Dominique (Dom) Ricks to Become Principal at Middleton’s
Kromrey Middle School on July 1st

Approaching Education with a Restorative
Justice Lens
Dominique (Dom) Ricks returned to his native Louisiana to give
back and teach in Teach for
America before returning to Madison
and eventually become a the principal at Kromrey Middle
School.
“I had always thought about being a teacher, my mentor back home, the one who believed in me, was a teacher. So, I figured I might as well give it a shot. Law is
reactionary. If I am helping kids through law, you’re talking about systems change that can take a long time. In general, every kid I would meet as a lawyer would be
someone who had already fallen through the cracks.”


While auditioning for a play on campus, Ricks met Megan Diaz who was directing the play, For Colored Boys by Keith Boykin. Diaz shared, “He auditioned and we
put him in the play.  That’s how we met. Then I was at rehearsals with him and we liked each other. It was history from there. We were together about a year when
we found out I was pregnant with our son James. He wanted to do Teach for America.  I was in school, but I knew this was his dream and we had to make it work.  
I said okay, let’s move to Louisiana.”


The couple returned to Louisiana, where Ricks taught for two years. Ricks taught at a school that was recognized as one school, but were actually two schools,
with one being primarily Black students and the other a diverse magnet school. He was located in the same building with the Black students.


“The students would tell me all the time, ‘Mr. Ricks, I’m surprised that you work here, because they get all the good teachers.’ It just opened my eyes that I can be
as great as I want in the classroom and build strong relationships, but I am just one teacher for one grade. The question is what happens when the kids leave me.
Towards the end of my second year I realized, our school was a failing school and their school was a passing school and when you put both grades together it
made a C and that was how they were able to justify it. Technically we were a C school.”


After his two-year commitment with TFA was up, the couple decided to return to Madison so that Diaz could pursue her undergraduate degree. Ricks found a
position teaching 8th grade in Verona. It was a stark contrast to his Louisiana classroom and oftentimes he was the first Black teacher many of his students had
encountered.
“It made me think about how I teach. So, I started making sure I was bringing a lot of me in the class and I noticed my kids were hearing brand new stuff. My kids of
color thought it was cool that a teacher was talking about something they knew about.”


While teaching in Verona, he and fellow teacher Shayla Glass created the Black Equity Council and took on a leadership role. The principal suggested that he take a
graduate program at UW Madison to prepare him for further leadership opportunities. He took the accelerated program beginning in 2017 and graduated in 2018. By
that time, he had moved on to become the dean of students at Glacier Creek Middle School.


Kromrey Middle School Principal Steve Soeteber recently announced his retirement and Ricks decided that the time was now.


“I was on the fence about taking a shot, but when it came down to it, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. Something just felt right about it. If I think about one or two
things that prepared me for this, I would have to say my grad school program. It was very helpful. Also being a dean really helped me see how the systems come
together and what the impact is for students. Being able to see what disconnects are going on, whether it be between teachers and families or admin and staff, just
having that view and being able to observe was a formative experience that helped me figure out my direction as an administrator.”


When asked what we should expect from his tenure Ricks shared, “They are going to see that I am 100 percent kids first. That is very important for me. It’s
important to me that kids know what leadership is about in the building. It is important that staff are on the same page too.”


“I am all about relationships. As soon as I get in, I want to get to know as many kids as possible, get to know staff as well as I can and figure out what the issues
are so I can start working on the things that they identify as issues as well as the things I already know.”


“I want to know what will help staff feel appreciated and heard. As far as my personal thing, I really want to see restorative justice be a real thing there. I feel like a
lot of schools use it on the back end, with discipline. With restorative justice, there needs to be something to restore it to. The bottom line is so many of our
students, they don’t’ even feel like the community is worth restoring to. So, what do you do to make it worth it in the first place?”


Ricks’ now wife, Megan shares her husband’s excitement and concerns. “The biggest thing for me is knowing that I need to support him. That things are going to be
a lot different and his time allocation will look different. I want the same things for the community we live in. We live in Middleton. My family owns a restaurant in
Middleton and a lot of our customers are students and their families.”
By Hedi Rudd

Dom Ricks has a presence that is hard to ignore: his eyes are intense, his smile is broad and
his age might fool you, but that would be on you as he is wise beyond his years. Ricks, was just
recently named principal at Kromrey Middle School in Middleton where he will start July 1, a
surprising choice, but undoubtedly a good one.

Originally from South Louisiana, Ricks was a youth activist and came to Madison as a First
Wave Scholar. During his youth, Ricks was keenly aware of the socioeconomic and educational
injustices plaguing his community and propped up by segregation.  It was a Teach for America
(TFA) teacher who provided the tools he needed to discover his aptitude for poetry and helped
him pass the ACT and ultimately secure a spot at UW-Madison’s First Wave program.

Ricks majored in Sociology, almost double majoring in Political Science in order to pursue law,
but thought twice.
“I know there are a lot of things that need to change. My big goal is to
support him in whatever happens and to always have his back. I think
there will be a lot of challenges.  It may be his race, his age or other things
that may happen.”


Ricks is prepared for what is most likely inevitable, given the growing
pains in Middleton and the potential for issues to arise around race.

“People are going to see that this is not just something that is an issue to
me. It’s something that affects me personally and the students personally.
So, I have two main goals. It goes to the whole restorative justice idea.
Having a school community that is worth restoring to and that every student
needs to feel important, welcomed.”

“The only thing I will have a zero-tolerance policy against is intolerance.
Intolerance is the only thing I will not tolerate and that means there needs to
be a lot of education on the front end. Education when something happens
and when things are not going in the direction they are supposed to be,
there is going to be a response and it’s going to be a swift one. That is
something that is important for both students and staff. We have to all be on
the same page.”

We look forward to seeing the pages being written and recognize the
history that is being created as Ricks takes on his new role. We wish him
and the students and families of Middleton the best and we plan to stay
tuned as that history is made.