New Leadership Team at the Madison Metropolitan School District
Continuing the Push for Equity and Black Excellence
|Chief of Schools for High School Michael Hernandez (l-r) Chief of
Schools for Elementary Carlettra Stanford and Chief of Schools for
Middle Dr. Tremayne Clardy
While the new leaders have taken different paths to get to the Madison Metropolitan School District, they are the same road committed to equity and Black
Excellence in the district. This is not a transition year, but rather the continued push for equity within the district.
Hernandez has had Midwestern and West Coast influences in his life with family in San Diego, California and Toledo, Ohio. The Midwest won out for college
and Hernandez attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“I was certified to teach English and social studies,” Hernandez said. “I taught one year in high school. I taught AP government. I had to teach a reading
intervention class. I fell in live with the reading intervention class, so I went back to school and got my first master’s in special education with an emphasis
on interventions. I went through that and taught in Toledo for an additional year. And then I moved back out to the West Coast. When I moved out to California,
I was an EBD teacher, a behavioral disorder teacher. I went back and got my second master’s in moderate/severe emotional behavioral education. I taught
that for seven years. While I was doing that in California, everyone had to be an ESL teacher, so I just did my credential in ESL. Then I transitioned into
administration. I got my first principal’s job in 2001 when I was 29-years-old. I worked in the same school that I was teaching at. I got my master’s in
educational leadership. I moved to South Chicago and I was principal there for a few years in a turnaround school for Waldo Middle School.”
Hernandez headed up Waldo Middle School for 12 years before transplanting himself and coming to the Madison public schools to become principal at
Sherman Middle School.
“We did some really neat things there,” Hernandez said. “I was fortunate enough to be with a really strong staff and we were able to turn some stuff around
and make it into a true neighborhood school. Five years ago, I was asked by Dr. Cheatham if I would be interested in going to East High School and I spent
the last four years there, again, I think doing some pretty neat things. During that time, I started my doctorate program at Edgewood College. I’m still working
on that, but I was teaching a couple of classes there for students who wanted to become principals. This position became available and I was asked if I was
interested in it and I said yes.”
Clardy cut his teaching teeth in the Beloit and Janesville schools. He got his bachelor’s in education from UW-Whitewater.
“I call Whitewater Championship U,” Clardy said with a laugh. “I give a shout out to my Warhawks.”
Clardy also has a master’s in teaching, a second master’s in curriculum and instruction and a doctorate in educational leadership from Aurora University in
Illinois. And while he has the academic credentials, Clardy feels that his main qualification is he is a teacher.
“We’re all teachers at heart,” Clardy said. “Seventh grade science is still my happy place to go to. When I visit a science classroom, it really brings me back
home. I was also athletic director in Beloit for a number of years and served as the dean as well. I moved into full administration at Harlem High School out in
Machesney Park, Illinois as assistant principal.
It seems that a lot of Madison’s leadership team has come out of Illinois — Cheatham had worked for the Chicago public schools before coming to Madison
— and Clardy was recruited to join the Madison public schools when he became principal of Sennett Middle School in 2012.
“I spent five glorious years there,” Clardy said. “It has a tremendous staff. I think we molded each other in how we work and look at racial equity and
working to change the outcomes for our students of color as a cohesive unit. After those five years, the opportunity came up to start working deeper with all
of the middle schools based on some of the successes at Sennett. The position of deputy chief was created to help with the coaching and leadership of
middle school principals. I did that work for the past two years and then this year, when the opportunity arose with the resignation of Alex, I was able to move
to have the full range of the middle school programming operations and systems plus the priority area of developing principals as Chief of Schools. I am very
happy to be able to stay here in Madison.”
One could say that Stanford is a Madison home-grown educational talent. Stanford was born and raised in Marks, Mississippi until she was three-years-old
when she moved with her mother, now State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, to Madison.
“I went through MMSD schools,” Stanford said. “I am a graduate of East High School. I attended Spelman College for undergrad, UW-Madison for graduate
school. I was a classroom teacher, a coach and a Title I school-wide facilitator before becoming a principal. My principalship started at Gompers Elementary
School. I was there for two years before being asked to be both Gompers and Blackhawk principal so that they could find a permanent principal for
Blackhawk. I was a student at Gompers and Blackhawk and then came back there as principal for both schools. I did that for a year. And then I went to
Mendota. I was there for nine years prior to getting this position as Chief of Schools for Elementary.”
It’s been a pretty quick transition for Stanford. Three months ago she was an elementary school principal and now she is the chief of schools-elementary,
technically the supervisor of the elementary school principals on the organizational chart. Stanford views having come from the ranks as a plus.
“I have good relationships with the other principals,” Stanford emphasized. “We’ve worked together for some years because I’ve been in the principalship
for some time. I also have different relationships with some of them who are now principals. We were also coaches together. It’s different relationships and
this is a different position and we’ll be working in different capacities. But I think having those positive relationships is going to help us move the work
forward. It’s a collaborative relationship. I would like to think it is also a trusting relationship and we will continue to build that trust, especially for the people
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When Dr. Jen Cheatham resigned as the MMSD superintendent earlier this year,
her two chiefs of staff, Dr. Alex Fralin, chief of schools-secondary and Nancy
Hanks, chief of schools-elementary, also left the district leaving a temporary
leadership vacuum at the top.
Dr. Jane Belmore was named the interim superintendent by the MMSD Board of
Education and through a competitive hiring process, three new chiefs of schools
were hired on two-year contracts: Michael Hernandez, chief of schools-high, Dr.
Tremayne Clardy, chief of schools-middle and Carlettra Stanford, chief of schools-
All three of them were hired within the ranks of the Madison school district.
Hernandez was the principal of East High School. Clardy was deputy chief of staff
for middle and Stanford was principal of Mendota Elementary School.
whom I might not have known as well. But then I am also just excited about
getting into their schools to see the work that is being done in the buildings and
being able to share that among all 32 schools of what is working really well, what
we can duplicate to continue to make gains for our students. That’s the great part
about because you are managing the 32 schools and so, you are able to see the
trends that are going on and all of the great work that people are doing in the
buildings and seeing what we can duplicate across all areas.”
And yet, Stanford knows that she has to play her role in the professional lives of
the principals and things are different now although they are all in it together.
“With my beginning letter that I sent out to the principals, I was very clear that I
wanted this to be a position where we actually push and challenge each other so
that it’s not going to be this comfort piece of, ‘Oh, I know her. She knows me,’”
Stanford said. “And also for me being in this position, if they are not letting me
lean on the fact that we know each other, but are continuing to push each other to
do our work maybe in a better way and to ultimately make those changes that
need to happen for the students that we serve and the families that we serve.”
Hernandez feels that having also been a colleague of the high school principals
just three months ago is a positive for they already know what he stands for and
what he is about.
“One of the positives of this is that I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a high
school for the past four years and I’ve been in the same feeder pattern for 11
years,” Hernandez said. “I’m beginning to understand and now I think I have a
fairly strong grasp of Madison and some of the historical components of it as well
as some of the historic barriers that Madison has created for students and
families of color. Over the last 11 years, I have been able to work with staff that
has been unapologetic about trying to remove and break those barriers down. I
have a fairly good reputation at doing that work and helping leading that and not
necessarily minding if you’re ruffling people’s feathers on this because that’s the
work that needs to be done. Working with the team that I am working with now is
people understand that I’m not asking them to do anything that I would never do
myself and I haven’t done.”