The sweetest sound you’ll ever hear:
David Blaska was right!
The news media loves to imagine itself as the afflicter of the comfortable, David with his slingshot v. Goliath. “J’accuse!” in 96-point bodoni bold type. Edward R. Murrow starring down Tailgunner Joe. Bogart starting the presses in Deadline USA. Woodward and Bernstein.
In Madison, too many news media “gatekeepers” just want to be invited to the cocktail party. The editor of The Capital Times was invited to the cocktail party. Paul Fanlund expresses his gratitude this way:
The setting was the ornate Roosevelt room at the Madison Club, where assorted community leaders were gathered for a reception to thank and send off Jennifer Cheatham six years after she arrived from Chicago to lead Madison’s public schools as its superintendent.
Fanlund asks “Did Madison do right by Jennifer Cheatham?”
Shouldn’t the question be reversed?
Did Jennifer Cheatham do right by Madison?
Neil is IN with the IN Crowd
Neil Heinen of Madison Magazine and WISC TV-3 is also a member of the In Crowd. He penned “An appreciation for Jen Cheatham” much in the manner of Ode to a Grecian Urn.
Her Strategic Framework — that’s right “her” Strategic Framework — for the success of every child, was the most comprehensive. It was the most research-grounded blueprint for district-wide excellence I’ve encountered in more than 40 years of writing about Madison schools.
Neil is not alone in his hero worship. He name-drops an A-list of Madison movers and shakers with whom he rubs elbows in the same Group-thinking bubble:
Cheatham enjoyed the support and affection of a remarkable group of civic leaders. Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller, Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Ruben Anthony, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon, United Way of Dane County President and CEO Renee Moe, Madison College President Jack E. Daniels, 100 Black Men of Madison President Floyd Rose and Bishop Harold Rayford.
Oh, sure, “Cheatham is criticized for top-down management,” Neil huffs. But …
No superintendent will ever win the approval of every teacher or staff member. [Huff & Puff] However, Cheatham won more approval from both groups than any of the previous seven or so superintendents I’ve covered. Those who did not approve made themselves heard. But dig a little deeper and the respect and appreciation was easy to uncover.
Culture of fear
Ruth Coniff did dig a little deeper. Scanning the same cast of glitterati standing behind Cheatham as she announced her departure in May, Coniff noticed this: “Glaringly absent were any teachers or school staff.”
Teachers are afraid to go on the record criticizing Cheatham, even as she leaves. They cite her top-down leadership style, a culture of fear, increasing pressure to do more with less, and, above all, the feeling that Cheatham has not had their backs in making what she describes as “transformational change” in the Madison public schools.
None of this would matter if the Cheatham regime produced results. Instead, student achievement scores remain stuck in mediocre; 60% of African-American kids still read below basic proficiency.
Student suspensions are down only because Cheatham needs to make the racial numbers work. She imposes “restorative justice” in glorified study halls, often unsupervised, that neither restore nor provide justice.
The school board meetings themselves were mosh pits. Just imagine the chaos in the classroom. The disorder does not stop at the schoolhouse door. Kids are stealing cars and wrecking them all over town. It’s an epidemic.
After-school kids trash Lakeview Library, then greet responding police this way: “We don’t have to listen to the police. You can’t touch us.” They did not learn that in school. But they didn’t unlearn it there, either.
The teacher who blew the whistle on the chaos at Mendota middle school discovered that the hard way. Madison’s school superintendent threw Karen Vieth under the school bus. “How dare a teacher criticize a principal of color?” Cheatham thundered, even though the teacher never once mentioned race.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: The truth is, Jennifer Cheatham traded accountability and academic achievement for a fresh new race card — good wherever playing identity politics is the winning hand. After six years, Jennifer Cheatham is off to Harvard to stamp out more guilty liberal enablers.
For Extra Credit: Study shows federal school discipline policy is not working, reported at RightWisconsin. It’s why Ms. Vicki McKenna says “David Blaska is right.” And y’know something? She’s right!