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New Madison School Superintendent Undermined

February 26, 2020

There was a congressman who came from a rather low rung on the ladder of life.  His education was limited.  He did not possess the good looks for a politician, and reports are that his voice was high-pitched.  He even lost a U.S. Senate election, which seemed to auger ill for any further expectations of holding elected office.  But that same man, when given a chance to show his leadership skills, put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation.

That is how life often proceeds.  More often than we realize.

I found it truly sad to read the coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal about the verbal attack on incoming Madison School District Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez.  A group of leaders among the local black community penned a letter lamenting the school board’s decision in not naming their choice for the open position.

The group called the process the school board used for the final selection as ‘flawed’.  But in reading the article the reason for the backlash from the signees of the letter revolves around a desire to have a superintendent with more experience with larger school districts, and more cultural diversity.  There seems to be no evidence that all the finalists for superintendent were not treated the same, allowed access to the public,  or that outside groups were not provided opportunities to pose questions.

To call the process out after the fact, based on an outcome that runs counter to the desires of any group, is unseemly.  It very well might be that the process ran perfectly, but some of the candidates were flawed. The evidence regarding the other two finalists, as best as one can gleam due to the non-disclosure agreements they hide behind,  does not place either one of them in a positive light.

Which takes us back to Gutierrez.  Having now publically taken a smear at his hiring a vocal segment of the city has started his tenure in Madison in a most unfortunate rut.   If there had been a desire for education standards to rise, graduation rates to increase, and public faith in the school system to be enhanced it would have been more intelligent and professional for the letter writers to have linked arms with the one now selected.

Pragmatism is often forgotten by those who press forward with their agendas.  That is once again the case in Madison.  What is sad in this case, too, are the headwinds that Gutierrez now must walk into as he takes on the role we all want him to succeed at for our schools and students.  The needless disruption, after the process concluded, says more about the ones who signed their names to the letter, than the one they are dismissive of.

I am hoping for a Lincoln moment.  We all should.

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