Leading for Equity

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mark Moody

Photo7AAt the March 20th meeting, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Dr. Jen Cheatham explained her approach to “Leading for Equity,” the title of her presentation.

As she explained, she was not going to provide us with her usual update on the Madison Schools.  Instead, she wanted to share her personal leadership story on how she has become a stronger leader in education, particularly in the area of equity.  Dr. Cheatham said that her presentation was related to MMSD’s new strategic plan or framework which emphasizes a renewed approach to racial and gender equity.  Copies of the plan were available to Rotarians after the presentation.

In her personal story, Supt. Cheatham spoke of her childhood growing up in greater Chicago and her subsequent years as a classroom teacher at the high school and middle school levels.  From this, she chose to enter graduate school at Harvard because of her new interest in effecting instructional programs on a larger basis than an individual classroom.

There, her mentor of color helped her to see how her being a product of a white middle class upbringing could be used to power greater, larger and better programs that could address and improve on disparities in racial equity.

Last year she listened to over a thousand individuals of color: students, educators, community members and parents.  An example of one of the things she learned from the parents was that they wanted less emphasis on remediation of underachievers and more investment in students learning in a different, more accepting atmosphere of instruction.  This could lead to students feeling better about themselves and their abilities resulting in higher achievement levels.

It is this and other insights that are incorporated into the new Strategic Framework of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

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