Community leaders react to new Madison school superintendent - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Community leaders react to new Madison school superintendent

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MADISON (WKOW)-- The Madison school board has decided to offer the superintendent job to the only remaining candidate Jennifer Cheatham. Hours after the announcement community leaders were speaking out in favor of Cheatham, sending out letters and e-mails praising her accomplishments.

"We're ready to dive in and work with her on these issues," Kaleem Caire says.

For Caire, President of the Urban League of Greater Madison, the biggest issue is student performance and the achievement gap forming in the Madison school district. He sees Cheatham as an ally in his mission.

This past January he started the Urban League Scholars Academy, giving 70 students some extra attention after school. He feels Cheatham's experience will be a great asset to that program.

"Giving them extra math and language arts classes so that they can be ready for high school" Caire explains. "We want to make sure we're tackling the achievement gap as early as possible."

That excitement is shared by United Way President and CEO Leslie Ann Howard who sat in the second row during Thursday night's public forum.

"I'm thrilled at the chance to work with a candidate and a superintendent who I think really has the skills to match what our community needs," Howard says.

She trusts in Cheatham's ability to make tough decisions, putting student achievement first even if it means making decisions some may not agree with.

"Focusing on curriculum, instruction, teacher training, as well as principals and measurement are the four keys that I know of from work that we do. She understands that there's no silver bullet, but we have to get in and do that hard work," Howard explains.

In Thursday's forum Cheatham was asked what was the hardest decision she's had to make. For her it was the unpopular decision to remove teachers and principals who weren't meeting expectations. It's a firm devotion to student achievement that Caire is happy to see.

"What you gotta do it set high expectations for your faculty for your instructional leaders and principals," says Caire. "Then you've got to hold them to those high expectations."

Cheatham's achievement gap track record was also a motivating factor for the school board. Board President James Howard released a statement Friday that referred to Cheatham as a visionary leader with an excellent achievement gap track record.

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