Shortly after Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad resigned last year, School Board member Ed Hughes told me that when it comes to the Madison School District, “People want improvement, but they don’t want change.”
I thought about Hughes’ words last weekend after the school district announced it had hired Chicago Public Schools chief of instruction Jennifer Cheatham as Nerad’s replacement.
Cheatham is seen as the best bet for improvement — specifically to the long history of low-income and minority student under-achievement.
The question now is: Will people tolerate her changes?
Hughes told me Sunday he was “optimistic” they would. “I think she will earn teachers’ trust and inspire them to do their best work,” he said. “If she succeeds at that, everything else will fall into place.”
I hope he’s right, but I don’t yet share his optimism.
Back in 2011, it was the district’s long-standing inability to do anything bold about the achievement gap that left it vulnerable to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s bid to open its own charter school for minority and low-income students.
Madison Preparatory Academy brought the issue of the achievement gap to the fore. But the school’s rejection — largely due to opposition from the teachers union — left notoriously progressive Madison doing some uncomfortable soul-searching.
Related: And so it continues…..