Madison’s Sherman Middle School focuses on new energy after blog post leads to principal’s departure

Jenny Peek:

Just three months ago, the school community was roiling over a blog post penned by teacher Karen Vieth about Sherman and its former principal, Kristin Foreman.

“I am leaving this district, because I cannot serve the children I love in the current climate,” Vieth wrote. “I have never seen a building as deeply in crisis as Sherman Middle School, yet my cries for help went unanswered for three years. I saw ‘Band Aid’ fixes and many more promises. I saw a principal being given chance after chance and three years of her being coddled and coached with no substantive change.”

The post spread like wildfire on social media. Parents, former students and teachers added fuel to the fire by sharing personal experiences and commentary on what they referred to as a school in crisis. Criticisms ranged from a lack of visibility to high turnover rates to blatant disrespect toward staff.

One Sherman teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, tells Isthmus that Foreman provided “little to no true leadership.”

Heather Banschbach, the mother of a sixth and eighth grader at Sherman, agrees that there were problems at the school. While Sherman didn’t have a formal PTO in the past two years, she says there was an informal parent group that met throughout Foreman’s tenure. Parents frequently vented to the group and Banschbach has about 100 emails from parents raising concerns about the school administration.

“I had a few families who had never been directly involved with the school come to me and ask for help advocating for their kids,” Banschbach writes in an email. “I can’t list all of the issues that came up. I just remember the big ones that were consistent were safety, staff morale, communication, policies, lack of parent involvement/input, and the overall culture of the school being toxic.”

In response to Vieth’s post, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham called the incident a “public shaming of a principal of color.”

“We do not believe this type and tenor of dialogue represents who we are or how we want to solve problems in MMSD. While we fully embrace the feedback, it is important that our words and actions align with our core values of belonging, inclusion and racial equity,” Cheatham wrote.

Much more on Sherman middle school, here.