Black community leaders share concerns about Madison School District’s superintendent hire, call process ‘flawed, incomplete’

Scott Girard:

A letter signed by 13 black community leaders in Madison expresses concerns about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s hiring of Matthew Gutiérrez to be its next superintendent.

The concerns include how much larger and more diverse MMSD is than Gutiérrez’s current Seguin Independent School District in Texas, student performance scores in Seguin and a “flawed, incomplete” process that “lacked substantive input from the Black Community.”

“We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the Black Community was minimized, if considered at all,” the letter reads. “Given the differences between Madison and Seguin, we expected a greater and broader background of experience, skills and abilities that would move the Madison District further in cultural competency, social justice, and academic outcomes for black students.

“Dr. Gutiérrez is woefully lacking in all of these categories.”

The signers are Pastors Alex Gee, Marcus Allen and Joseph Baring; Kaleem Caire, Ruben Anthony, Teresa Sanders, Vanessa McDowell, Carola Gaines, Yolanda Shelton Morris, John Odom, Kirbie Mack, Greg Jones and Ray Allen.

The letter was emailed to the School Board Thursday.

MMSD announced Gutiérrez as its hire Jan. 24. He was one of three finalists who visited the district last month to meet with community leaders and hold a public forum. The interviews included closed sessions with the School Board and with some minority community leaders.

During the press conference announcing his hire, School Board president Gloria Reyes said it was a “unanimous decision” of the board to hire Gutiérrez during a Jan. 17 closed session meeting pending contract negotiations.

“Whoever the choice, there will be those who with good intention say our selection wasn’t their first choice,” Reyes said at the press conference. “This is the kind of passion toward education that makes our community strong and we are thankful for that.”

Logan Wroge:

In her letter, Reyes said Gutierrez was selected as a result of “the most transparent and community-involved hiring process” ever undertaken by the district. As elected officials, it is the board’s responsibility to make the final decision, she said.

The black community leaders were critical of how the Seguin district scored on a Texas school performance report in 2018, with a higher proportion of Seguin schools rated below average compared with Texas schools at large.

Gutierrez became superintendent in Seguin, which is in the San Antonio metro area, in August 2017. It was his first job as a permanent superintendent in an 18-year educational career, all of which has been spent in Texas.

Moving forward, Reyes called for a unified approach of “keeping students at the center of everything we do.”

“As is with most larger districts, we are replete with distancing mechanisms and labels that serve to divide us,” Reyes said in her letter. “This is not a time of division, particularity when considering that (the school district) is making history in hiring the first superintendent of color as its leader.”

Kaleem Caire:

Just because we disagree with the Board of Education’s choice for Superintendent doesn’t mean we are being divisive. If the reference here is referring to perceived division along racial lines because Mr. Guettierez is Latino and we are Black, well, several Latino leaders who were a part of the same community interview that Madison’s African American Pastors arranged (and that I was present for as well) also felt that Dr. Guettierez was not the most qualified finalist candidate for the position. We also felt that the finalist candidate pool did not yield the caliber of candidate that our school district needs overall. Many of us felt Dr. Thomas was the most qualified candidate; however, some of us preferred that the Board of Education reopen the search process and try again. Furthermore, the only time many of us were involved in the hiring process was when local Black Ministers requested that we have the opportunity to meet the finalist candidates. This Board did not come to us. Given our collective experience and background in education in Madison (and some of us nationally), you would think the MMSD Board of Education would have thought to include us in this unprecedented community involved process. If you wonder why we are concerned, read the piece I wrote in last month’s Madison365: This isn’t about Mr. Guettierez race. Instead, it is about our concern for the present and future of our children – and yours.


“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”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

2013 – 2019: Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison Experience.