Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash.
In less than two months, Dr. Matthew Gutierrez was slated to become the new superintendent of Madison’s public schools.
But late last night, the Madison school board announced Gutierrez would not be working in the position come June. He is instead staying in Seguin, Texas, where he works as superintendent for that school district.
Gutierrez says that he is doing this in order to help his old community deal with COVID-19. Guadalupe County, which contains the district, currently has 28 cases of infection. Madison Metropolitan School Board member Savion Castro says that he left on short notice, and they’re currently working to figure out what happens next.
“Our interim superintendent, her contract ends June 30th,” said Castro. “We’re going to have to decide how quickly we want to fill the position, and that has implications on whether we have another year of an interim superintendent or if we can find a way to find a permanent person for the position.”
Castro says he learned about Gutierrez’ decision less than 24 hours ago.
Other members of the school board were also caught off guard, including Gloria Reyes, the board president. She called it disappointing, though she said the board respected his decision.
Ali Muldrow, another board member, said she believed Gutierrez made the right call. She says this is just one more thing the board will have to address.
“That is another reality of COVID-19, is that it puts people in a position where you’re making real decisions about the needs of your community, and I think part of the reason we were so interested in working with Dr. Gutierrez is because he’s a leader who is deeply committed to the people he’s serving,” said Muldrow. “We’re going to continue to be unified as a community in the interest of public education. We’re going to be agile in this time and continue to work together to make sure our young people are learning and our educators are supported.”
Muldrow says that the district is handing out Chromebooks to students to make sure they can get their education online.
At the time of reporting, Wisconsin has over 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, over 280 of which are located in Dane County. This has forced changes in the education system, including a switch to virtual instruction with a number of required instruction hours each day. Muldrow says that there’s no plan for how to handle a pandemic like this, but the board will keep working.
“I think it’s important to lead from a space of humility at this point and say we’re all in uncharted waters and we’re sticking together to the best of our ability and working together,” said Muldrow.
The school board said in a statement that they are working to schedule a closed meeting, but do not yet have a date.