The school board hired Doctor Carlton Jenkins in July. He comes from his position as Superintendent of Robbinsdale Area School District in Minnesota. Jenkins also has administrative experience from Atlanta, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. He was Associate Principal for Madison Memorial High School and a principal for Beloit School District. Jenkins has a Ph.D and Masters degree from UW-Madison, where he wrote a thesis on the narrowing of the achievement gap. He is Madison’s first Black Superintendent.
During a hybrid press conference today, Jenkins was joined in person by school board members wearing masks and virtually by reporters. He pointed to the conference as an example of ways the district will continue to adapt during the pandemic. Jenkins points to improving reading skills as his top priority during his first year. He also stresses the importance of prioritizing social and emotional health alongside academics. “I want our academics to move forward fast, but not at the expense of harming our children, harming our staff, and harming our community,” he says.
Jenkins reaffirmed the district’s decision to rely on Public Health Madison and Dane County for guidance when deciding when school can once again be in person. “We are going to be making decisions for our district,” he explains, “based upon the evidence of the science and what is going to be good for our students.”
Last month Madison’s common council affirmed the school board’s decision to remove police from Madison’s high schools immediately. Jenkins says the use of police in schools has proven to have negative affects on vulnerable students.
For years, activist organizations such as Freedom Inc have been pushing to remove SROs from Madison’s four high schools. Jenkins calls students who have participated and led protests “change agents.” “This is their time. This is your time, students everywhere,” he says. “Your time to put your voice out there. Your time to participate in the movement. To change it so you don’t have some to the conversations we are continuing to have. And to be honest, students are much further along than we are as adults.”
School starts virtually on September 8th and students can enroll online starting Monday.
Image from MMSD live stream