The Madison School Board signaled its preference Monday for hiring an internal candidate to lead the school district on an interim basis now that superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has announced she will leave at the end of the summer.
During a special meeting, board members also pushed back an informal deadline for naming an interim superintendent to sometime in June. School Board President Mary Burke suggested last week — when Cheatham made public her decision to leave Madison for a teaching job at Harvard University — that the board could select an interim superintendent by the end of May.
Board members debated the merits of hiring an interim leader sooner to allow more time for the person to train with Cheatham, versus a longer search process that would allow for further engagement with community members.
“I don’t want to feel that the community feels we rushed it,” said board member Nicki Vander Meulen.
When former superintendent Dan Nerad announced his plans to resign in 2012, it was nearly a year before Cheatham was in place. Jane Belmore served as the interim head for eight months.
“I was on the board when we brought in Jane Belmore as an interim and then undertook the search for Jen,” Burke said. “The process of selecting Jane did not include community input. It was to get an interim in there to be able to get started, to continue to move things forward.”
Burke said she thinks spending more time on selecting an interim superintendent takes away from time focused on other district priorities and filling the role on a permanent basis.
Ultimately, the board settled on naming an interim superintendent sometime between June 1 and July 1.
Cheatham said she would prefer to know who will replace her by July 1 so that the person can attend a summer retreat with senior staff members planned for July and be around to prepare in August for the 2019-20 school year.
Cheatham, whose last day will be Aug. 30, has accepted a teaching position with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She became Madison’s superintendent in 2013, leaving an administrative role at the Chicago Public Schools.
Whoever the board selects as the interim leader, board member Cris Carusi said she would prefer the person is not interested in seeking the position on a permanent basis.
Monday’s meeting on hiring an interim superintendent was originally scheduled to be in closed session but was later opened to the public.
A handful of people called on the School Board to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent, with one East High School junior asking the board to engage with students on what they would like to see in a new superintendent.