Commentary on the Madison School Board’s Superintendent Search Finalists

Scott Girard:

The finalists are:

Matthew Gutierrez, the superintendent of the Seguin Independent School District in Seguin, Texas. He is a former interim and deputy superintendent in the Little Elm Independent School District and received his Ph.D. in educational leadership from Texas Tech, according to the district’s announcement.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York. She previously was the superintendent in the City School District of Albany and earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Kent State University.

George Eric Thomas, deputy superintendent and chief turnaround officer for the Georgia State Board of Education. He previously was an administrator with the University of Virginia and in Cincinnati Public Schools, earning his Ph.D. in educational leadership from Concordia University.

“During this process, the Board was very fortunate to have an incredibly diverse and impressive pool of candidates participate, making this a very difficult decision,” School Board president Gloria Reyes said in a news release. “With a focus on how candidates aligned with the Leadership Profile, the Board was able to select three phenomenal finalists, all with deep roots in education and instruction, and today we are excited to introduce them to our community.”

The candidates will each visit Madison next month for a tour of the district and finish their day here with a public meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. The board is expected to make a hire in February, with the new leader starting on or before July 1.

A survey designed by consultant BWP and Associates this fall helped develop a “leadership profile” desired in the next superintendent based on community responses.

Top qualities reflected in the survey included someone who has experience with diverse populations, understands MMSD’s commitment to high levels of academic achievement for all students and is a visionary team builder. Respondents also indicated personal qualities like confidence, dedication, sincerity, honesty, organization and a background as an educator were important.

The district had hoped to announce the finalists on Monday of this week, but delayed the announcement at the last minute. MMSD spokesman Tim LeMonds wrote in an email Monday it was to give more time for reviewing candidates, though he clarified there would not be a board meeting.

“Due to MMSD being fortunate enough to have an extremely strong pool of highly qualified candidates, the MMSD board faces a very difficult decision on what candidates to move forward to the next stage in the process,” LeMonds wrote. “As a result, the board decided it was in their best interest to add additional time for candidate review, and has set a new decision deadline for this Thursday, after the holiday break.”

Logan Wroge:

To help in the search process, the School Board hired an Illinois-based consultant. BWP and Associates conducted a community engagement and feedback process this fall, advertised the position, screened candidates and recommended semifinalists for the job.

The semifinalists were interviewed by the School Board last week during closed session meetings.

In the fall, BWP held 35 meetings with different groups and organizations, politicians, and community leaders to solicit feedback on the search. An online survey also received more than 1,400 responses.

Among the attributes sought in the next superintendent were being an excellent communicator, having a strong commitment to racial equity, and having experience as a classroom teacher, according to a report from BWP based on the feedback.

In all, 31 people applied for the superintendent position. During the last hiring process, 65 candidates were screened before the board chose Cheatham in 2013.

Notes and links on previous Madison Superintendent search experiences.

The taxpayer supported Madison School Board’s practices appear to conflict with Wisconsin open meeting notice requirements.

Madison taxpayers spend far more than most K-12 school districts. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrousreading results.

Madison K-12 administrators are planning a substantial tax & spending increase referendum for 2020.


Madison School District projects loss of 1,100 students over next five years, yet 2020 referendum planning continues.

Madison School Board approves purchase of $4 million building for special ed programs

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