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Commitment to racial equity, good communicator desired in Madison's next superintendent

Commitment to racial equity, good communicator desired in Madison's next superintendent

Doyle Administration Building

The next superintendent of the Madison School District should be an excellent communicator, have a strong commitment to racial equity and have experience as a classroom teacher — according to a consulting firm helping the state’s second-largest school district find a new leader.

Representatives with Illinois-based BWP and Associates on Monday presented to the Madison School Board results of a public engagement process, along with a “leadership profile” to be used as the search for a new superintendent continues.

Some 18 people have applied for the position, for which the deadline is Nov. 24, said Debra Hill, a managing director for BWP. The board tentatively expects to choose a permanent replacement for former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham in February.

An 82-page report, which was not available before Monday’s meeting but is expected to be posted on the district’s website Tuesday, summarizes what people think are strengths and challenges of the district and skills the next superintendent should have.

The public input report is based on more than 35 meetings BWP held with advocacy groups, local politicians, business leaders and others last month, along with nearly 1,500 responses to an online survey.

BWP used the results to create a draft version of a leadership profile, which contains 13 qualities a candidate should have, such as being racially conscious, experience in finance and budgeting, and being committed to high levels of academic achievement, especially for students of color.

Based on an online survey, the top three skills that about half of all respondents said the next superintendent should have are: collaborative leadership skills, communication skills and cultural competency.

“’Why are people not listening to us?’ That came out loud, clear and strongly,” Hill said.

She said a lack of trust and problems with staff morale were two big themes that emerged.

According to the input, challenges faced by the district include implementing social justice and restorative practices, aging facilities and having too many initiatives for teachers instead of focusing on a few.

As for strengths, community members said the district has excellent teachers, is in a city that values education and has more resources, such as UW-Madison, available than other districts.

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