Photo from Facebook live session
Dr. Carlton Jenkins’ acceptance as Madison’s next superintendent of schools brings him back to the same district where he began his career as a school administrator over 25 years ago.
Jenkins has served as the superintendent of the Robbinsdale School District, a suburb of Minneapolis, for the past five years. He also has previous administrative experiences in Atlanta, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin –including in Madison, where he was an Associate Principal for Madison Memorial High School, and in Beloit, where he was a Principal for Beloit Public Schools.
Madison schools have been without a superintendent for nearly a year, after former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham resigned to pursue a position at the Harvard Graduate School of Education last August.
Community leaders have criticized Cheatham’s tenure, and in particular, her implementation of a zero tolerance policy toward the use of racial slurs.
That policy led to the firing of several teachers and school staff. Last Fall, Marlon Anderson, a black security guard at Madison West High School, was fired under the policy for repeating a student’s use of the n-word. Students, staff, and community leaders criticized that decision until Anderson was subsequently re-hired.
Madison schools were also forced to restart their search for superintendent in early April, when Matthew Gutierrez, who had been tapped to become the next superintendent, backed out of the position.
A group of thirteen prominent Black community leaders criticized Gutierrez’s hire in a letter, saying a different superintendent could better represent Black students and families.
Jenkins, who is black, was chosen as the new superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District over other finalist Carol Kelley, the superintendent of the Oak Park Elementary School District in Illinois.
Jenkins is also a University of Wisconsin-Madison alum, and earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from UW.
Jenkins’ doctoral thesis included a quantitative research study on the achievement gap at an unnamed, but urban, Wisconsin high school.
Jenkins’ past connection to Madison no doubt aided in his candidacy for the position as he expressed the deep ties he has to the area in a Facebook live question-and-answer session nearly two weeks ago.
Jenkins said, “I’m very glad to be back home, and I say home because this is where I started my administrative career in 1993 … When Madison came and individuals from the community asked me to look at it, I was like hey, this is going home.”
Madison schools have also received criticism in the past regarding the diversity of its teachers not matching the diversity of the student body.
During the same question-and-answer session, Jenkins had this to say in regards to the recruitment and retention of staff of color that would accurately reflect the diversity of Madison students in the district: “We have to know this, we can’t go out and recruit staff of color and then they’re the first ones to be laid off. So we have to create provisions, so that we retain individuals once we bring them in based upon what we’re saying we want to happen. In our core values in Madison, we said belonging, right? We talk about racial and social justice, we have to ask ourselves are our we putting those big words out there in our core values and do we mean it.”
Jenkins’ tenure as superintendent of Madison schools will begin in nearly two weeks, on Tuesday, Aug. 4, when he takes over for interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. He’ll be taking over as the school district’s Fall reopening plan remains uncertain during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the school budget faces a seven million dollar shortfall.