintendents.