Commentary on Wisconsin DPI Leadership; Elementary Teacher Mulligans

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Gov. Evers had been at DPI for a while until now. Has there been a foundation at DPI built by Gov. Evers that you feel like you can expand upon?

Initially, I went to DPI in 2001 — that was when Libby Burmaster became superintendent. And Libby and I worked together in the Madison School District, so when she offered the opportunity for me to join that team, I jumped at it because the areas she explained to me were areas I was deeply involved in anyway. It was looking at equity and how do we move the state, or how do we begin the conversation about who are our students who are not part of this dream that we have as society.

So we initially started our focus and looking at the data and finding out who those populations were. And at that time, Tony Evers was Libby’s deputy, so when Libby ran two terms, Tony ran and won three terms. And I stayed on with him. And one of the reasons is — I don’t know if a lot of people know about the Department of Public Instruction (and) that we have a lot of passionate people who work there, people who come from education settings, leaders in their schools, people who come with the same aspirations to make a wider impact. So it always felt like a family to me and that we were pulling in the same direction.

So when Tony left and offered this opportunity to me, it was an opportunity to expand our equity agenda. The agenda has been equity for a number of years, but for me it is an opportunity to drill deeper and to try to put a little more flesh on the bones and be more intentional about the work we’re doing as an agency to have strategic impacts on the school districts we work with.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”:

Elementary Teacher Mulligans