State Superintendent Candidate Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams
Pushing for School (Funding) Reform
Dr. Shandoelyon Hendricks-Williams at her Silver Spring
Drive home in Milwaukee.
education and obtain her teacher’s license. And while she was teaching special education in grades 3-8, she earned her EDS from National Louis University, which
allowed her to enter the education administrator ranks.
“I was a central office administrator in Milwaukee Public Schools where I served six different schools: an alternative high school, elementary school, middle
school and high school,” Hendricks-Williams said. “And I supervised the special education department of those schools. I did that for three years. And then I served
as an assistant principal at Bayview High School in Milwaukee and assistant principal in charge of Marshall High School’s charter school W.E.B. DuBois. It’s a MPS
From there, Hendricks-Williams hopped over to the private charter side when she took a contract with Urban Day School, a UW-Milwaukee authorized charter
school, in 2010 to provide leadership as its district administrator, while also teaching some graduate classes at Alverno College in Milwaukee.
“I helped usher them from being a choice school to a charter school,” Hendricks-Williams said. “When I went there, only 30 percent of the students were reading on
grade level. Through using what’s called the Urban Excellence Framework, which is a framework for increasing student achievement through targeted instruction
and literacy through hiring a staff that is aligned to the school-based values and by also seeking out staff who believe that all students can learn. We were able to
increase the 30 percent of our students who were reading on grade level when I went there to 70 percent of our students reading on grade level.”
Looking for new horizons, Hendricks-Williams left Urban Day School and took a job with a for-profit international education firm and promptly won a $5 million
contract with Milwaukee Public Schools to provide reading, writing, and math services to students and professional development to the teachers who were in
Hendricks-Williams took a break from education to work with Project Hope, a non-profit she founded in 2001, to provide housing for people with disabilities and
ultimately for the homeless and those at-risk of being homeless and earned her doctorate in education from National Louis University in 2016. But then opportunity
again came knocking at her door again in 2017 when she was asked to apply for a position at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as assistant director of
teacher education, professional development and licensing. She took the position.
“I oversaw all of the university programs that offered programs that led to a license as a teacher, pupil services or administrator throughout the state. I travelled the
state to virtually all of our institutions of higher education and tried to figure out how we could address teacher shortage areas. In that capacity, I identified the one
assessment that kept a lot of teachers out of the classroom in Practice 1 and Practice 2. It was serving as a gateway assessment. And it was not conducive for us
to continue to practice requiring teacher candidates to complete Practice 1 and Practice 2. It was culturally-biased. And there was no empirical research that
connected successful passing of this test to higher professional performance nor higher student outcomes. In addition to that while I was assistant director of
teacher education, professional development and licensing, I wrote the first statewide plan to diversify the teacher pipeline.
Hendricks-Williams then shifted gears at DPI.
“I then served as director of the DPI Wisconsin Education Opportunities Program, which is a program to try to encourage first generation college students to go to
college,” Hendricks-Williams said. “This was in partnership with high schools and universities. We had various strategies that we used including working with
families and students and having parental involvement activities and activities for the students to encourage high school students from families that had no one in
their family attend college.”
And in 2019, Hendricks-Williams was tabbed by Governor Tony Evers, who had been state superintendent of schools, to direct his Milwaukee office.
“I serve in his senior leadership team as director of the Milwaukee office and one of his top advisors who advised him on all aspects including legislation, policy
and funding allocations,” Hendricks-Williams said. “And I was very instrumental in how we approached and dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. I resigned in
October to seek office as Wisconsin’s state superintendent of education.”
One could say that Hendricks-Williams has seen public education from many different sides and has seen what works and what doesn’t work.
“I like to say that I’m kind of like Clint Eastwood in my dad’s favorite movie,” Hendricks-Williams said. “I’ve seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I am pro great
schools. And I am unapologetic about being Black. I believe that all students in Wisconsin should be enrolled in great schools that have high student outcomes, that
have the resources that they need, that have teachers who are certified and understand the pedagogy of teaching and learning, and that provide them with what I
call the essentials: art, music gym, phy ed, health and etc. According to Wisconsin statute, it is clearly said that students should have a well-rounded education that
prepares them for success in life. Much of what I have articulated in my Bill of Rights for Students is grounded in that Wisconsin statute. And we have been failing
on the promises to do what we say we’re going to do for students in Wisconsin.”
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams didn’t necessarily intend to become an educator growing up. It
grew more out of a love for her son who had multiple disabilities and the somewhat “foreign”
educational institution to which she would be entrusting her son’s future to. She wasn’t going to
leave anything up to chance.
“When I went to my first IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting, I had no understanding of
special education or anything like that,” Hendricks-Williams said. “I felt disempowered. And I felt
like I was being talked down to. I decided I would go into education because I didn’t want to feel like
that and I wanted to develop some knowledge about special education, about IEPs, about
disabilities and things like that.”
Hendricks-Williams worked her way up the ranks, so to speak. She started out as a
paraprofessional, earned an associate’s degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College, a bachelor’
s in human services from Springfield College and took advantage of a joint Milwaukee Public
Schools/Cardinal Stritch University to recruit teachers of color to earn a master’s degree in