A week after the Madison Metropolitan School District’s state of the district address, superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins announced his plans to retire later this year, putting him on track to be one of the district’s shortest-serving superintendents.
In his closing remarks during last week’s state of the district address, Jenkins had this to say.
“I just want to say thank you, and again for coming out tonight, and there’s much work still to be done, but we’re in it, and I want to say I’m very proud of the staff– I can’t say that enough– our students and the commitment you’ve shown in this community, and the way you welcomed me back in. I want to say thank you, everybody.”
Reactions from members of the school board and staff at MMSD schools have been a mix of surprise and sadness at the announcement.
Jenkins accepted the role of superintendent in August of 2020, after the previous candidate for the position, Matthew Gutierrez, backed down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since assuming the position of superintendent, Jenkins has faced challenges from a number of areas, chief among which has been the struggle to ensure access to virtual education during the early stages of the pandemic.
Other challenges have arisen in repeated conflicts with Madison Teachers Inc, or MTI, over a range of issues from wage increases to controversial changes in the district’s layoff and reassignment policies. A high turnover rate during the 2021-2022 school year also left many schools short-staffed, with educators reporting high levels of burnout.
Some of Jenkins’ key points while in office have been improving literacy among Madison’s students, as well as addressing the needs and concerns of students from underserved communities.
The school district under Jenkins adopted a new literacy curriculum which focused on early language development and multi-language programs this past April.
Jenkins stated that he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, especially his grandson.
Members of the Board of Education and MTI have expressed surprise and sadness at the announcement according to the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times.
Nicki Vander Meulen, member of the Board of Education, offered the following statement.
“I wanted to state that- to thank Carlton Jenkins for his work in the district, and the work he’s done in the community, and I wish him the best of luck in his retirement. I understand the need to put family first, that makes perfect sense, and I wish him the best of luck.”
Michael Jones, current President of MTI, offered the following statement.
“Obviously we are thankful for Dr. Jenkins’ service to the Madison community and to the schools, especially coming in during a really, really, difficult time. He came in pretty much still during COVID when there wasn’t a vaccine, and so it’s been a tough few years, but we appreciate his service and look forward to having further discussions around how we move forward together as a community and making sure that everyone’s voice is being heard, especially the staff and those who are dedicated to working with the kids.”
Following the announcement, Jenkins is on track to become one of the shortest-serving superintendents in the last century of the district’s history, second only to Charles Meek, who served from 1920-1921, according to the MMSD website. Jenkins will leave his office on July 28.
So what does the future look like for MMSD?
The Board of Education meets next Monday for a work group meeting. The next general Board meeting is in a few weeks, on February 27. Agendas for both meetings have not been released as of the time of broadcast.
The Board will take the lead on the hiring process. If no suitable candidate can be found before the start of the 2023-2024 school year, an interim superintendent may be appointed until the position can be filled.
MTI had pushed for a local candidate when Jenkins was hired back in 2020. No statement has yet been made from MTI whether this will be the case during the hiring process moving forward, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.
Reporting for WORT news, I’m Erin Ashley.
Image Courtesy: MMSD TV / YouTube