A familiar face will serve at the helm of the Madison Metropolitan School District for the upcoming school year. The Madison School Board on Friday named Jane Belmore, a retired MMSD teacher and administrator, to serve as the interim superintendent.
Belmore will take over once current Superintendent Jen Cheatham steps down at the end of August. Belmore will serve in the interim role until the board appoints a permanent superintendent, which she said will likely be in June 2020.
"I'm excited to be back," Belmore said in an interview Friday. "As I've watched from afar, I think there's a really strong leadership team here. They've got a great new strategic plan and framework that they're working from. And I really just wanted to come in and be able to support the teachers and principals as they move forward and support the board as they start the process of searching for a new superintendent."
Belmore previously served as interim superintendent during the 2012-13 school year prior to the board hiring Cheatham. Belmore succeeded former Superintendent Dan Nerad at the time. Belmore did not apply for the permanent position the last time around, and doesn't plan to do so following her second stint as interim superintendent.
"I really feel like school districts need the same things no matter what kinds of changes are going on," Belmore said about coming back to the district after six years. "They need support for teachers and principals in the schools. They need to have a clear vision in hand and a means to stick to it, as well as a good, strong School Board. I see all of those things in place here."
Belmore worked for MMSD for 29 years as a teacher and then as the assistant superintendent for elementary schools before retiring in 2005. She earned her doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and served as the dean of Edgewood College’s School of Education prior to her first stint as interim superintendent in Madison.
"I believe (the search process) was a very thoughtful process. We engaged community groups and asked them what they wanted in an interim position," School Board President Gloria Reyes said. "What we heard was someone who knew the district very well, someone who had experience teaching in our schools and someone who can continue the good work that's happening now and support our leadership team."
The board will likely vote on Belmore’s contract at its June 24 meeting at Wright Middle School. No vote on the selection of Belmore was made in any open session the board has held.
Cheatham has said previously that she would like to have an interim superintendent hired by the board by July 1 to ensure a smooth transition. In past comments about the search for an interim, several board members emphasized wanting to select someone familiar with the Madison School District and someone who could help run day-to-day operations while the board conducts a search for a permanent replacement.
Belmore will lead the district as it plans to prepare for a facilities referendum for the November 2020 ballot.
Her selection marks the end of a search process that has largely occurred behind closed doors, with very little records existing or being provided to the public.
Cheatham announced on May 8 that she was resigning from her post to take a faculty position at Harvard University in the fall. Cheatham told the School Board during a closed session meeting on May 6 of her plans and suggested the board hire an internal candidate.
The Cap Times reported on May 8 that the district had eyed Nancy Hanks, the chief of elementary schools who came to Madison in 2013, to be Cheatham’s replacement.
The May 6 closed session meeting was not the only time the Madison School Board met to discuss who would next lead Wisconsin’s second-largest school district. The board has held five closed session meetings since May 6, where the hiring of a district administrator was on the agenda.
On May 20, the board discussed a timeline for hiring an interim superintendent that would include outreach to several groups to seek input, as well as eventually holding interviews with candidates.
The board held two open workshop sessions in May to discuss the process of hiring an interim superintendent after it was reported that the board was eyeing Hanks, though no votes were taken. School Board member Mary Burke initially said on May 8 that the interim would be hired by the end of May.
The Cap Times submitted several open records requests for records related to this hiring process, including a request for a list of the top choices for interim superintendent, as well as a list of possible candidates. Sherrice Perry, the associate general counsel for MMSD, said in an email on June 12 that no records for these two requests existed.
The Cap Times also submitted a request for the meeting minutes from closed sessions held by the Madison School Board on May 30, June 3, June 11, June 14 and June 17. No meeting minutes have been provided from these meetings. Perry and Barb Osborn, the board’s secretary who typically takes the meeting minutes, said the minutes had not been transcribed yet.