Commentary on Rhetoric: Departing Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham

David Blaska:

The news media loves to imagine itself as the afflicter of the comfortable, David with his slingshot v. Goliath. “J’accuse!” in 96-point bodoni bold type. Edward R. Murrow starring down Tailgunner Joe. Bogart starting the presses in Deadline USA. Woodward and Bernstein.

In Madison, too many news media “gatekeepers” just want to be invited to the cocktail party. The editor of The Capital Times was invited to the cocktail party. Paul Fanlund expresses his gratitude this way:

The setting was the ornate Roosevelt room at the Madison Club, where assorted community leaders were gathered for a reception to thank and send off Jennifer Cheatham six years after she arrived from Chicago to lead Madison’s public schools as its superintendent.

Neil Heinen of Madison Magazine and WISC TV-3 is also a member of the In Crowd. He penned “An appreciation for Jen Cheatham” much in the manner of Ode to a Grecian Urn.

Her Strategic Framework — that’s right “her” Strategic Framework — for the success of every child, was the most comprehensive. It was the most research-grounded blueprint for district-wide excellence I’ve encountered in more than 40 years of writing about Madison schools.

Neil is not alone in his hero worship. He name-drops an A-list of Madison movers and shakers with whom he rubs elbows in the same Group-thinking bubble:

Cheatham enjoyed the support and affection of a remarkable group of civic leaders. Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller, Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Ruben Anthony, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon, United Way of Dane County President and CEO Renee Moe, Madison College President Jack E. Daniels, 100 Black Men of Madison President Floyd Rose and Bishop Harold Rayford.

Oh, sure, “Cheatham is criticized for top-down management,” Neil huffs. But …

Related: 2013: What will be different, this time? 2019: Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison Experience.