Jennifer Cheatham, redux?
In a school district obsessed by identity politics, the three finalists to become the next superintendent of Madison’s public schools fit the bill.
The finalists are:
• Matthew Gutierrez, superintendent of a small school district in Seguin, Texas, population 29,000. The Texas schools website gives the district a C grade.
• George Eric Thomas, deputy superintendent and “chief turnaround officer” for the Georgia State Board of Education, and
• Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, assistant professor of educational leadership at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York.
The winner of this sweepstakes will be chosen before the end of January. Each will visit Madison for a Day in the District on January 14, 15 and 16, 2020.
Playing the race card
At least one of them should feel right at home in Madison, having accused staff — even the school board — of racism in her previous job. That would be Ms. Vanden Wyngaard. She had been super at Albany, New York’s public schools when, in January 2016, the school board gave her the choice of resigning with a payout or being fired without one. She took the money.
Described in the local news media as the first black woman to lead the district, she used her opening convocation for the new school year the previous September to play the race card:
“I have to admit … I lead an organization influenced by racist principles.”
Although the address ended on an optimistic note, some say it struck a nerve with faculty and staff, who felt they had been “called out” as racists.
A catalyst was a $215,000 discrepancy between services delivered and billed by a consultant, Dr. Betty Webb Consulting, Inc., of Minneapolis. The consultant advised on “systematic change” and professional development.
Whistles are being blown
This source reports that Georgia’s state school superintendent has asked for an independent audit of Thomas “for allegations of discrimination, possible conflicts of interest, misuse of state and federal funds, and whistle-blower action by a staff member.”
“This latest development,” reported in late November, “may accelerate his efforts to move on from Georgia.”
For the record, just what is Georgia’s Chief Turnaround Office? Its website says it …
was created to develop and effectively execute an evidence-based model to implement the First Priority Act (House Bill 338) – which aligns to Georgia’s ESSA Plan. This innovative strategy is a comprehensive, coordinated, and coherent approach [Blaska: the three C’s!] to improve outcomes in schools that have been identified as being most in need of assistance.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Madison schools could have gone bold. Instead they went with three generic School of Education bureaucrats. Think what Kaleem Caire or Tommy Thompson could do with our schools. DPI’s own rules about requiring a doctorate in education is part of the problem. Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald, take notice.