Former Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Begins Anew in Birmingham, MI

Laura Houser:

Coming to Birmingham from Madison — and from Green Bay, WI, before that — has been an adjustment for Nerad, he said, and not just because Birmingham is significantly smaller.
In Madison, Nerad and the school board there were mired in controversy, resulting in Nerad’s March announcement that he wouldn’t seek an extension of his contract, even though it didn’t expire until June 2013.
Nerad had served as Madison’s superintendent since 2008 and before that, was the superintendent in Green Bay, where he had moved up through the ranks, beginning his career as a school social worker.
“As much as I look at myself as a unifier, I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily been successful in doing that (in Madison),” Nerad said during his first interview with the school board in May.
However, Nerad said communities are what develop perceptions, and now that he’s in Birmingham, he’s dedicated to providing “child-centered” leadership, remaining transparent and adding value to programs already in place.
“There has to be a sense of trust (between a school district and a community),” Nerad said. “I think that exists here. Tensions can exist and it’s incumbent upon all of us to address those tensions and be available.”

More Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Reflections

Matthew DeFour

Q: Given a chance to oversee the Madison Prep debate again, would you have done anything differently?
A: My approach was I was attempting to make that work as an instrumentality of the district, and costs were prohibiting that. In terms of it being a non-instrumentality proposal, there were two big problems there. One was the fact that contractually it wasn’t permissible. The other area was the need for accountability to the public body and the governing board.
Q: So what would you have done differently?
A: I’ve looked into myself quite a bit on that and I don’t know what that is.
Q: So you think you were decisive enough?
A: Let other people judge that. But if I didn’t have an interest in looking at a program like Badger Rock Middle School and other innovative program designs, we wouldn’t have spent the time we did on Madison Prep. We put considerable effort into trying to find alternative ways to work that out and the reality of it is that it didn’t work out.

Much more on the Madison Superintendent position, here.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Reflects on His Tenure

Dan Nerad, the departing Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent, talked with WISC-TV on Thursday about his four years leading the district, plus the greatest challenges going forward.
He cited the four-year-old kindergarten program, which he implemented, and tackling difficult budgets as his achievements. Nerad said on some issues, such as over the heightened debate over the district’s minority achievement gap, there were shortcomings.
Nerad is scheduled to leave July 27 for the top job at the school district in Birmingham, Mich., a smaller and more affluent suburb of Detroit.
THEO KEITH, WISC-TV: Is there an issue or issues where you had your greatest success or shortcoming?

Departing Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad looks back and forward

Nayantara Mukherji

The last day for Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will be July 27. Nerad, who led the Madison Metropolitan School District for four years, will be replaced by newly appointed interim superintendent Jane Belmore. In March, Nerad submitted his resignation to the school board and was subsequently offered the job of schools superintendent in Birmingham, Michigan. He will start there in August.
Isthmus recently sat down with Nerad to discuss his tenure in Madison and his new post.
Isthmus: What were some of the factors that went into your decision to ask the school board to terminate your contract by August 1?
Nerad: We had been in a discussion for several months about my leaving the district, so that is not a brand new thing. But, I have an opportunity to continue this work in another school district in Michigan, and that’s really what drove the more immediate consideration about leaving at this point in time.

Dinner for Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Birmingham 7.1.2012 start official

Rafael Gomez, viaa kind email: If you are interested to have a dinner for Dr. Nared contact Rafael Gomez at
Laura Houser:

It’s official: the Birmingham Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday night officially hiring Daniel Nerad at the district’s next superintendent.
School Board President Susan Hill said Nerad — the current superintendent of the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District — signed a contract with the district earlier Tuesday, with an official start date of July 1.
The school board selected Nerad, 60, as the next superintendent on June 11 after a two-month search process. Nerad was one of two finalists after five semifinalists interviewed in late May and early June.

Much more on departing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.

On Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad & the Birmingham (MI) Job

Observer & Eccentric:

If you judge the process by the questions, it would appear Dr. Daniel Nerad has the edge in being offered the job as the next superintendent for Birmingham Schools.
Nerad is the Madison School District superintendent in Wisconsin and one of two finalists for the Birmingham job. The other person is Robert Shaner, executive director of instruction and technology at the Warren Consolidated district.
Nerad has been superintendent for Madison Schools since 2008. Before that, he spent seven years as the superintendent for the Green Bay Area Public Schools. Shaner has less than a year of administrative experience.

Birmingham School Board Questions Nerad About Controversy in Madison

Laura Houser:

In 2006, you were the Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year. Can you address why some of your later evaluations in Madison haven’t reflected that?
In March, the Madison Board of Education evaluated Nerad on the low end of “proficient” in an evaluations system designed to mimic the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Nerad scored lowest in “strategic leadership and district culture,” and in “staff evaluation and personnel management.”
However, Nerad said Thursday there are two things he has not been deserving of: being named superintendent of the year and being assessed as barely proficient.
“The last couple years in Madison have been challenging (and) there’s no one that wishes I could be more of a unifying force than me,” Nerad said. “I ask only to be judged on my whole record.”
What is your recommended evaluation process between yourself and the school board?
“I’m a big believer in evaluation,” Nerad said, noting that if he were hired, he and the school board would have to agree on evaluation metrics.
“We should have a conversation about what that assessment should look like, (but) I believe in holding myself to the highest standards when it comes to improvement goals.”
How did you whittle down your plan to reduce the achievement gap from $12 million to $4 million?
Nerad admitted that upon cutting down his plan’s price tag, it wasn’t able to accomplish everything it originally set out to do. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the original plan included 40 strategies for reducing the achievement gap; the revised plan has 21 strategies.
“I felt it was my responsibility to present something (to the school board) that’s stable financially,” Nerad said, noting he and his team had to prioritize the most important strategies.
His plan to fund the first year of the achievement gap plan? Nerad said he is proposing to use Madison’s fund balance — similiar to Birmingham Public School’s fund equity — and leaving it to the school board to decide where funding should come from in coming years.

Much more on outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, and Birmingham, here.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Birmingham Candidate Response

Laura Hoser:

How does a school district know when it has an effective program?
This can be a struggle for school districts, Nerad said, but programs need to be evaluated over time, districts need effective ways to collect data, and there needs to be systems in place that allow teachers to collaborate around data and solve problems.
What is the role of principals, the school board and superintendent in terms of innovation and curriculum development?
According to Nerad, the school board ensures there are enough resources for curriculum development and innovation, the superintendent is responsible for outlining what that curriculum will look like, while schools have the responsibility to implement curriculum in the way that’s best for each building.
What is your budgeting process and how would you go about cutting money from Birmingham’s budget?
Budgeting has to be a year-round process, Nerad said, and should he be hired, he would go to district stakeholders — whether they be parents, teachers or community members — and ask: what are your priorities?
How would you engage the rest of the Birmingham community, including the local business community?
Nerad said he would work with the district public relations office to focus heavily on engagement and outreach. “I do believe in putting a face on the superintendency,” he said.
How did you build consensus on an important issue?
When trying to reach consensus on tough issues, Nerad said he uses voting procedures and works to ensure people are heard. “My whole life has been dedicated to those kinds of practices.”
How do you judge whether a school board is doing a good job?
According to Nerad, the school board should be a model for the entire district.
“I believe if the superintendent evaluates the board, the board should evaluate itself,” Nerad said. “If we want our staff to grow, we have to model that kind of commitment. It’s about the whole organization getting better, from the superintendent to the board to teachers to support staff.”

Much more on outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.
A quick comparison of Birmingham and Madison schools.

Dan Nerad a Semi-Finalist for the Birmingham, MI Schools Superintendent; District spends about 10% less per student than Madison

Pat Schneider:

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad made the cut Saturday to become one of two finalists for the top job at a school district in suburban Detroit, according to an online report.
Nerad was selected as a finalist for superintendent of the Birmingham Public Schools at a special Saturday session of the School Board, the Birmingham Patch reports.
He apparently made a big impression on school board members in Michigan, particularly with his handling of controversy over the race-based achievement gap in Madison schools.

Much more on Dan Nerad, here.
A few comparisons:
Birmingham’s 2011-2012 budget is $107,251,333 for “more than 8000 students”, or roughly $13,406/student. That is about 10% less than Madison’s $14,858.40/student.
Birmingham’s per capita income is $69,151, more than double Madison’s $29,782. Birmingham’s median household income is $101,529 while Madison’s is nearly half: $52,550.
Birmingham had 6 national merit semi-finalists this past year while Madison featured 41. Michigan’s 209 cut score was identical to Wisconsin’s this past year.
Madison continues to spend more per student than most American school districts.

Hiring Nerad’s replacement requires willing candidates

Chris Rickert:

The ink on Madison School superintendent Dan Nerad’s resignation letter is barely dry and already the hand-wringing over finding his replacement has begun.
The applicant market is tight, the job is tough, other places offer more attractive terms, warn the school administrators professional association and executive search firms, who arguably have something of a vested interest in tight markets that drive up school administrators’ salaries and require executive search firms to navigate.
Not that the locals are doing much of a sell job. I’d be pretty freaked out about applying for a position with the kinds of very high, yet mostly nonspecific, expectations voiced by the education and community bigwigs quoted in this paper on Sunday. (What exactly is a “bridge builder that can create a bold vision,” as Michael Johnson, head of the county Boys & Girls Club, put it?)
Hiring Madison’s superintendent in these days of shrinking state aid, uncertain labor rules and an embarrassing racial achievement gap is not to be taken lightly.

Much more, here.

Madison schools prepare for life after Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WANTED: A K-12 schools leader with experience uniting a divided community, managing tight budgets and closing achievement gaps in an urban school setting.
PROBLEM: A shrinking pool of such dynamic leaders and a growing number of urbanizing districts like Madison seeking top talent.
“It is a tight market,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “The number of experienced superintendents that have done well in their districts and have the reputation of having done well — those are relatively few and those are the ones that everyone is going after.”
Madison will soon be conducting a search for a new schools chief after superintendent Dan Nerad announced he plans to depart by June 2013, when his current contract expires. He recently was named a finalist for a superintendency in Omaha, Neb., and though he wasn’t selected, he hasn’t ruled out moving to another job before the next school year starts.
Though Nerad’s time in Madison will have been short-lived compared to his predecessor, Art Rainwater, who retired after 10 years, the average superintendent in a mid- to large-sized city holds the job for an average of 3.5 years, Domenech said.

Much more on the Madison Superintendent search, here.

4.1.2012 from Omaha: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad: Narrowing gap a work in progress in Madison

Joe Dejka:

The push to raise achievement for minority and low-income students in Madison Metropolitan School District remains “a work in progress,” said Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Work has been done on Nerad’s watch, such as drafting a new strategic plan and a multifaceted, $106 million proposal for programs aimed at shrinking test score gaps between students of different races and income levels.
As for results, Nerad and Madison school board member Ed Hughes say there hasn’t been enough progress.
“We certainly haven’t seen, overall, the kind of improvement that we would like to see in reducing the achievement gap,” Hughes said. “But we need to look at whether the steps are being put in place that would give us some hope or confidence that we will see those gaps narrowing in the future.”
Hughes thinks Madison is on the right track.


In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track. Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.
A look at the numbers:
Omaha spends substantially less per student than Madison. The Omaha 2011-2012 adopted budget will spend 468,946,264 for 46,000 students: $10,194.48/student. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student, 31.4% more than Omaha…. Green Bay (Superintendent Nerad’s former position) spent about 10% less than Madison, per student.

What Madison can learn from Nerad’s exit

Those who approve of Nerad’s performance and those who disapprove could agree that he seemed to be exiting in a responsible manner.
And there was not much objection to the $37,500 retirement payout that it was announced he would receive. It sounded, after all, like he was retiring. Or so Madisonians thought.
On Tuesday, however, the news arrived that Nerad was a finalist for a job as superintendent of the public schools in Omaha, Neb.
Madison School Board members confirmed that Nerad had not informed them when he was preparing for his “retirement” announcement that he was in the late stages of pursuing another job.
School Board President James Howard even had to field questions about whether he and other board members were “duped” by the superintendent.

I have received a number of emails inquiring about the $37,500 payout…

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Don’t insult (outgoing Madison Superintendent) Nerad’s social work background

Chris Rickert:

A comment in Tuesday’s story about the resignation of Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad caught me short.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” said Don Severson, head of the conservative watchdog group Active Citizens for Education.
Nerad is a former social worker and, apparently, Severson didn’t think his background did him much good.
I’m bothered by this on two levels.
First, Severson’s comment speaks to a long-standing disrespect for the profession and what Kristen Slack, director of the UW-Madison School of Social Work, called an occasional “misunderstanding.”

Nerad resignation adds new wrinkle to School Board races

Matthew DeFour, a local education reporter:

Nichols said declining test scores and low graduation rates for minority students over the past six years have been a reflection of the board and superintendent not having shared priorities. She said a change in board leadership is necessary “because we can’t afford to lose more precious time.”
Silveira did not respond Wednesday to a request to discuss Nerad’s departure.
Burke said she would have liked to see Nerad stay and worries his departure could expend the momentum for addressing the achievement gap that has built up over the last year.
Hiring Nerad’s replacement, she said, is “probably the most important issue now facing the board.”
Flores said he has mixed feeling about Nerad’s departure. On one hand, the district now has a new issue to address on top of the achievement gap and the budget. At the same time, there arises the potential for finding a leader who the community embraces and will make difficult decisions.


Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Notes and Links on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Looming Departure

Jonathon Braden:

The Omaha school board on Tuesday narrowed its list of candidates to replace retiring Superintendent John Mackiel to three finalists.
They are:
ReNae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning for the Omaha Public Schools.
Nancy Sebring, superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools.
Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis.
Mackiel, 62, is retiring after this school year. He has been the OPS leader since 1997.

Dave Cieslewicz:

When I first started running for mayor back in 2002, an elder statesman of Madison politics told me, “I don’t know why you want to do this, they’ll chew you up.”
Well, I don’t really feel chewed up. I had a great time as mayor, but I do understand now what he was talking about.
Leading this city in any capacity is tough. Whether it’s as mayor, head of the Chamber of Commerce, editor of a newspaper, schools superintendent, or president of your neighborhood association, working a top job in a city like ours is a challenge.
Face it: we’re a city of kibitzers, back seat drivers, and Monday morning quarterbacks. Our very educated town is full of people who are sure that, whatever it is, they could do it better.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad to Leave when Contract Expires in 2013

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad announced on Monday that he will retire and not seek a contract extension.
Nerad made the announcement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Nerad’s contract runs through June 2013 and he said he will remain through then.
He said calling this announcement a “resignation” would be accurate.
Nerad said that decision came to a culmination in the last 10 days and that he has been in the process of deciding on retirement for several months.
He cited his reason for retiring for a variety of factors.He said that controversy over achievement gap was “a factor.”
“I wish I could’ve done more to develop a consensus on how to move forward on issues, including (the) achievement gap,” he said.
Nerad said that a new leader could provide a spark on the achievement gap that he could no longer provide.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will leave the job when his contract expires in the summer of 2013.
Nerad, 60, made the announcement Monday hours before the Madison School Board was scheduled to vote on whether to extend the contract.
School board president James Howard didn’t offer a timeline for hiring a replacement.
Nerad said he had been thinking about leaving the Madison district for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.

Madison School District Press Release 52K PDF.
Pat Schneider:

A community leader who has had a ringside seat to the struggles to forge a plan to end the academic achievement gap in the Madison schools thinks Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement Monday of his planned departure next year just might be the break needed to make real progress.
This view isn’t universally shared, but Steve Goldberg, executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation who has worked closely with the Madison Metropolitan School District, its teachers union and community leaders, says Nerad’s announcement could put him in a position to have a greater influence over acceptance of a plan he recently put forward to close the race-based achievement gap.
With any inkling that Nerad is working to preserve his job removed from the equation, the likely efficacy of his proposals might become a tighter focus of discussion, Goldberg said.
“This might change the way he is perceived,” Goldberg told me. “Since he no longer has ‘an axe to grind,’ he may be viewed as more objective.”

Matthew DeFour:

Nerad, 60, said he had been thinking about leaving the job for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.
He said there were multiple factors that contributed to his decision. When pressed to identify examples, he said division on the board over his performance and division in the community about how to address the district’s persistent achievement gap between minority and white students were factors, though not primary ones.
“I wish I could have done more to try to develop a broader base of consensus around how we best serve children,” Nerad said.
Nerad, a former social worker, came to Madison after six years as superintendent in Green Bay, where he had been credited for his work on addressing the community’s achievement gap.
Soon after taking the reins in Madison, Nerad oversaw the passage of a $13 million operating referendum. He launched 4-year-old kindergarten, developed a five-year strategic plan, expanded the dual-language immersion and summer school programs, reorganized central office staff, introduced curricular alignment among all schools and restored the district’s AAA bond rating.
Don Severson, president of a conservative watchdog group, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement given the lack of overwhelming support for Nerad’s leadership.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” Severson said. “He had to be much more proactive and take some risks, make some decisions, go in some direction where he knows he won’t have unanimity.”

Related: Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

Madison Superintendent Nerad faces student critiques at Centro Hispano

Mario Koran:

At the March 17 meeting on the school district’s plan to eliminate the achievement gap, Superintendent Dan Nerad opened the discussion on a familiar note, laying out the statistics that underline Madison’s achievement gap problem and outlining strategies to bridge the gap.
Describing the situation as “a tale of two school districts,” Nerad said that recent data shows MMSD graduates 87 percent of its white students in four years, compared to 56 percent of its black students and 48 percent of its Hispanic students. An interpreter conveyed his message to the largely Spanish-speaking audience.
But unlike the nine public meetings before, Nerad was confronted by a different set of stakeholders–students. While attendees at earlier discussions have largely been parents and other adults, at Centro Hispano, students took the floor.

Nerad’s leadership being judged unfairly

Joann Elder

As a former School Board member and an active member of the Superintendents Human Relations Advisory Committee, I have been very impressed with Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad ever since he arrived in Madison.
I invited him to an outreach dinner shortly after he arrived, and he and his wife attended. At every meeting he was able to attend, he reviewed some program to strengthen minority programs. Informally I talked with him about the terrible cuts in funding for our public schools, and his coping solutions were admirable.
He is criticized for not having more minority teaching hires. Hiring minority teachers has always been a problem in Madison, in large part because good minority teachers can command higher salaries in larger urban centers, and they have a larger support community.
I’ve been impressed with Nerad’s leadership in these difficult times and find the “barely proficient” rating unfair and short-sighted.
Joann Elder, Madison

Related: Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

Madison School chief Nerad weighs in on relationships

Paul Fanlund:

Well, that covers everyone who appeared in my column. One might see all of this as damage control, but I didn’t think the column was all that damaging. Anyway, here is Nerad’s text:

Dear friends,
Community input on our preliminary plan to close the achievement gap is off to a good start. We held our first input session this week at West High School and had 50 participants who spent two hours learning more about the preliminary plan and providing us input on how to make it better.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the start of this conversation, and I look forward to it continuing in the coming weeks. We are holding 12 more sessions between now and the end of March — from our larger community conversation to smaller neighborhood-based sessions.
You can read more about the sessions in WISC’s editorial, “closing the gap together.” I agree that this is the most important issue we face as a community

Nerad’s plan just throws more money at problem

Bob Hartwig:

After reading the highlights of Dan Nerad’s proposal to close the student achievement gap, I see the same liberal method of looking for solutions by throwing more money at the problem.
His proposal will cost the district a projected $100 million-plus over five years. This is an average of $800 per year across the 25,000 student body. Madison is already 13 percent higher in cost per student, now $13,493 versus the state average of $11,894 per student per year, according to the Madison School District website.

More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed “a call to action” to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.
His blueprint for change, “Building our Future,” weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.
But one thing is clear: from Nerad’s point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.
“It can’t be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we’re going to have outcomes,” he said.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district’s more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.
The 109-page plan, titled “Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement,” makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.
Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.
Others, like a “parent university,” a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.
Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Madison Schools Superintendent Nerad unveils $12.4 million plan to close school achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories — instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.
“The plan is based on the view that there isn’t one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps,” Nerad said. “We’re attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal.”
The plan’s projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district’s untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.
Some recommendations wouldn’t take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn’t have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.
“We’re going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done,” Nerad said.


Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

Madison Public Schools’ Superintendent Nerad’s request community input into his plan to eliminate the long-standing Racial Achievement Gap

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children’s needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
February 2, 2012
RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012
Dear Community Leader:
As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement
We invite you to attend Monday’s Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday’s workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.
I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.
The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to:
Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: to read more about the Plan.
Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools
Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

Stakes high for Nerad on achievement gap proposal, including his contract which currently expires June, 2013

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.
The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad’s future in Madison.
The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.
“I don’t want to say something so grandiose that everything’s at stake, but in some ways it feels like that,” Howard said.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Related links:
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
Acting White
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Wisconsin’s “F” on Science Curriculum Standards; “Worthless”; Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Comments

Fordham Institute: The State of State Science Standards 2012:

Wisconsin’s science standards–unchanged since 1998, in spite of much earlier criticism, ours included–are simply worthless. No real content exists to evaluate.
In lieu of content, the “authors” have passed the buck by merely citing unelaborated references to the now outdated National Science Education Standards (NSES). Rather than using the NSES as building blocks for a comprehensive set of science standards, however, Wisconsin has used them as an escape hatch to avoid hard work and careful thought


Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad says the state already has plans to review its standards in all areas.
“I think we have to be cautious not to look at the current state because it is very much in flux right now,” Nerad says. “Things are going to change. it doesn’t makes sense to look backwards as it does to look forward.”

Remarkable. Much more at

School Board rips Nerad’s diversity proposal

It is taken as conventional wisdom that “there aren’t any” teachers, administrators, or other people of color and that’s why MMSD’s staff lacks diversity. According to the document at the link below, people of color are applying. They aren’t getting hired. That is happening in many cases because the applicants – even for entry level jobs – are “screened out” because they “lack the qualifications” or have other deficits. Others are referred for interviews but not hired. This is the case from custodians and educational assistants up through principals and high level administrators.
It is true that recruitment must improve for teachers, but I would argue that is about missed opportunities (e.g. job fairs in urban districts undergoing layoffs, continuing to rely on UW-Madison as the largest source of teacher candidates given the lack of diversity in the School of Education, etc.). It also is about entrenched patterns of hiring, that could be changed with high quality leadership.
The decision to post a position as a strongly HR/employment-related position and then hire someone with no experience in those areas is disturbing given the MMSD’s track record and the need to make knowledgeable, skillful, and significant change. Indeed, it points to the fundamental problem in diversifying MMSD staff at any level.
Full story at:

Madison Superintendent Nerad to unveil plan to help low-income minority students

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said Wednesday he will unveil next month a new plan for improving the achievement of low-income minority students.
The plan will summarize the district’s current efforts as well as put forth new approaches, such as a longer school year and opening magnet schools, Nerad said.
Nerad discussed the plan in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board less than a week before the School Board is to vote on Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school geared toward low-income, minority students.
Nerad said he opposes the current proposal for Madison Prep primarily because it would violate the district’s contract with its teachers union, but that he agrees with the charter school’s supporters in that a new approach to close the achievement gap is necessary.
“I made a purposeful decision to not bring (a plan) forward over the past several months to not cloud the discussion about Madison Prep,” Nerad said. “It’s caused us to take a step back and say, ‘We’re doing a lot of things, but what else do we need to be doing?'”

Superintendent Nerad’s former District; Green Bay offers three “magnet options”:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama’s Proposed Jobs Bill

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad publicly touted President Barack Obama’s stalled jobs proposal Monday, saying it would help the School District pay for millions of dollars in needed maintenance projects.
“We either pay now, or we pay more at a much later date,” Nerad said at a press conference at West High School, which is due for about $17.4 million in maintenance projects over the next five years.
A School Board committee is reviewing maintenance projects identified in a 2010 study by Durrant Engineers that said the district may need to spend as much as $83.7 million over five years on projects not already included in the budget.
The committee is expected to make recommendations early next year. Nerad said the committee hasn’t decided yet whether to recommend another maintenance referendum. A 2004 referendum authorizing $20 million over five years ran out last year.

Federal tax receipts, spending and deficits, fiscal years 2007-2011, billions of dollars:







Outlays Deficit Deficit as a % of GDP
2007 $2,729 $161 1.2%
2008 $2,983 $459 3.2%
2009 $3,520 $1,416 10%
2010 $3,456 $1,294 8.9%
2011 $3,600 $1,298 8.6%

Source: Congressional Budget Office.
The most recent Madison School District maintenance referendum spending has come under scrutiny – though I’ve not seen any further discussion on this topic over the past year.
Related: Wisconsin state budget is bad for kids by Thomas Beebe:

“It’ll be OK,” Gov. Scott Walker said last winter when he announced a budget that snatched away more than $800 million in opportunities to learn from Wisconsin public school kids. “I’m giving you the tools to make it work.”
Well, the tools the governor gave local school districts are the right to force teachers to pay more toward their retirement, and the option to unilaterally require educators to kick in more for their health care. The problem is that the tools, along with any money some of them might have left over from federal jobs funds, are one-time solutions. These tools can’t be used again unless school districts ask teachers to give up even more of their take-home pay.
By law, all school districts have to balance their budgets. They always have, and always will. That’s not the point. The point is that the governor has hijacked the language. Educational accountability isn’t about balancing the budget, it’s about giving kids opportunities to grow up into good, contributing adults. That’s not what Gov. Walker wants to talk about.


The red line, here, is median real household income, as gleaned from the CPS, indexed to January 2000=100. It’s now at 89.4, which means that real incomes are more than 10% lower today than they were over a decade ago.
More striking still is the huge erosion in incomes over the course of the supposed “recovery” — the most recent two years, since the Great Recession ended. From January 2000 through the end of the recession, household incomes fluctuated, but basically stayed in a band within 2 percentage points either side of the 98 level. Once it had fallen to 96 when the recession ended, it would have been reasonable to assume some mean reversion at that point — that with the recovery it would fight its way back up towards 98 or even 100.
Instead, it fell off a cliff, and is now below 90.

Caire, Nerad & Passman Wisconsin Senate Bill 22 (SB 22) Testimony Regarding Charter School Governance Changes

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire 13mb .mp3 audio file. Notes and links on the Urban League’s proposed IB Charter school: Madison Preparatory Academy. Caire spoke in favor of SB 22.
Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 5mb .mp3 audio file. Nerad spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Madison School Board Member Marj Passman 5mb .mp3 audio file. Passman spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Much more on SB 22 here.
Well worth listening to. Watch the hearing here.

Madison Superintendent Nerad calls on teachers to return to classroom

Gena Kittner:

Madison School District superintendent Dan Nerad called on teachers late Thursday to end their protest and return to the classroom.
“These job actions need to end,” Nerad said in an e-mail to families of students. “I want to assure you that we continue to examine our options to more quickly move back to normal school days.”
Madison schools are closed Friday for a third straight day. Nerad also apologized for the closures.
On Thursday, state and Madison teachers union leaders urged their members to report to the Capitol on Friday and Saturday for continued protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposal.
“Even though the Madison School District can only react to the group decisions of our teachers, I apologize to you for not being able to provide learning for the last three days to your students,” Nerad said.

Related: Judge denies Madison School District request to stop teacher sick-out and “Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Clips from Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s News Conference on Closed Schools & Teacher Job Action

Matthew DeFour: (watch the 15 minute conference here)

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad discusses on Wednesday Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, teacher absences, and Madison Teachers Inc.


Dave Baskerville is right on the money: Wisconsin needs two big goals:

For Wisconsin, we only need two:
Raise our state’s per capita income to 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030.
In job and business creation over the next decade, Wisconsin is often predicted to be among the lowest 10 states. When I was a kid growing up in Madison, income in Wisconsin was some 10 percent higher than in Minnesota. Minnesota caught up to us in 1967, and now the average Minnesotan makes $4,500 more than the average Wisconsinite.
Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030. (emphasis added)
Wisconsinites often believe we lose jobs because of lower wages elsewhere. In fact, it is often the abundance of skills (and subsidies and effort) that bring huge Intel research and development labs to Bangalore, Microsoft research centers to Beijing, and Advanced Micro Devices chip factories to Dresden.

Grow the economy (tax base) and significantly improve our schools….

Nerad gets one-year extension as Madison schools superintendent

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board approved a one-year extension of Superintendent Dan Nerad’s contract on a 5-2 vote Monday.
Board members Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira voted against the extension. Maya Cole, Beth Moss, Ed Hughes, Marj Passman and James Howard voted to extend the contract through June 30, 2013.
Only Mathiak and Hughes spoke during the meeting. The board has been discussing Nerad’s contract in multiple closed-door meetings.
Mathiak didn’t address why she voted against the extension but said that she had reviewed board minutes, e-mails, notes of conversations and newspaper articles as she completed an evaluation that she received in December.

Q&A with Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WSJ: What is Madison’s biggest challenge?
DN: Unless we get more of our kids to standards, children will not remain strong and the community will not remain strong. Our vision has to be about advancing learning for all kids while we work to address these very notable achievement gaps for certain groups of kids. It’s not an either-or. It’s not a zero sum. That’s why I believe we can be about a conversation about achievement gaps and we can be about a conversation about how we can better serve talented-and-gifted students.
WSJ: Is that the central tension?
DN: That’s the manifestation. If it’s about human capital development, it has to be about all kids moving forward, but there’s real constraints around that because we do in fact make budget decisions year by year and people feel disaffected by those budget decisions. There’s real concern, and I’m right in line with that concern, that we aren’t doing enough to face these achievement gaps in an aggressive enough way. (Other) people feel very strongly that we’re not doing enough to advance the needs of our advanced learners.
WSJ: Summarize your first 2½ years in Madison.
DN: We immediately jumped into a referendum discussion. The need for that was identified prior to my coming. We spent a considerable amount of time in that first year focused on those issues. From there I worked with the board on some board reorganization. And then it moved into comprehensive strategic planning with our community. From there we did the reorganization of the administration. Creating a teacher and a parent council was part of our thinking about how we do our work differently. And then we had a major focus needed on this current year’s budget. That was a very difficult conversation. We were looking at this huge gap and this huge amount of money. There has been one major thing after another. Take one, it’s significant. Take them all, it’s been very significant. And while I’ve been here 30 months, I’m still learning the culture of this organization and of this community. I’ve tried to be sensitive to the culture and there’s been some tension about how we’ve done our work and has it been sensitive enough to the culture. None of that is lost on me.

Much more on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.
The Madison School Board votes on the Superintendent’s contract tonight.

Wisconsin School Administrators Wear Many Hats; Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad tops Compensation list @ $256,715

The Wisconsin Taxpayer:

With state aid stagnant or dropping, state revenue limits tightening, and school compensation costs outpacing revenues, school districts–particularly their administrators–face growing financial pressures. At the same time, in the never-ending search for savings, the work of administrators is receiving greater scrutiny by school boards and the public alike.
Administrators increasingly wear many hats: fiscal expert, economic forecaster, management consultant, marketer, and savvy politician. In small districts, it is no exaggeration to add bookkeeper, guidance counselor, math teacher, handyman, or coach.
How varied approaches to school administration have become is illustrated by two small northern Wisconsin districts, each with about 500 students. One has four administrators (a superintendent, a business manager, and two principals), while the other has just one (a superintendent).
The same can be found among large districts. A relatively large central Wisconsin district has 22 administrators, while a similarly sized district (about 10% more students) has 32 administrators, or nearly 50% more.
These comparisons suggest there is much taxpayers, educators, and school boards can learn about how schools and districts are managed, both in terms of expenditures and work performed…

The comprehensive article mentions:

Among full time Superintendents, highest salaries were Madison ($198,500), Green Bay ($184,000), Racine ($180,000), Milwaukee ($175,062) and Whitefish Bay ($170,850). On the other hand, 49 full-time district heads earned less than $100,000, including those in Augusta ($65,649), Florence ($85,000), Wheatland J1 ($85,517), Cameron ($86,111), Phillips ($87,000) and Wauzeka-Steuben ($87,000).
When benefits are added, districts with the highest total compensation included Madison ($256,715), Milwaukee ($243,365), Green Bay ($239,700), Franklin ($236,573) and Hamilton ($218,617). Benefits include retirement contributions, employer share of Social Security and Medicare, health, life and disability insurance and other miscellaneous benefits such as reimbursement for college courses.

A comparison of 2010 Wisconsin School Administrative costs can be viewed in this .xls file.
Request a free copy of this issue of the Wisconsin Taxpayer, here.

Carlstedt: Time for Wisconsin to stop spending Dollarss on 4K and a Reference to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad

Rich Carlstedt:

First, the Federal Government funds a program for youngsters that need help. It is called Headstart. The cry for help for such an age group should be addressed by this program, however the schools have found a cash cow in Wisconsin’s 4 K Budget and can make extra funds this way.
Second, rather than looking to Arkansas, (or Georgia, who admit that the 4K program is a failure), we can look right here in Wisconsin. Three years ago I challenged Dan Nerad, the Green Bay Superintendent at that time, when he said, “early education promotes advancement of learning .”

“We do not need to look at studies from other communities, when we have the information right here in Green Bay! 8 years ago, we went from ½ day kindergarten to full day, and yet subsequent grade test scores failed to reflect the additional education time… in fact, scores are decreasing which is proof that extending hours does nothing.”

The charge went unanswered.
Third, I have to say that you left a very large arrow out of your quiver, as your financial equation is not correct for 4 K.
While I feel that $9,900 is closer, let’s use your $9,000 number, it is fine for expressing costs. To get funding for a student, he is counted as one FTE ( full time education) to get the 9K. 4K students however get a kicker. For 13 ¼ hours per week they are counted as .6 FTE ( .5 if less than 13 ¼). So 4 year olds are given a morning class, followed in the PM with another 4 year old. Those two half day students count as (2 x.6) 1.2 FTE or in cash terms, they bring in $10,800 to the district.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
The article’s comments are worth reading.

The honeymoon’s over: After two years at helm, Madison school chief Nerad struggling

Susan Troller

For months, there was nothing but enthusiastic buzz surrounding the proposal to start a green charter school in Madison. The organizers of Badger Rock Middle School have broad support throughout the community and have meticulously done their homework. The school district administration was enthusiastic about the school’s focus on urban agriculture, and School Board members, who have the ultimate vote, were too.
Then, just days before the board was expected to give its final approval, the school district released new figures showing it would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to staff and operate the new school. This was a reversal from earlier projections that showed Badger Rock would bring no extra costs to the district.
In the current era of pinched budgets and dreary financial prospects, this revelation threw a monkey wrench into the process and caused the board to delay final consideration of the project until later this month.
“I had planned to come in here tonight to vote for this most innovative project,” board member Marj Passman said during the Nov. 29 meeting. “But at the last minute the Badger Rock people and the board were both hit broadside with new information that raises a lot of last-minute questions.”

Much more on Dan Nerad, here. Watch a recent video interview.

UW-Madison School of Education Lecture Series: Diane Ravitch, Daniel Nerad, Howard Fuller, Gregory Thornton, Michael Thompson, Adam Gamoran

Wisconsin Academy

t has been said that universal education for every citizen is a cornerstone of American democracy. The importance we attach to schooling and the attention we pay to educational issues are in evidence daily–from what we tell our children when they bring home their report cards to how we vote on school funding matters. Not a day goes by without accounts of perceived successes at “model schools,” of remarkable teachers who made a difference, and of new public policy initiatives designed to deliver better results. But not a day goes by without reports about failures in education–poor test scores, questions surrounding teacher performance, and inadequate funding.
In “Education Is Fundamental,” a special three-part Academy Evenings series brought to you in conjunction with the UW-Madison School of Education, leading historians, researchers, and administrators in the field of education come together to discuss the most important educational challenges facing Wisconsin–a picture of dysfunction but also innovation–and offer their ideas for repair.

Related: Adam Gamoran interview.

State of the Madison School District Presentation by Superintendent Dan Nerad 1/25/2010

via a kind reader’s email:

A State of the District presentation will be made by Superintendent
Daniel Nerad to the community at a Board of Education meeting on Monday, January 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the library of Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. The presentation will be the meeting’s sole agenda item.
All community members are welcome to attend.
The presentation will provide an overview of important information and data regarding the Madison School District – including student achievement – and future areas of focus.
The visually-supported talk will be followed by a short period for questions from those in attendance.
The speech and Q&A period will be televised live on MMSD-TV Cable Channels 96/993 and streaming live on the web at It will
also be available for replay the following day at the same web site.
For more information, contact:
Ken Syke, 663-1903 or , or
Joe Quick, 663-1902 or
Ken Syke
Public Information
Madison School District
voice 608 663 1903; cell 608 575 6682; fax 608 204 0342

Stimulus money could open door to keeping kids in school longer, Nerad says

Gayle Worland:

If the State of Wisconsin wins federal stimulus dollars to help local districts lengthen their school days or their school year, Madison could be open to keeping kids in school for more learning time, according to Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad.
Nerad’s comments followed an announcement Monday by Gov. Jim Doyle, who promoted the idea of longer school days when laying out a plan for the state’s application for a piece of $4.5 billion in federal education stimulus dollars known as “Race to the Top” funds.
Governors and educators across the country are waiting for the U.S. Department of Education to release “Race to the Top” guidelines this fall. States will then be on a fast track to apply for funds, said Doyle, whose other priorities for Wisconsin include overhauling student testing, making student test scores a factor in teacher evaluations, creating new data systems to track student and teacher performance, and changing the state aid funding formula so districts have more flexibility under caps limiting how many tax dollars they can collect.
“What I’m laying out today are the directions we’re taking in this application,” Doyle said. Teams from the governor’s office and the state Department of Instruction are working on the plans, but haven’t yet calculated how many dollars Wisconsin will request, he said.

I hope the local school district does not use these short term, borrowed funds for operating expenses….
Patrick Marley has more:

Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday the state must give control of Milwaukee schools to the mayor to put in a “good faith” application for federal economic stimulus funds.
He and state school Superintendent Tony Evers also said the state should tie teacher pay to student performance and give districts incentives to lengthen the school day or school year, particularly for students who need extra help.
Doyle said the education reforms he and Evers are advocating would require the steady push only a mayor can provide. Otherwise, school policy could “vacillate from year to year” with changes on the School Board, he said.

Dan Nerad gets creative on Madison schools budget

Lynn Welch:

It’s easy to feel a bit sorry for Madison school officials as they grapple with ways to close a $12 million gap in state funding.
“It sounds like this came out of left field, so I don’t think anyone can be faulted for not imagining that something like this could happen,” says Chan Stroman, a Madison parent with one child attending elementary school and two at a virtual school.
But feelings may change in December, school watchers say, when tax bills land in mailboxes and everyone starts to feel the pain.
The district proposes hiking property taxes — $82.50 for owners of $250,000 homes. This and other solutions stress a school-community partnership, a balance between educational responsibility and fiscal fitness that has become the hallmark of superintendent Dan Nerad’s administration.
Indeed, it’s hard to talk about the current financial situation facing Madison’s schools without hearing an opinion on how Nerad, who began his tenure in July 2008, is managing the situation.

Madison spends about 10% more per student than Dan Nerad’s former District – Green Bay. Madison’s student / staff ratio is about 7, while Green Bay’s is 8. It will be interesting to see what, if any substantive program reviews occur locally, something that the New Superintendent and Board have promised to do. Details here.

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher. As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject. Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college. Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers? Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math? What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual? What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools. Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the subject to teach it. Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don’t yet know how to teach it to others. For example, see
If Madison continues to wait, we will miss out on this opportunity and yet another generation of middle schoolers will be struggling to success in high school.
The MMSD has a long history of taking many, many year to resolve most issues. For example, the issue of students receiving high school credit for non-MMSD courses has been waiting 8 years and counting! It has taken multiple years for the District’s math task force to be formed, meet, write its report, and have its recommendations discussed. For the sake of the District’s students, we need many more math-qualified middle school teachers NOW. Please act ASAP, giving serious consideration to our proposal below. Thanks.

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Response to “Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District”

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad via email:

Dr. Mertz-
Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this critical issue in our middle schools. We will continue to follow the conversation and legislative process regarding hiring Teach for America and Math for America candidates. We have similar concerns to those laid out by UW Professors Hewson and Knuth ( In particular they stated, “Although subject-matter knowledge is essential to good teaching, the knowledge required for teaching is significantly different from that used by math and science professionals.” This may mean that this will not be a cost effective or efficient solution to a more complex problem than many believe it to be. These candidates very well may need the same professional learning opportunities that we are working with the UW to create for our current staff. The leading researchers on this topic are Ball, Bass and Hill from the University of Michigan. More information on their work can be found at ( We are committed to improving the experience our students have in our mathematics class and will strive to hire the most qualified teachers and continue to strengthen our existing staff.
Dan Nerad

Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad on Poverty and Enrollment: “For every one student that comes into the MMSD, three leave it”

Kristin Czubkowski, via Jackie Woodruff:

All of the speakers were good, but I will admit I really enjoyed listening to Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad talk on the issue of poverty in our schools.

“Oftentimes, the statement is used as follows: Our children are our future. In reality, we are theirs.”

Nerad made one more point I found interesting, which was his explanation for why for every one student that comes into the MMSD, two to three students leave it. While MMSD has been well-recognized for having great schools and students, many of the schools have high concentrations of poverty (17 of 32 elementary schools have more than 50 percent of students on free or reduced lunch programs), which Nerad said can lead to perception issues about how MMSD uses its resources.

“From my perspective, it’s a huge issue that we must face as a community — for every one child coming in, two to three come out right now. I worry that a lot of it is based on this increasing poverty density that we have in our school district … Oftentimes that’s based on a perception of quality, and it’s based on a perception based on that oftentimes that we have more kids in need, that we have more kids with more resource needs, and oftentimes people feel that their own children’s needs may not be met in that equation.”

Recent open enrollment data.

DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

A video tape of the entire presentation and discussion with Dr. Nerad may be viewed by visiting this internet link: madison_superin_10.php

Dan Nerad opened his remarks by stating his commitment to efforts for always continuing change and improvement with the engagement of the community. He outlined four areas of focus on where we are going from here.

  1. Funding: must balance district needs and taxpayer needs. He mentioned the referendum to help keep current programs in place and it will not include “new” things.
  2. Strategic Plan: this initiative will formally begin in January 2009 and will involve a large community group process to develop as an ongoing activity.
  3. Meet people: going throughout the community to meet people on their own terms. He will carefully listen. He also has ideas.
  4. Teaching and learning mission: there are notable achievement gaps we need to face head-on. The “achievement gap” is serious. The broader mission not only includes workforce development but also helping students learn to be better people. We have a “tale of two school districts” – numbers of high achievers (including National Merit Scholars), but not doing well with a lot of other students. Low income and minority students are furtherest away from standards that must be met. Need to be more transparent with the journey to fix this problem and where we are not good. Must have the help of the community. The focus must be to improve learning for ALL kids, it is a “both/and” proposition with a need to reframe the issue to help all kids move forward from where they are. Must use best practices in contemporary assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instructional methods.

Dr. Nerad discussed five areas about which he sees a need for community-wide conversations for how to meet needs in the district.

  1. Early learning opportunities: for pre-kindergarten children. A total community commitment is needed to prevent the ‘achievement gap’ from widening.
  2. High schools: How do we want high schools to be? Need to be more responsive. The curriculum needs to be more career oriented. Need to break down the ‘silos’ between high school, tech schools and colleges. Need to help students move through the opportunities differently. The Small Learning Communities Grant recently awarded to the district for high schools and with the help of the community will aid the processes for changes in the high schools.
  3. School safety: there must be an on-going commitment for changes. Nerad cited three areas for change:

    a. A stronger curriculum helping people relate with other people, their differences and conflicts.

    b. A response system to safety. Schools must be the safest of sanctuaries for living, learning and development.

    c.Must make better use of research-based technology that makes sense.

  4. Math curriculum and instruction: Cited the recent Math Task Force Report

    a. Good news: several recommendations for curriculum, instruction and policies for change.

    b. Bad news: our students take less math than other urban schools in the state; there are notable differences in the achievement gap.

  5. Fine Arts: Cited recent Fine Arts Task Force Report. Fine arts curriculum and activities in the schools, once a strength, has been whittled away due to budget constraints. We must deal with the ‘hands of the clock’ going forward and develop a closer integration of the schools and community in this area.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Remarks at a Dane County Public Affairs Council Event

Watch the 70 minute presentation and discussion or listen to this 29MB mp3 file

I took a few notes (with apologies for their brevity):

Dan Nerad:

Revisit strategic plan in January with local stakeholders. Preferred to lead with strategic plan but budget came first.
Hopes (MMSD) literacy programs are maintained.
He wants to listen to the community.
The District’s mission is teaching and learning.
The District has several strengths and some notable weaknesses, including achievement gaps.
Schools have a broader mission than workforce development, including helping students be good people.
Achievement gap is a significant issue. There is a compelling need to face an issue that affects Madison’s viability. These are not quick fix kind of issues. We need to talk more openly about this.
If I speak openly, I hope that people will be supportive of public education.
He wishes to reframe conversation around improvements for all students.
Five areas of discussion:

  1. 4k community conversation
  2. SLC grant (More here). Use the grant to begin a conversation about high schools. The structure has been in place for over 100 years. Discussed kids who are lost in high school.
  3. Curriculum can be more workforce based. Green bay has 4 high schools aligned with careers (for example: Health care).
  4. Revisit school safety
  5. Curriculum
    – safety plan and response system
    – schools should be the safest place in the community
    – technology is not the complete answer
    math task force; Madison high school students take fewer credits than other Wisconsin urban districts
    – reaffirms notable math achievement gap

  6. Fine Arts task force report: Fine arts help kids do better academically,

Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services:

Discussed budget gaps.
Plans to review financial processes.
He previously worked as a financial analyst.
Goal is to provide accurate, honest and understandable information.

Jonathan Barry posed a useful question (46 minutes) on how the current MTI agreement prohibits participation in alternative programs, such as Operation Fresh Start (“nobody shall educate that is not a member of Madison Teachers”). Barry mentioned that a recent United Way study referenced 4,000 local disconnected youth (under 21). This topic is relevant in a number of areas, including online learning and credit for non-MMSD courses. This has also been an issue in the local lack of a 4K program.

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Credit for non MMSD Courses

Dear Superintendent Nerad:
I was rather surprised to learn today from the Wisconsin State Journal that:
“The district and the union also have quarreled over the role of MTI members in online learning for seven years. Under the new agreement, ANY (my emphasis) instruction of district students will be supervised by Madison teachers. The deal doesn’t change existing practice but confirms that that practice will continue.”
You are quite new to the MMSD. I am EXTREMELY disappointed that you would “cave in” to MTI regarding a long-standing quarrel it has had with the MMSD without first taking the time to get input from ALL affected parties, i.e., students and their parents as well as teachers who might not agree with Matthews on this issue. Does this agreement deal only with online learning or ALL non-MMSD courses (e.g., correspondence ones done by mail; UW and MATC courses not taken via the YOP)? Given we have been waiting 7 years to resolve this issue, there was clearly no urgent need for you to do so this rapidly and so soon after coming on board. The reality is that it is an outright LIE that the deal you just struck with MTI is not a change from the practice that existed 7 years ago when MTI first demanded a change in unofficial policy. I have copies of student transcripts that can unequivocally PROVE that some MMSD students used to be able to receive high school credit for courses they took elsewhere even when the MMSD offered a comparable course. These courses include high school biology and history courses taken via UW-Extension, high school chemistry taken via Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, and mathematics, computer science, and history courses taken at UW-Madison outside of the YOP. One of these transcripts shows credit for a course taken as recently as fall, 2005; without this particular 1/2 course credit, this student would have been lacking a course in modern US history, a requirement for a high school diploma from the State of Wisconsin.
The MMSD BOE was well aware that they had never written and approved a clear policy regarding this matter, leaving each school in the district deciding for themselves whether or not to approve for credit non-MMSD courses. They were well aware that Madison West HAD been giving many students credit in the past for non-MMSD courses. The fact is that the BOE voted in January, 2007 to “freeze” policy at whatever each school had been doing until such time as they approved an official policy. Rainwater then chose to ignore this official vote of the BOE, telling the guidance departments to stop giving students credit for such courses regardless of whether they had in the past. The fact is that the BOE was in the process of working to create a uniform policy regarding non-MMSD courses last spring. As an employee of the BOE, you should not have signed an agreement with MTI until AFTER the BOE had determined official MMSD policy on this topic. By doing so, you pre-empted the process.
There exist dozens of students per year in the MMSD whose academic needs are not adequately met to the courses currently offered by MTI teachers, including through the District’s online offerings. These include students with a wide variety of disabilities, medical problems, and other types of special needs as well as academically gifted ones. By taking appropriate online and correspondence courses and non-MMSD courses they can physically access within Madison, these students can work at their own pace or in their own way or at an accessible location that enables them to succeed. “Success for all” must include these students as well. Your deal with MTI will result in dozens of students per year dropping out of school, failing to graduate, or transferring to other schools or school districts that are more willing to better meet their “special” individual needs.
Your rush to resolve this issue sends a VERY bad message to many families in the MMSD. We were hoping you might be different from Rainwater. Unfortunately, it says to them that you don’t really care what they think. It says to them that the demands of Matthews take primarily over the needs of their children. Does the MMSD exist for Matthews or for the children of this District? As you yourself said, the MMSD is at a “tipping point”, with there currently being almost 50% “free and reduced lunch” students. Families were waiting and hoping that you might be different. As they learn that you are not based upon your actions, the exodus of middle class families from the MMSD’s public schools will only accelerate. It will be on your watch as superintendent that the MMSD irreversibly turns into yet another troubled inner city school district. I urge you to take the time to learn more about the MMSD, including getting input from all interested parties, before you act in the future.
VERY disappointingly yours,
Janet Mertz
parent of 2 Madison West graduates
Tamira Madsen has more:

“Tuesday’s agreement also will implement a measure that requires a licensed teacher from the bargaining unit supervise virtual/online classes within the district. The district and union have bickered on-and-off for nearly seven years over the virtual/online education issue. Matthews said the district was violating the collective bargaining contract with development of its virtual school learning program that offered online courses taught by teachers who are not members of MTI.
In the agreement announced Tuesday, there were no program changes made to the current virtual/online curriculum, but requirements outlined in the agreement assure that classes are supervised by district teachers.
During the 2007-08 school year, there were 10 district students and 40 students from across the state who took MMSD online courses.
Though Nerad has been on the job for less than three months, Matthews said he is pleased with his initial dealings and working relationship with the new superintendent.
“This is that foundation we need,” Matthews said. “There was a lot of trust level that was built up here and a lot of learning of each other’s personalities, style and philosophy. All those things are important.
“It’s going to be good for the entire school district if we’re able to do this kind of thing, and we’re already talking about what’s next.”

Welcome to the Nerad era
Madison’s new school chief seems ready for a tough job

Marc Eisen:

Nerad is earnest, diplomatic and clear spoken. It’s a good bet that most anybody who hears him talk will find something they like in his message. Whether that adds up to support for a coherent educational program remains to be seen.
He faces huge challenges: not just closing the achievement gap while maintaining programs that attract middle-class families, but doing it while state fiscal controls continually squeeze his budget.
Equally hard will be overcoming the district’s own organizational stasis — it’s tendency to stick with the status quo. For all of Madison’s reputation as a progressive community, Madison schools are conservatively run and seriously resistant to change.
Authoritarian, top-down management grew under Nerad’s predecessor, Art Rainwater. Innovations like charter schools are still viewed skeptically, including by Nerad. Four-year-old kindergarten, which could be key to narrowing the achievement gap, is still seen as a problem. The middle school redesign project of a few years ago has been judged by insiders as pretty much a non-event. The high school redesign effort that Nerad inherited seems intent on embracing a program that is still unproven at West and Memorial.

Much more on Dan Nerad here, including his January, 2008 public appearance video.

Dan Nerad gets it!
Madison’s new superintendent is serious about listening to students

Natalia Thompson:

Last month, I wrote about the potential for the Madison school district’s new superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, to make Madison schools more receptive to students’ voices (“Daniel Nerad, Stop Shutting Out Student Input,” 7/24/08).
When the piece was published in Isthmus, I was traveling in central Mexico. The day after it appeared, I sat down in front of a computer at an Internet cafe in Mexico City, half expecting a barrage of messages criticizing my naiveté and idealism.
After all, how many people would take seriously a high school student who suggests not only “holding a series of listening sessions [for students] at several of the district’s middle and high schools,” but also “advancing students [on school advisory boards and task forces] from the confines of tokenism to a position of shared power”?
When I opened an email from my mom relating that Dr. Nerad had called our home shortly after my column was printed, I almost thought she was joking. He wants to meet with you, she wrote, to hear more about your ideas on student engagement.
She wasn’t kidding — and neither is Nerad, whom I met with recently at the Doyle Building, the school district’s administrative headquarters. As he told me, “When I read your article, this first thing I wanted to know was, ‘What’s her phone number?”

It appears that Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad has taken a much different approach to community engagement than previous administrations. As always, the proof is in the pudding (or was it “Trust but Verify”); we’ll see how these interactions play out in terms of rigorous curriculum, discipline policy, budget transparency, program effectiveness, expanded educational options and ultimately, growing enrollment after decades of stagnant numbers.

Danel Nerad, stop shutting out student input

Natalia Thompson:

A case in point: When a class of local elementary school students wrote emails to district officials last year expressing their disappointment over a canceled field trip, the district responded by reprimanding their teacher. (See “The Danger of Teaching Democracy,” 2/7/08.) Apparently, Rainwater didn’t appreciate the teacher’s efforts to give her students a little civics lesson.
That’s not to say the district doesn’t listen to students at all. Each year, students complete a school climate survey, which gathers their opinions on the fairness of school policies and the effectiveness of support services.
But if students want to share what’s on their minds on their own terms? Forget it.

Nerad Details His First-Year Vision To Madison School Board


For the past two weeks, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendant Dan Nerad has been learning the ropes in Madison. He said he has been doing a lot of listening and learning.
On Monday, he officially brought his ideas to the Madison School Board, for the first time laying out a vision for his first year as superintendant.
“I guess my hope, over time, is that while I’m learning about the Madison Metropolitan School District that I can also help inform the school district of important new directions I hope we can take over time,” said Nerad.
One idea Nerad said he believes should be revisited in Madison is 4-year-old kindergarten.

TJ Mertz has more.
Much more on Madison & 4 Year Old Kindergarden here.

Nerad leaves (Green Bay) with look back, some sadness

Kelly McBride:

Outgoing Green Bay School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad always will have new-job jitters.
The butterflies were there on his first day as a Green Bay School District employee 33 years ago, and he predicts they’ll be there when he starts his new role as head of the Madison School District July 1.
Nerad can only hope there’s less property damage this time around.
“My parents gave me a new briefcase when I was employed here,” he recalled Tuesday. “I had this old beat-up car that the driver’s side door sometimes would unlock and sometimes didn’t unlock. … So I put the briefcase down on the side of the car and I went on the passenger’s side and went in. Started the car, backed up — smashed my new briefcase.
“So just as there were first-day jitters then, there will be first-day jitters (in Madison).”
There’s also been sadness around Nerad leaving, as he admits and as was evident at the conclusion of his last Green Bay School Board meeting Monday night.

Much more on incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad here.

Dan Nerad Assumes the Madison Superintendent Position July 1, 2008

Tamira Madsen:

Hailed as a hard worker by district peers and teachers, in person, Nerad is a quiet and astute listener who weighs opinions, questions and ideas in a thoughtful manner.
It’s the quiet that marks the greatest contrast with outgoing Superintendent Art Rainwater, a former football coach with a commanding physical presence. Rainwater’s assertive, booming voice resonates in the Doyle Administration Building’s auditorium with or without a microphone.
Asked what the biggest difference is between Rainwater and Nerad, School Board President Arlene Silveira said it “will be Dan being out in the community and being more communicative. I think he will be more available and more accessible to the community as a whole. … I think people should feel very comfortable and confident that stepping in, he will be able to start making decisions and leading us from day one. I think that’s a big deal and very positive for us.”

Notes, Links, Audio and Video of Dan Nerad. Nerad’s public appearance.

Incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Receives UW-Green Bay Chancellor’s Award

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard will present Chancellor’s Awards to longtime UW-Green Bay friends Daniel Nerad and Leonard A. Seidl during commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 17, on campus.
The Chancellor’s Award is UW-Green Bay’s highest community honor. It recognizes distinguished service to the University and community.
Daniel Nerad, Ph.D., is recognized for his service to the community and success in promoting partnerships with its public university.
Nerad has been superintendent of schools and learning in the Green Bay Area Public School District since 2001. Prior to his appointment as superintendent, he served the Green Bay district in a variety of roles including assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and executive director of curriculum. He earned Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year honors in 2006.
UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard notes that Dr. Nerad’s “commitment and dedication to education have had a major impact on students and people of all ages in our community.” In particular, the superintendent’s support of Phuture Phoenix at UW-Green Bay has helped the precollege program expand its reach to thousands of local students as early as fifth grade. The program matches volunteer mentors with students from low-income neighborhoods and counsels children to value education and plan for college. Nerad has also been a partner with the Institute for Learning Partnership at UW-Green Bay.

Much more on Dan Nerad here.

Rainwater (Nerad) Adds 2 to Madison Staff

The Capital Times:

Superintendent Art Rainwater will add a longtime Madison-area educator and a staff member new to the district to his Madison Metropolitan School District staff, pending approval at next week’s School Board meeting.
Ann Yehle will assume the post of executive director of educational services and Erik Kass will take over as assistant superintendent for business services. If these major positions are approved by the Board, Yehle and Kass are expected to be named to the jobs May 5 and will begin their jobs July 1.
Yehle, who currently works as an administrator in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Division of Reading and Student Achievement, was the principal at Sherman Middle School for six years.

Clusty Search: Ann Yehle / Erik Kass

Dan Nerad on Green Bay’s Hispanic Population Growth

Elizabeth Ries:

By the year 2017, the institute projects, 17 percent of Brown County’s population will be Hispanic. In Green Bay public schools, that projection is already a reality.
“We are just about there right now,” Superintendent Dan Nerad said.
The data show immigrants consume more in state and local services than they pay into the system through state and local taxes, but the report adds that immigrants contribute to economic growth by opening businesses and spending money here, and says it’s unlikely the influx of immigrants had any negative impact on job opportunities for long-time residents.
The most expensive public service is K through 12 education, but school officials see that service as an investment.
“It’s all part of the changing demographic in our country,” Nerad said.
Nerad said it’s his responsibility to educate all children in Green Bay, although he acknowledges a changing demographic isn’t always easy to handle.

The Economic Impact of Immigration on Green Bay by David Dodenhoff.

Notes and Links on Madison’s New Superintendent: Daniel Nerad

Andy Hall:

“Certainly I feel excitement about this possibility, but I also want you to know that this has not been an easy process for me, ” Nerad told reporters Monday night at a Green Bay School Board meeting as he confirmed he was ending a 32-year career in the district where his two children grew up.
“My hope is that I have been able to contribute to the well-being of children in this community — first and foremost, regardless of what the role is. ”
Nerad conditionally accepted the position Monday, pending a final background check, successful contract negotiations and a visit by a delegation from the Madison School Board, President Arlene Silveira said at a news conference in Madison.

Susan Troller:

Green Bay schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to succeed Art Rainwater as head of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
School Board President Arlene Silveira said Monday night that Nerad, 56, was the board’s unanimous top choice. She said they offered him the job on Saturday, following board interviews with finalists last week and deliberations on Saturday morning.
Silveira said Nerad asked the board to delay announcing its choice until he was able to meet with members of the Green Bay School Board Monday at 6 p.m. Silveira made the announcement at 7 p.m. in Madison.
“This is a very, very exciting choice for the district, and for the Board,” Silveira said.
“Dr. Nerad overwhelmingly met every one of the desired superintendent characteristics that helped guide the hiring process,” she added.

Kelly McBride:

Many of Nerad’s challenges as Madison schools chief will mirror those he has faced in Green Bay, Silveira said, including changing student demographics and working within the confines of the current state funding formula.
Both the Green Bay and Madison school districts are members of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a nationwide coalition of schools dedicated to ensuring high academic achievement for students of color.
Network membership is one way Nerad and Rainwater became acquainted, Rainwater said in an interview earlier this month.
Nerad said Monday he regrets that more progress hasn’t been made in advancing the achievement of minority students during his tenure. But he believes it will happen, he said.
The next head of the Green Bay schools also will inherit the aftermath of a failed 2007 referendum for a fifth district high school and other projects.
A community-based task force charged with next steps has been working since summer, and its work will continue regardless of who’s at the helm, School Board vice president and task force member Katie Maloney said Monday.
Still, Maloney said it won’t be easy to see him go.

Audio, video, notes and links on Daniel Nerad’s recent Madison public appearance.
I wish Dan well in what will certainly be an interesting, challenging and stimulating next few years. Thanks also to the Madison School Board for making it happen.

Nerad Selected As Madison School District’s New Superintendent


Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to become the Madison school district’s next superintendent.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education announced on Monday night that it unanimously selected Nerad as the new superintendent. Nerad has conditionally accepted, pending a final background check, contract negotiations and a site visit by a board delegation, according to a district news release.
Nerad is currently the superintendent of the Green Bay Area Public School District.
Nerad will replace current Superintendent Art Rainwater, who turned 65 on New Year’s Day, and is scheduled to retire on June 30. Nerad is scheduled to take over on July 1.


A Madison School District spokesman said school board members voted unanimously to select Green Bay Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad as the next superintendent of Madison’s public schools.
District spokesman Ken Syke said Nerad has conditionally accepted the position, pending a background check, contract negotiations and a site visit to Green Bay by a delegation from the school board.
The offer to Nerad was reported exclusively by, hours before the school district spokesman’s announcement.
School Board members had identified Nerad, Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator Steve Gallon, and Boston Public Schools Budget Director James McIntyre as the three finalists for the position.
Nerad, 56, is a Wisconsin native who was named state superintendent of the year in 2006.

Kelly McBride:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has chosen Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad to be its next superintendent.
Madison School Board president Arlene Silveira made the announcement tonight during a 7 p.m. news conference in Madison, saying Nerad was a unanimous choice for the job.
Nerad, 56, who has almost 33 years experience with the Green Bay district, would replace retiring Madison superintendent Art Rainwater. He is expected to begin work in Madison on July 1. Rainwater retires June 30.
Nerad has been superintendent in Green Bay since 2001.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Dan Nerad’s Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (168mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 11MB mp3 audio file. Learn more about the other candidates: Steve Gallon and Jim McIntyre.
I spoke briefly with Dan Nerad yesterday and asked if Green Bay had gone to referendum recently. He mentioned that they asked for a fifth high school in 2007, a $75M question that failed at the ballot. The Green Bay Press Gazette posted a summary of that effort. The Press Gazette urged a no vote. Clusty Search on Green Bay School Referendum, Google, Live, Yahoo.
Related Links:

  • Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of Schools — Green Bay Area Public School District, Green Bay, Wisconsin [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search ]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:

    Dan Nerad believes it takes a village to educate a child, and after three decades of being a leader in Green Bay’s schools, he’d like to bring his skills here as the Madison district’s next superintendent.
    Nerad, 56, is superintendent of the Green Bay public school system, which has just more than 20,000 students.
    At a third and final public meet-and-greet session for the candidates for Madison school superintendent on Thursday at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Nerad spoke of his passion for helping students and his philosophies of educational leadership.
    Speaking to a crowd of about 70 community members, Nerad began his brief remarks by quoting Chief Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”
    “I believe the ‘us’ must really be us — all of us — working to meet the needs of all children,” he said. Several times during his remarks, he emphasized that education is an investment in work force development, in the community and in the future.
    He also said that he believes it’s a moral commitment.
    Nerad talked about his efforts to create an entire district of leaders, and the importance of a healthy, collaborative culture in the schools. He said he saw diversity as “a strong, strong asset” because it allows kids to learn in an atmosphere that reflects the world they are likely to live in.

Emma Carlisle and Cora Wiese Moore provided music during the event. Both attend Blackhawk Middle School.

Madison School Board eyes hiring consultant in superintendent search

Logan Wroge: In 2012, the School Board hired consultant Ray and Associates, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for $31,000 to assist in the search process to replace former Superintendent Dan Nerad. But questions around a finalist’s background left some board members at the time saying they were not fully aware of controversial issues. That finalist withdrew … Continue reading Madison School Board eyes hiring consultant in superintendent search

“We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades”

Paul Fanlund: For example? “If you’re looking for the simplest examples, we weren’t consistently teaching students the fundamentals of reading in the earliest grades. We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades, and then you wonder why students aren’t attaining the skills, the basic skills … the foundational skills of reading. We still have … Continue reading “We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades”

Madison Adds Another Program: Community Schools

Doug Erickson: Madison has so many organizations that want to do good for the community and that offer programming; the problem is that the coordination is really hard,” Sloan said. “That will be the real benefit of this: coordination that’s focused and centralized.” Mendota Principal Carlettra Stanford said the school currently does not offer programming … Continue reading Madison Adds Another Program: Community Schools

Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Chris Rickert: Finances are always a consideration; they can also be an excuse. The district has cried poor at budget time for years, and yet somehow continued to find the money to, say, cover the full cost of union employees’ health insurance. Board member Ed Hughes said he wouldn’t vote for Madison Prep because the … Continue reading Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Madison School Climate, Achievement, Rhetoric & The New Superintendent

In light of Alan Borsuk’s positive article, I thought it timely understand the mountain to be climbed by our traditional $15k/student public school district. The charts above are a brief update of the always useful “Where have all the Students Gone” articles.
Further, early tenure cheerleading is not a new subject. Those interested might dive into the Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal Superintendent (recently easily searched, now rather difficult) archive:
Cheryl Wilhoyte (1,569) SIS
Art Rainwater (2,124) SIS
Dan Nerad (275) SIS
That being said, Superintendent Cheatham’s comments are worth following:

Cheatham’s ideas for change don’t involve redoing structure. “I’d rather stick with an imperfect structure,” she said, and stay focused on the heart of her vision: building up the quality and effectiveness of teaching.
Improving teaching is the approach that will have the biggest impact on the gaps, she said.
“The heart of the endeavor is good teaching for all kids,” Cheatham said in an interview. Madison, she said, has not defined what good teaching is and it needs to focus on that. It’s not just compliance with directives, she said.

Perhaps the State Journal’s new K-12 reporter might dive into what is actually happening in the schools.
Related: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results and “When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before“.

Successful (Madison) achievement plan will cost plenty — just maybe not in dollars

Chris Rickert:

The ill-fated charter school Madison Preparatory Academy would have cost Madison School District taxpayers about $17.5 million over five years to start addressing the district’s long-standing minority and low-income achievement gaps.
The achievement gap plan introduced by former superintendent Dan Nerad shortly after Madison Prep crashed and burned would have cost about $105 million over five years. Before being adopted, it was whittled down to about $49 million.
And the so-called “strategic framework” proposed last week by new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham?
“The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful,” she told this newspaper.
No doubt that could be thinking so wishful it borders on delusion or, worse, code for “we’re not really all that interested in closing the gap anyway.” But it could also be a harbinger of real change.
“The framework isn’t meant to be compared to the achievement gap plan,” district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said. It’s “not about an array of new initiatives with a big price tag” but about focusing “on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning” and “what we know works.”

Related: The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: “Same Service” vs. “having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district”..

Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the “NSA’s European Adventure”

The Madison School District’s recent rhetoric around annual property tax increases (after a significant increase in redistributed state tax dollars last year and a “return to normal” this year) is, to the ongoing observer, unsurprising. We appear to be in the Rainwater era “same service” approach to everything, from million$ spent on a partially implemented Infinite Campus to long-term disastrous reading scores.
Steve Coll’s 5 July 2013 New Yorker column nails it:

The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President’s behalf, the operation’s potential costs in the event of exposure. America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?

Much more on annual local property tax increases, here:

The Madison School Board should limit the school property tax hike to the rate of inflation next year, even if that means scaling back a proposed 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for school district employees, says member Mary Burke.
“I think in an environment where we’ve seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate,” Burke said Tuesday in an interview.

But School Board discussions have focused around reducing the proposed salary hike, and cutting back on facility maintenance to pare down the $392 million proposed budget enough to bring the property tax increase to 4 or 5 percent, board President Ed Hughes told me.
The district under state law could increase its levy by as much as $18,385,847 or 9 percent. Keeping the increase to around the rate of inflation would mean an increase of less 2 percent.

Board member TJ Mertz can’t vote on salaries because his wife is a teacher’s aide with the school district, he told me, but he has long been outspoken in his belief in good pay for teachers to ensure the best academic achievement for students.
“As a citizen, I understand our staff needs to be compensated,” he said, adding that teachers have taken losses in take-home pay since they were required to begin making contributions to their pensions in 2011. “If the state won’t invest in our children, it has to come from the property tax,” he said.
Mertz said he would prefer a tax increase steeper than the 4 percent or 5 percent the board as a whole is focusing on. “I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is invest in our students; the question should not be what property tax levy can we afford,” he said.

I appreciate Schneider’s worthwhile questions, including a discussion of “program reviews”:

Several School Board members interviewed for this story stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will be a transitional one, before a broad re-evaluation of spending planned by Cheatham can be conducted.

Yet, it would be useful to ask if in fact programs will be reviewed and those found wanting eliminated. The previous Superintendent, Dan Nerad, discussed program reviews as well.
Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
The Madison School Board seat currently occupied by Mr. Hughes (Seat 7, and Seat 6 – presently Marj Passman) will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot (candidate information is available at the Madison City Clerk’s website).

Fascinating: UW education dean warns school boards that ALEC seeks to wipe them out

Pat Schneider:

ALEC is still at it, Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cautions in “School Boards Beware,” (PDF) a commentary in the May issue of Wisconsin School News.
The model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council’s national network of corporate members and conservative legislators seeks to privatize education and erode the local control, Underwood says.
“The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight,” she writes in the magazine of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Underwood, who says that Wisconsin public schools already face unprecedented change, last year co-authored a piece about ALEC’s grander plans, a “legislative contagion (that) seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011.”
In her recent piece, Underwood argues that a push to privatize education for the “free market” threatens the purpose of public education: to educate every child to “become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process.”


  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state — including Madison’s Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools — are part of Wisconsin’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher’s success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she’s no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher — even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.

“I think that’s really unfortunate,” says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.


Management personnel decisions of Green Bay schools questioned

Randall A. Sanderson:

Months ago, the Green Bay Press-Gazette published salaries of public school teachers, but the management personnel weren’t included in the disclosures.
Here’s what the public record has shown in recent years about the Green Bay School District and advantages. After veteran schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad took a promotion out of the area, the School Board hired a replacement at a 24 percent increase in salary. That unprecedented jump in pay created the incentive for Greg Maass to leave his old superintendent position in Fond du Lac during their flood damage crisis.
He stayed with Green Bay public schools long enough for his salary increase to raise his retirement payout and then left early to head a district on the East Coast.

“High Quality Madison Teachers” vs. “New Programs Every Few Years”, “Plenty of Resource$”; Madison’s latest Superintendent Arrives

Matthew DeFour:

“I have no doubt that the way we’re going to improve student achievement is by focusing on what happens in the classroom,” Cheatham said.
Clash with unions

Madison Teachers Inc.
executive director John Matthews and others say poverty drives the achievement gap more so than classroom factors.
“We do have a high-quality teaching force in Madison — it’s been that way for years,” Matthews said. He added that one challenge he’d like to see Cheatham address is the administration’s tendency to adopt new programs every few years.
Cheatham’s salary will be $235,000, 17 percent more than predecessor Dan Nerad. Unlike Nerad, a former Green Bay social worker and superintendent, Cheatham has never led an organization. She also hasn’t stayed in the same job for more than two years since she was a teacher in Newark, Calif., from 1997 to 2003.
Mitchell, who beat out Cheatham for the top job at Partners in School Innovation where she worked for a year before moving to Chicago, said Cheatham has the talent to become schools chief in a major city like Chicago or New York in seven to 10 years. That’s a benefit for Madison because Cheatham is on the upswing of her career and must succeed in order to advance, Mitchell said.
“The thing about Madison that’s kind of exciting is there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does.”

Related: A history of Madison Superintendent experiences.
I asked the three (! – just one in 2013) 2008 Madison school board candidates (Gallon, Nerad or McIntyre), if they supported “hiring the best teachers and getting out of the way”, or a “top down” approach where the District administration’s department of “curriculum done our way” working in unison with Schools of Education, grant makers and other third parties attempt to impose teaching models on staff.
Union intransigence is one of the reasons (in my view) we experience administrative attempts to impose curricula via math or reading “police”. I would prefer to see a “hire the best and let them teach – to high global standards” approach. Simplify and focus on the basics: reading, writing, math and science.

School Board votes to end dual-language immersion program at Chavez

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board voted Monday night to discontinue the district’s dual-language immersion program at Chavez Elementary next year.
Current students will continue for one more year in the program, which offers a mix of Spanish and English instruction to both native Spanish and English speakers. Next year the district plans to work with families on how to continue the only dual-language program in the Memorial High School attendance area into the future, but there is no guarantee that it will continue.
The school district recommended discontinuing the program because of a shortage of Spanish-speaking families interested in participating. The program has been operating with some classes that have only native English speakers, which the board had not approved.

I wonder how much of the previous Superintendent’s initiatives (Dan Nerad) will unravel. Better to focus on the core reading issues, in my humble opinion.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK’d

Jeff Glaze: Incoming Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will begin her new role in just a matter of weeks. April 1 is the start date specified in Cheatham’s contract, which the School Board unanimously approved Wednesday evening. The date is significantly earlier than the July 1 start date of her predecessor, Dan Nerad. School … Continue reading Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK’d

The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013
Dear Madison Leaders.
As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.
While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago.
Here is how things transpired.
On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher’s Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA’s cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn’t get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn’t support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school.
The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League’s focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John’s desire to have Madison Prep’s employees be a part of MTI’s collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep’s teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher’s union represent our educators.
John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we “had a deal”, that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved.
Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from.
That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position.
But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt “a deal is a deal”. When you shake hands, you follow through.
We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through – jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way – $200K worth of hurdles (that’s how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011).
On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That’s when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn’t get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years.
Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master’s degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI’s suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn’t once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue.
Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years’ experience and a master’s degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners.
When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn’t have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined.
After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story.
Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man”. Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then.
Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn’t support Madison Prep. He didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address?
If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.
So, for those who were unaware and those who’ve been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don’t make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let’s be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward.
Thank you for reading.
We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well.
Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608.729.1200
Assistant: 608.729.1249
Fax: 608.729.1205
Invest in the Urban League
Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report

The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)

Date: August 23, 2011
To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc.
From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison
cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC
Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship
Greetings John.
I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be.
Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.

  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school
    focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for
    educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.

  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl’s collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep’s leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.

I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the
relationship as well.
Kaleem Caire,
President & CEO

336K PDF Version
jpg version
Related Links:

Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School
(Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.“.
John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc.
Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League
The rejected Studio Charter School.
Union politics.
2013 Madison School Board Elections.
Update: Matthew DeFour’s article on Caire’s message:

Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn’t dispute Caire’s account of the board action, but couldn’t recall exactly what happened in the board’s closed sessions.
“Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes,” Mathiak said. “It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness.”
Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire’s proposal to hire nonunion staff.
“What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution,” Matthews said. “What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers.”
Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

All Madison elementary students should get mental health tests

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District should screen all elementary school students for mental health problems and develop school-based mental health clinics for older students, according to a district task force.
The Mental Health Task Force said in a report to the School Board on Monday that dwindling community resources, poor communication between service providers and school psychologists, and minority students not accessing mental health services to the same degree as their white peers are problems that need to be addressed.
“These are huge issues,” district chief of staff Steve Hartley said. “The president is talking about it. The governor is talking about it.”
The report comes as mental health has taken on greater prominence in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $30 million increase for spending on mental health services in his 2013-15 budget.
The report includes seven recommendations of a mental health task force formed nearly two years ago by former superintendent Dan Nerad.

As an aside, it is quite fascinating that DeFour’s article lacks any links, much less to the report (255K PDF). What year is it?

Change is the Only Path to Better Schools

Chris Rickert:

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…..

Madison School Board could shake things up, in a good way

Chris Rickert:

Five years ago, people were praising newly named Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad as a paragon of listening skills and inclusiveness — a trained social worker who seemingly never burned a bridge in his life.
By contrast, Milton, the current superintendent at the Springfield (Ill.) school district, and Chicago School District administrator Jennifer Cheatham seem willing to upset the apple cart if they think it will help students.
School Board president James Howard told me the board’s focus was not to find candidates who would shake things up because, overall, Madison remains a quality district that doesn’t need a whole lot of shaking.
Rather “the issue” — or, as he later clarified, one the most important issues — “is one thing: the achievement gap.”
And the board certainly wanted to know if candidates had “the kind of will to make the kind of changes” to tackle that problem, he said. “To demonstrate success, you have to be from a district that has some diversity.”

Much more on the Madison School District’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Roundup: It Seems Unlikely that One Person will Drive Significant Change

Amy Barrilleaux:

After paying an Iowa-based headhunting firm $30,975 to develop a candidate profile and launch a three-month nationwide recruitment effort, and after screening 65 applications, the Madison school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to two finalists. Dr. Jenifer Cheatham is chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., is superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Illinois.
Parents and community members will get a chance to meet both finalists at a forum at Monona Terrace starting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday night. But despite the exhaustive and expensive search, the finalists aren’t without flaws.
Cheatham was appointed to her current post as chief of instruction in June of 2011 by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who has since resigned. According to her Chicago district bio, Cheatham’s focus is improving urban school districts by “developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning.” Cheatham received a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard and began her career as an 8th grade English teacher. But she found herself in a harsh spotlight as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district officials pushed for a contentious 7.5 hour school day last year, which became one of many big issues that led to the Chicago teachers strike in September.
“It was handled horribly in terms of how it was rolled out,” says Chicago attorney Matt Farmer, who also blogs about Chicago school issues for The Huffington Post.
Farmer says pressure was mounting last spring for the district to explain how the longer day would work and how it would be paid for. Cheatham was sent to a community meeting he attended on the city’s south side to explain the district’s position.

Some of candidate Walter Milton Jr.’s history a surprise to School Board president

Madison School Board president James Howard said Monday he wasn’t aware of some of the controversial aspects of Walter Milton Jr.’s history until after the board named him a finalist to be Madison’s next superintendent.
Prior to becoming superintendent in Springfield, Ill., Milton was criticized for hiring without a background check a colleague who had been convicted of child molestation in Georgia. The colleague, Julius B. Anthony, was forced to resign from a $110,000 job in Flint, Mich., after a background check uncovered the case, according to the Springfield State Journal-Register.
Milton and Anthony were former business partners and worked together in Fallsburg, N.Y., where Milton was superintendent before moving to Flint, according to news reports.

Steven Verburg: Jennifer Cheatham fought for big changes in Chicago schools:

Jennifer Cheatham will be the third person in the last two years from our administration who I’ve been a reference for who has taken over a fairly significant school district,” Vitale said. “Chicago is a pretty good breeding place for leaders.”

Matthew DeFour:

A Springfield School District spokesman said Milton is declining interviews until a community forum in Madison on Thursday.
Prior to Fallsburg, Milton was a teacher and principal in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He received a bachelor’s degree in African history and African-American studies from Albany State University, a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York College at Brockport and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Buffalo.
Milton’s contract in Springfield expires at the end of the 2013-14 school year. His current salary is $220,000 plus about $71,000 in benefits.

School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Madison School Board member Marj Passman says she was looking for superintendent candidates who have had experience working in contentious communities. “That’s important, considering what we’ve gone through here,” she told me Monday.
And what Madison schools are going through now.
The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.

What are the odds that the traditional governance approach will substantively address Madison’s number one, long term challenge? Reading….
Much more on the latest Madison Superintendent search, here along with a history of Madison Superintendent experiences, here.

Madison School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.
Madison School Board members had 90-minute interviews with a pool of semifinalists before selecting Cheatham and Milton, and will interview them again on Thursday. The candidates also will appear at a public forum that starts at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Much more on Madison Superintendents past, present and future, here.

Madison Superintendent’s Mental Health Task Force: Preliminary Recommendations

Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (300K PDF):

Mental Health touches all of us. We pay tremendous immediate and long-term costs when students’ mental health needs are not met. It was with this awareness that the Board of Education directed former Superintendent Nerad in Spring 2011 to form a Task Force charged with developing a set of recommendations for a comprehensive, integrated and culturally-informed school-linked system of mental health practices and supports for MMSD students. A group of 35-40 representatives from a wide variety of community stakeholders including MMSD, HMOs, non-profit mental health agencies, law enforcement, city and county government, advocacy agencies and parents was invited to engage in this important work.
The work of the Task Force was initially facilitated by Superintendent Nerad and Scott Strong, Executive Director of Community Partnerships. Steve Hartley served in the co-facilitator role with Scott Strong upon Dr. Nerad’s departure. Staff in the Department of Student Services served as ‘staff’ to the committee and provided the structures and processes to keep the group moving forward toward its goals. The Task Force met on a monthly basis from January 2012 through January 2013, working both in a large group as well as in subgroups in the focused areas of Organization and Policy, Education and Outreach, Direct Services and Access and Individualized Care. The preliminary recommendations and consensus regarding priorities were completed in January 2013 and are contained in the attached document entitled: “School Community Plan to Support Children’s Mental Health”.

Learn About the Educational Reform Plan the School Board Calls ‘Bad for Birmingham’

Art Aisner and Laura Houser:

Parents and school officials concerned with potentially sweeping education reform currently making its way through the Michigan legislature are invited to sound off at a series of informational meetings starting Tuesday across Oakland County.
Dave Randels, assistant director of the office of government relations and pupil services for Oakland Schools, will speak about Gov. Rick Snyder’s education funding proposals from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Doyle Center in Bloomfield Hills.
“Michigan is embarking on a very radical experiment with our children — one that is untested and untried,” an alert on the Bloomfield Hills Public Schools website read Monday. “We need to come together to learn about this movement and what we can do about it.”

Former Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad is now leading the Birmingham School District.

Madison School Board & Employee Handbook

Madison Teachers’, Inc. 46K PDF, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Not only did Governor Walker’s Act 10 strip from the Madison Metropolitan School District the ability to engage in collective bargaining regarding wages, benefits and working conditions, but it gave full authority to the Board to unilaterally create a “replacement document”, the Employee Handbook.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, MTI Executive Director John Matthews delivered a letter to the Board in which, after acknowledging the negative impact of Act 10, he told the Board that Act 10 DID NOT take away the Board’s ability to engage in conversation with representatives of MTI about the subjects to which the parties had previously agreed in bargaining, as well as any other topics. Board President James Howard called Matthews to tell him that the Board’s process is still being developed and offered to meet with Matthews after the Board next meets about the Handbook.
MTI has developed a process for Handbook development for which MTI has asked to present that to the Board of Education. MTI’s proposed process includes a recommendation that those elected by the members of MTI’s various bargaining units be appointed to the BOE’s Handbook Committee. This will assure both elected representation and input from all employee groups.
Matthews told Board of Education members about the discussions he and representatives of the AFSCME, Firefighters and Police Unions have been having with Mayor Soglin, County Executive Parisi and Supt. Nerad about the need to maintain positive employment relations, particularly relative to the development of the Handbook. Unfortunately, this effort at creating goodwill hit a bump in the road by former Supt. Nerad’s failure to inform Interim Supt. Belmore. Working together to solve issues is the Madison way.

Outlook not set in stone for Wisconsin school of education enrollment

Arthur Thomas:

For all the changes implemented in 2011, one thing hurt enrollment at schools of education more than others, said John Gaffney, recruitment and retention coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s School of Education.
“The message of teachers being the problem hurt us the most,” Gaffney said.
The Act 10 legislation affected teachers’ pocketbooks – with union bargaining largely eliminated, higher deductions for benefits were imposed – and the political firestorm that resulted put teachers at the center of attention.
Maggie Beeber, undergraduate advising coordinator at the UW-Stevens Point education school, recounted a story where she was meeting with incoming freshmen. She asked the students if anyone had tried to discourage them from becoming teachers. Nearly every hand went up. Then she asked if more than five people had discouraged them. Most of the hands stayed up.
“It’s easy to follow the public discourse about teaching right now and conclude that everything is doomed,” said Desiree Pointer Mace, associate dean for graduate education at Alverno College.


An Interview with UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood

Todd Finkelmeyer:

It’s an unprecedented amount of change, honestly,” says Julie Underwood, the dean of UW-Madison’s highly ranked School of Education.

  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state — including Madison’s Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools — are part of Wisconsin’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher’s success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she’s no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher — even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.
“I think that’s really unfortunate,” says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.


Loss of master’s degree pay bump has impact on teachers, grad schools

Erin Richards, via a kind reader’s email:

The dropping of the master’s bump in many districts is also raising new questions about what kind of outside training is relevant to help teachers improve outcomes with their students, and what those teachers – who are already taking home less pay by contributing more to their benefits – will consider to be worth the investment.
Wauwatosa East High School government teacher Ann Herrera Ward is one educator puzzled by the turning tide on advanced degrees.
Ward earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before working in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven years, then got on the road to a teaching license through Marquette University, where she got a master’s in instructional leadership.
Entering her 20th year as a teacher, she’s finishing her dissertation for her doctorate degree: a study of how kids learn about elections and politics by discussing the matters in school and at home.


The search for a new Madison schools superintendent: Can anyone meet our expectations?

Nayantara Mukherji:

Everyone in Madison seems to have an opinion about who the next superintendent of the school district should be.
Suzanne Swift, president of the Franklin Randall Elementary School PTO, wants a superintendent who can motivate a “demoralized staff,” develop relationships and advocate for the district at the state and national levels.
Education policy expert Sarah Archibald says a future superintendent should be willing to make tough decisions about allocating shrinking resources.
Eugenia Highland, program coordinator at Centro Hispano, wants someone who will focus on reducing the achievement gap.
School board member Ed Hughes says the district needs a leader who can “navigate the political shoals of serving in a place like Madison.”
Outgoing Superintendent Dan Nerad, who began his Madison tenure in 2008, insists his replacement must care about students and the community.

Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires.

Academies told they can hire “unqualified” teachers

By Angela Harrison:

England’s new academy schools can now hire unqualified teachers, after a change to the rules.
Government officials say this means academies will be free to hire “great linguists, computer scientists and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before”.
Unions for head teachers and teachers have attacked the move, describing it as a damaging backward step.
The change is immediate.
Until now, most state-funded schools could only employ people with what is known as “Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)“, meaning they have been trained and approved as meeting a range of standards.
Independent schools are exempt.
The change also brings academies in line with the new free schools, which are already free to employ people without QTS.

Related: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.

Madison’s Superintendent Search Service Contenders

Proact Services: [1MB PDF Presentation]

Gary Solomon, Chief Executive Officer
Gary Solomon was elevated to CEO of PROACT Search in 2009. Previously, Mr. Solomon had founded Synesi Associates and worked in Education for the past twenty years, starting as a high school teacher and administrator in the Chicago suburbs. Gary transitioned from the public to the private sector taking on a position as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Princeton Review, and was responsible for rebuilding the sales organization into a senior consultative team focused on creating custom solutions in the areas of assessment, professional development and academic intervention. During his six years with The Princeton Review, where annual revenue goals were exceeded by and average 150%, Solomon was fortunate to do significant business in many of the top 50 urban districts in the country, and work with some of the best and brightest reformers in the K12 space. 

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Solomon holds a Masters in Education Arts from Northeastern University.

Thomas Vranas
, President
Thomas brings an extensive background in educational management in the private sector, as well as numerous start-ups across various industries. He recently served as Vice President at one of the largest publicly traded test preparation companies where he was directly responsible for their sales teams as well as online learning division. Previously Thomas built an urban tutoring program in Chicago to service over 8,000 students with recognition for a quality program from the local and national government. Thomas has also started-up a Wireless Internet company, a Sales and Marketing company as well as a boutique Venture Capital firm. Thomas has been published by the Northwestern Press for his work in political economics and is and active volunteer at many organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Northwestern University and Steppenwolf Theatre. He’s been a guest lecturer at Northwestern University, where he earned his B.A. in Economics and Slavic Languages.

Phil Hansen
, Chief Operations Officer
Phil Hansen is a seasoned educator with an impeccable record rooted in Accountability. For fifteen years Phil taught history, before moving on to five years as assistant principal for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and then Director of Special Education in the southern suburbs of Chicago. In 1991 Phil took on the role of Principal at Clissold Elementary, a Chicago Public school. In 1995 he became the CPS Director of School Intervention, before moving on in 1997 to take on the position of Chief Accountability Officer, where he served until 2002. At this time Phil was offered a position working as an assistant to the Illinois State Superintendent where he was the liaison between CPS and the Illinois State Board of Education specifically focused on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation throughout the state.
Upon his retirement Phil joined The Princeton Review and managed a turnaround project in Philadelphia, transitioning four middle schools to new small high schools. He also separately did consulting work for the School District of Philadelphia, the St Louis Schools Office of Accountability, and the Recovery School District of New Orleans. In the Recovery School District he served as the Interim Chief Academic Officer during the transition of leadership. Upon joining Synesi Associates, as Vice President of Policy and Development he has worked with the State Board of Louisiana and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. His primary work has been in completing school and district quality reviews followed up by long term support as an external partner. Through Synesi he also continues to work in New Orleans, assisting with the High School Redesign efforts
As an active member of his community, Phil has also served as President and Secretary of the Beverly Area Planning Association, and has received rewards for service from both the local community as well as the greater city of Chicago. Most recently Phil was honored as an outstanding City of Chicago Employee and Outstanding Educator from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Stephen Kupfer
, Regional President
Steve Kupfer serves as Northeast Regional President for PROACT Search and is responsible for executing talent management and support strategies in K-12 education institutions and organizations. He was previously a Senior Consultant in the education practice at Public Consulting Group where he worked alongside district leadership to implement web-based special education and response to intervention (RtI) case management modules in some of the largest school districts in the country, including Miami Dade County Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia, and the Louisiana Recovery School District.
Steve brings practical, district-level experience in organizational development to challenges in K-12 human capital management and support. In his most recent role, he leveraged local leadership to build operational and financial capacity through Medicaid reimbursement programs, mitigating budget shortfalls and sustaining critical student services. Steve has also developed and implemented comprehensive strategies to engage and communicate with key internal and external stakeholders across districts, and has front line experience with the urgency and complexity of the problems school leaders face today.
Steve is a proud product of the K-12 public school system. He went on to receive a B.A. in political economy from Skidmore College, where he played baseball and was a member of various chamber music groups. He continued on to receive an M.B.A. from Clark University.
Kristin Osborn, Director of Operations
Krissi Osborn runs all Operations and Recruitment for PROACT Search. In her role with the company, she has additionally established an award winning internship program exclusively with Northwestern University. Krissi is an active member in her Chicago community, volunteering as an ESL Tutor in Albany Park, as well as on the executive board for a community outreach group. Krissi graduated from Northwestern with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and History from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Ray and Associates: [2.6MB PDF Presentation]

Gary L. Ray, President
Christine Kingery, Vice-President
William Newman, National Executive Director
Ryan Ray, Corporate Director
Heidi Cordes, Corporate Associate
HeidiAnn Long, Executive Search Assistant
Carrie Gray, Executive Search Assistant

Notes, links, audio and video from the 2008 Madison Superintendent Search: Steve Gallon, James McIntyre and Dan Nerad.
Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.
TJ Mertz comments.

On the Madison School District’s “Achievement Gap” Plan and Looming Superintendent Departure

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s impending departure raises questions about the future of this year’s biggest budget initiative: the School District’s $49 million achievement gap plan.
“It’s a big question mark” whether a new superintendent will want to adopt the plan or make changes, said Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
“I don’t think (the School Board) should adopt the whole plan and hand it over to the new superintendent,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t take a job if a board of directors said, ‘Here’s the plan we came up with and want you to execute.'”
Nerad said Friday he plans to accept a superintendent job offer in Birmingham, Mich., and leave Madison by September.

Next Steps for Madison Schools’ 2012-2013 $374,700,000 Budget

Todd Finkelmeyer:

But as the School Board prepares to sign off on a final, scaled back version of the district’s achievement gap plan on Monday night, it appears a little wind has been taken out of the sails of an initiative that had many in the community talking this past winter.
“This whole discussion has been a bit hard to follow in recent weeks,” says Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The plan started out as one thing and then became something else and then became something else. To be honest, though, I’m not sure this issue ever got the momentum in the community that I thought it would.”
The School Board is meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the district’s Doyle Administration Building (545 W. Dayton St.) to give preliminary approval for a 2012-13 budget. Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $374.7 million budget proposal released late last month includes $4.4 million next year to fund the achievement gap plan, which is down significantly from the $12.4 million price tag that was originally attached to the project.
“When the original plan was presented it was based on a view that there isn’t just one thing that any school district can do, and there isn’t any one thing that the community can do, to solve this problem,” says Nerad. “Instead, we needed to look at the many things that need to be in place if we’re going to have the elimination of this disparate achievement. But in the end, we also had to make sure we took into account other budget needs and to present a sustainable plan, so reductions were made.”
Nerad’s budget proposal also includes a $3.5 million increase in funding for maintenance. The entire budget, as proposed by the superintendent, would increase the amount the district levies for taxes by 4.1 percent — to $11.78 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average-priced home in Madison, it’s estimated that school property taxes would increase $68.12.

Related: notes and links on the 2011-2012 Madison school district budget, which spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student).
And, more from Birmingham, Michigan on their Superintendent search. Birmingham spends about 10% less per student than Madison.

State accountability system flags 10 Madison schools for poor minority-student achievement

Matthew DeFour:

Ten Madison schools and five others in Dane County have been identified among the lowest performers in the state in terms of low-income and minority student achievement under a new statewide school accountability system.
The Department of Public Instruction developed the system — which identifies schools as “focus” and “priority” — to obtain a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which for the past decade has resulted in sanctions for certain schools.
The Madison schools identified as “focus” schools are Allis, Falk, Lakeview, Leopold, Midvale/Lincoln, Lowell, Orchard Ridge, Sandburg, Schenk and Thoreau elementaries. Other local “focus” schools include West Middleton Elementary in Middleton-Cross Plains, Bird Elementary in Sun Prairie, and Badger Ridge Middle, and Glacier Edge and Sugar Creek elementaries in Verona.
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, in a letter Tuesday to parents at the affected schools, said “the district is still learning the full details and impact on schools.”

Related: Wisconsin Education wake-up call is looming and

Nancy Sebring resigns from Omaha superintendent job

Mary Stegmeir & Jens Manuel Krogstad:

In a stunning reversal of fortune, former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring went from presiding over Iowa’s largest school district to losing a new job she had landed to lead the Omaha schools, after disclosure she had used Des Moines school equipment to send and receive sexually explicit emails.
The Omaha school board voted Saturday afternoon without discussion to accept her resignation from the job she was to start July 1.
The vote capped a rapid-fire series of developments that unfolded in less than 20 hours:
8:46 p.m. Friday: The Des Moines Register publishes an online story reporting that Sebring’s abrupt, earlier-than-scheduled departure from the Des Moines district May 10 came after she was confronted by school board members about the discovery of the explicit emails.

Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad interviewed for the Omaha position.

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district’s ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap — Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year.
And then there are the maintenance needs. “It’s HVAC systems, it’s roofs, it’s asphalt on parking lots,” Nerad says. “It’s all those things that don’t necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they’re safe for children.”
He pauses, and adds, “My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now.”
Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker’s campaign against teacher rights.


Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.


I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.